HeroesSubmitted by Spam at 2009-05-15 11:34:59 EDT
Rating: 1.9 on 62 ratings (62 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
"Say something Sam."
It's the first intelligible thing she's been able to say to me since she walked into my flat and the almost pitiful weakness of her voice, strained and broken from her endless sobbing, rips into me more than I thought was possible. Her arms move from clutching my back so that she can gently ease herself out of the paternal hug I've being tightly holding her in for the last hour of her broken-hearted weeping.
"What would like me to say?" I ask.
I try to keep my tone level and gentle, try to comfort her with my voice, desperately attempting to mask the wealth of emotions that I never even knew I was capable of. I'm sure I've failed, that she hears it, the crack of pain underlying the calm timbre. I just hope that she doesn't realise why, that it's all because of her, that I can't bear to see her in this much agony. I think that would grieve her more than the agony itself.
She leans back a little wiping the tears and mascara from her eyes with the back of her wrist, she still has one hand laying on my chest and I've got one arm wrapped protectively round her as she holds me with pleading eyes of abject vulnerability. I note for the first time what a beautiful young woman this little girl has grown into, my baby cousin. The only girl in my generation of the family.
"I don't know," she says, her voice sinking back into the misery of before, "You always know the right thing to say, I just need to hear that right now... tell me that everything's going to be okay."
And really, all I can do at this moment, is wonder how the fuck we got here cos I'm not a paternal figure, see? And You, my friends, you probably already know that I'm foolish and irresponisble, a care-free fuckup. But it's only the smartest of you that will realise how I've managed it - this frivolous existence of excess. I do it because I'm selfish, because I'm narcissitic, because really, when you get down to it, the only person I've ever actually given a fuck about is myself.
So it fucking kills me, downright tears me to pieces, to have this beautiful young innocent hanging from every one of my words, idolising me, starring with unconditional and unreciprocated doe-eyes of adoration. I just don't deserve that kind of treatment.
Or rather, she deserves somebody much better to look up to. Somebody much better than Me and my Life Half-Lived.
And without quite knowing why, I think back through time to my heros, the people who I treid to emulate, who's advice I cherished and took as gospel. The men who shaped my life, made me the man I am.
I think about how I idolised my semi-absent father when i was teenager. His quickwitted razor putdowns and one-liners. The 'I don't give a fuck what you think' swagger he had when he'd pull somebody apart strand by strand because they called him out on one of his percieved flaws. The 'Fuck The Man' and 'To hell with being responisble' attitude that was the mainstay of his character. Looking at his life from the outside on my weekend visits, it seemed so perfect, so much fun. And yeah, when I moved out of my mums house to live with him at 16, I've no fear of telling you that it was one of the happiest days of my life.
And about Wayne Taylor, my first ever boss, who gave me a job I didn't deserve that was way above my understanding simply because he liked me in the interview, liked my naivety, enjoyed the fact that I'd turned up wearing a suit that clearly didn't fit me and spoke to him openly in broken sentences about things which shouldn't really be bought up in an interview. For the two years I worked for him he was a fucking god man, and I'm not ashamed to say that I loved him, his dry humour, his habit of giving everybody - fucking everybody - affectionate little nicknames that made no sense whatsoever. At the time, his tireless pursuit of perfection in all he did was a complete fucking revelation to me and I recall the only time he ever got mad at me was when, having rushed through some paperwork at five o'clock on a Friday with a resounding "Oh, that'll do", he completely laid into me:
"'That'll do'" he mimicked, red-faced with anger and disappointment " 'That'll FUCKING DO?!'. No Sam, it fucking won't. If it's not been done to absolute best of your abilities, then quite simply, it's not been fucking done at all."
I was terrified, but more than that, I was crushed to have dissappointed him so. I stayed behind for an hour, tearing up what I'd done and starting afresh to do it all properly.
I remember going round his house for dinner one weekend and seeing him with his wife and newborn child, marvelling at how much love there was in the house, how perfect this guy's life was. And for the first time in my life, I didn't resent or covet somebody else's sucess, he'd worked for it, this man, earnt it. Maybe one day, I thought, I could hope for the same myself.
