Friday, November 4, 2011

Deadbeat Bat

ID: I want to talk to you about your son.

B: You’ll have to be more specific.

ID: Your bio-son. How long have you known about him?

B: Not long.

ID: And you’re not just saying that to dodge child support payments or back-alimony?

B: No. I’m more than comfortable, and his mother is quite wealthy herself. But I’m going to assume you haven’t been able to find much on Damian- and after our conversation about Dick you’re more curious about my home life than previously.

ID: Actually, I was always curious about the home life, I just… it hadn’t crossed my mind that you were a father. I mean, on paper you’ve adopted two boys- the bio-son I keep forgetting about, since I don’t think he was in the picture when we first started- so I had no research about him.

B: Damian’s grandfather is a bastard- the ecoterrorist Ra’s al Ghul. What I told you before about his conception, and his mother, is true. But I actually have a little more background than before. You know, sometimes you accept things, take them for granted, until you’re talking to someone about it. And the question came up when we were talking about Talia, and I put it to her. And she didn’t know what happened to Damian, either.

When she got rid of me, she planned to get rid of him, too.

ID: Abortion?

B: No. She worried about his safety- she reasoned both of our lives were too dangerous to introduce children into. So she left him at an orphanage. But her father knew, and intercepted Damian. He spent the next ten years being raised by the League of Assassins.

ID: And what does that mean?

B: It meant survival of the fittest. It meant he didn’t live in a nursery as a baby. From the time he could crawl, he lived in a kennel. They’d give him and the dogs enough food for all but one of them. So as a matter of survival, they had to kill one of their own, every week. The only reason he walked away was he was the last one alive.

His entire childhood was that, tests designed to make him selfish, cold, sadistic, to turn him into an assassin, not merely as a vocation, but purely, as the essence of his being.

ID: I don’t want to peel away too much- I mean, Damian’s living with you, right? And I assume he’s going to a public school, and could very well have social consequences for anything you might say. But I’m curious, of all the things that were done to him, what was the worst?

B: I’m glad you bring that up. I don’t mind saying it, because I think you phrase it right: these weren’t things Damian did, these were things that were done to him. They aren’t things that he needs to feel ashamed for or about. No child should be forced to choose between his own survival and doing violence to someone or even something else. It’s unconscionable. And as a father… I hope someone stronger than me is there next time I see Ra’s, to keep me from murdering him. Because otherwise, I don’t know that I can do that myself.

But the worst thing involved deception. Damian was introduced to a girl, a local girl. They spent time together. He fell in love. He was a boy, not even ten years old.

Ra’s asked him to poison the girl. She was a spy, he said, there to harm everyone he knew, the people he’d come to see as his family. She had to die. But he loved her, so he tried to help her escape. Instead she led him into an ambush. Ra’s was there, and in front of the entire League, all of his peers, she mocked him. Said every cruel thing a boy that age thinks and hopes isn’t true. That night, Ra’s came to him again, and said that she had gone too far, that she was supposed to be a test, but she had no right to mock his heir in that fashion. He told him to poison her again. He was still so upset that he did it, and once his pain had subsided, he hated himself for it.

It was later, that Damian observed Ra’s giving her parents money. She had been hired for that exact purpose, to die, and humiliate him into doing it if need be. When she died, her parents were just bought off.

But it was months, he’d been with me for months before he told me about it. Alfred was bringing him soup, because he hadn’t been feeling well, and had hardly touched his dinner. And without thinking, Damian attacked him, punched him in the throat. And even when he realized it was Alfred, he was leery. He’d been brought up in such a constant state of fear and readiness, it was hard for him to understand that simple human kindness, someone bringing a sick friend soup. Because he was weak then; it was when he felt the most in danger. He told Alfred to drink some of the soup, convinced it was poisoned, and when Alfred didn’t hesitate, drank and said, “It’s just soup,” he started to cry.

I was already heading that direction, having heard the commotion. But he jumped into my arms. And he cried for a very long time before he was able to tell me all that. No ten year old should have to carry that burden; no child should be coaxed into murder like that.

ID: You sound pretty upset.

B: I am. I think… Dick, Tim, myself, we’ve all experienced tragedy. But Damian’s was different. His came from a place where he should have been safe: his tragedy came from his family. It was a betrayal of the most personal kind. It’s made him… less able to trust. But he wants to.

He wants to be normal. Not to worry about killers outside his bedroom. Or whether or not the girl he looks at at lunch has been hired to humiliate him, and to manipulate him into doing horrible things.

ID: But if he wants to be normal, isn’t his dad broadcasting his murdering past a little counter-productive.

B: I hope not; I would hate to feel like I’m betraying his trust.

But I don’t think so. Damian’s different. I think it’ll be a long time before he gets all the way to normal. I think his upbringing left marks, on his soul, that will take a long time to scab over, let alone heal. And I think his darkness shows, and people treat him differently for it.

But I think if people could understand him, and what was done to him, they’ll see already how far he’s come, how hard he’s trying, to do right, and be right in this world. It’s remarkable, to me, that he can function on any level. But he isn’t just functional, he’s impressive, and I can say with certainty my son will do great things. That’s every father’s hope. But his trajectory, he’s not just capable of greatness, he going to accomplish it.

My son’s extraordinary. I’m not surprised. His mother’s extraordinary, too. But I’m… blown away by his resilience. I don’t know if I could have withstood it; a weaker person wouldn’t have survived his childhood, emotionally even if they got by physically. But he’s bounced back. I love him. And I’m proud of him. What more could any father ask for?

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