This past week I was discussing the movie Suicide Squad with a coworker. She had heard from another coworker that it was a “horrible movie”. I began to defend it as not being so when she looked down at the Jared Leto shirt I was wearing and said in a dismissive tone, “Well you’re a Jared Leto fan. Of course you didn’t think it was horrible.”
There it was. The subtle sneer. The dismissive tone. The implication that I had a brainless infatuation with a man who is nothing more than a pretty face. A condemnation in fact of my very life. Not the first time it has happened, and certainly not to be the last. The question is, “How do I explain?”
How do you tell someone that you owe your very life to the relationship they have just dismissed so casually? People don’t like crazy. They, for the most part, don’t understand what it is like to be surrounded by darkness. To have The Maniae descend and refuse to leave without at least a pound of flesh.
A bullied child I was always on the outskirts of society. I learned very quickly that it was less painful to be invisible than to be endlessly mocked for trying to find a place amongst the other children I grew up with. So I sat with my books in corners and escaped to different worlds. But invisibility equals profound loneliness. People do not love what they cannot see. After having learned to be invisible, l also quickly learned that to be happy, I needed to be anyone I could possibly be, other than myself.
So, I tried. I tried to reinvent myself but failed. If I did overcome the invisibility, it was only long enough for people to see what they had no interest in seeing. I eventually gave up until one day I things seemed to change. Suddenly, there was someone who claimed he saw what others did not or refused to. Like a fool, I believed. I ached for it to be true. He was not who I had dreamed of, but I was too afraid he would be the only one who could see me that I told myself it was time to reinvent again. This time I would be who he wanted. I would be “perfect” and he would stay. For eight years, I tried. It almost killed me. I was reduced to a 97 pound shell of a human plagued by crippling anxiety and deep depression, but I tried. I continued to wither under his scorn, his assurances that all my efforts were in vain, that I had not achieved even a bare minimum of acceptable much less perfection, and still I tried. Until one day, I realized that he did not see me. He saw what he believed to be human play dough. A formless mass that he could force into becoming what he wanted, that could be “suitably trained”. When he sneered that I couldn’t even be trained right, I suddenly gave up.
I left with nothing. No money. No job. No home. No self. I quickly made plans to reinvent myself, but this time and for the first time, in my image. Not his. Not my parents’. Not the world’s. For a year, I tried. For a year, The Maniae circled whispering in my ear that I would fail. That I was nothing. I failed miserably.
For three years, I was stuck. Every time I tried to get back up, I would make it to my knees, only to be knocked back down again. The only solace I found was in the work of a man I had been somewhat familiar with over the years. I had first seen him long ago on tv. Then during that year I tried to live life on my terms, I would see him from time to time, his bright pomegranate Mohawk drawing my eye, his song bringing a temporary smile. I sought him out during this three year cycle of torment. The more I saw of him, the more I heard him sing, the more I found strength in his words. I became a devoted disciple. I instinctively knew that here was a man who had stared at the same darkness I had and had won. In him was the great beauty that I knew was possible in the world. I had seen glimpses of it in other things, but here it was in him shining like a beacon, rising above the pollution of the world, the pollution that constantly threatened to pull me under, pollution that could not touch him or the beauty.
I clung to him. As The Maniae continued to close in, I soon found myself struggling to even stay alive. There was little hope left in my world. I began to feel I would never be free of the swirling whirlpool of darkness that had me in its grip. I lay, curled in a ball, listening. Listening to Jared promise me that it was ok if I had fallen apart again as long as I got up again. “I feel apart, but got back up again.” I listened hoping that his words could give me the strength to try to get up again. Hoping his words could keep me alive. Against all odds, slowly I got back up. I was able to stay on my knees long enough until one day, in a story for another time, I grabbed an opportunity and ran. Ran from whirlpool. Ran from The Maniae. Ran toward Jared. Now I find myself looking toward all manner of amazing things. London, Scott, Simon, Hadley, Sergei. And soon, Jared himself, again.
But she, like all the others, doesn’t want to hear this. She just wants to dismiss my relationship as nothing more than a vapid like for a pretty face with no substance beneath it.