And later in life there was Jim Armstrong, 45 years old and going out with a friend of mine in her mid-twenties. Jim had suffered from testicular cancer in his teens and that close encounter had given him an infectious kind of zest for life that I always tried to emulate. I saw him as a kind of Zen hippy and he could talk to a person for maybe 30 seconds and straight away realise what was bothering them, what they were worrying about. And lets face it here people, we're all worrying about something. His speech to them was always a variation on the same theme: how worry was pointless, and how misery and unhappiness were things you could actually choose not to feel, that you shouldn't waste your life on such things because there's so much more you could be doing with yourself.
And yeah, I know, when I say it, it sounds like the worst kind of hollow and cliched touchy-feely bollocks but Jim, man, when he fucking said it, you just kind of pricked up your ears and listened, like there was a kind of intangible thread of wisdom and peace that just joyously flowed out of him.
Yeah, I think about these 3 men and how to my cousin, I've somehow become the same to her as these men were to me and it fucking stings man, because like I said, I don't desrve to be held in such company, can't see by the light of that torch.
But that's not the real reason it stings and we all already know that don't we?
No. The real reason is that with Heroes, in the real world at least, the story's always the same: There's just no such fucking thing.
Your Heroes, ill-chosen and poorly thought out as they are, they'll always let you down in the end man.
After a year of living with my dad I walked downstairs one day to find all of his things missing from the house we rented. Clothes, tools, toiletries, everything. No note or anything like that, he was just gone. I called his ex-wife to find that he had just upped and moved back to her, leaving me to my own devices. I had to move in with my alcoholic granddad and get a job to pay board while still at school. And to this day, my dad, frivolous and care-free as he is, he still doesn't get why I was pissed off at him, doesn't understand why I never spoke to him for the following 5 years. And so now, after a life of moving from place-to-place with no ties and no goodbyes to those he loved, he's living in somebody's spare room. At 60, the only things that he can call His are a binliner full of old clothes and a bucket of bricklaying tools. And suddenly, Living for the Day all the time doesn't seem like so great a thing when you see somebody wake up one morning and realise that it's actually Tomorrow.
Wayne of course, was having an affair with one of the teenage admin girls in the office. All that love and warmth that I witnessed at his perfect homestead was a fucking sham. He started up his own company which subsequently went bust after a messy divorce cleaned him out. Last I hear, he's living with that same admin girl in a pokey little flat and working a mediocre job for a mediocre company, having finally achieved the perfection he worked so hard to attain and thrown it all away.
And Jim was a manic depressive. I never knew until much later but he'd tried to commit suicide dozens of times and would frequently spend months on end in the blackest of moods without ever leaving the house or even getting out of bed. My friend told me tales of how, even after they split up, she would have to go round to his house and physically drag him into the bathtub to clean him up, sponging him down while he was catatonic. All the life and joy from his fortune-cookie soundbites died the day I found that out.
And up until right now, I felt cheated by these men. Fucking lied to. How could you tell it one way and live another? how can you take this young man under you wing and nurture the false hopes you did only to piss all over it the next day without a second thought? It hurt man, to be used by these three so entirely. To put all your hope and faith into somebody only to find out that they weren't the people you thought they were at all, that it was all an act.
But I guess its the moral of a thousand tales already: That the hardest thing a person ever has to do is deal with their Heroes letting them down, deal with the fact that they were never Heroes in the first place, they were just people. They never asked for it, these men of steel, and probably, they didn't even know they were Heroes in the first place. All they wanted to do was go about their day the only way they knew how.
But of course, I don't realise any of this at the time. I don't realise it until much later.
I don't realise it until my baby cousin looks up at me with those eyes brimming with hope and says: "Tell me something that'll make everything better, Sam." and I draw an absolute blank.
So I'm forced to watch as all of the hopefulness seeps away from her face and her expression morphs into one of absolute desolation and horror at being let down so completely by the one person she thought she could come to in her time of need.
And, as her wailing starts afresh and her sobbing deepens as she buries her face into my chest again for another bout of heart-wrenching weeping, I work it all out and finally, I can forgive those 3 men that disappointed me so completely so long ago. I can pity them.
Because those Thousand Stories with the same moral, they've all got it wrong man, got it all fucked up.
Because the worst thing a person ever has to do in their life, the real fucking terrible thing; Its not to be let down by their Hero. It's to realise that they were somebody else's hero and Failed.