Sunday, August 14, 2005

Knightfall 20: Unchained melody

I'm starting this entry with yet another image from Jekyll and Hyde--in this case, the cover of issue #3, which is the must-get if you're not really interested in the story and only want the good stuff--ie, Bats in captivity from cover to cover.

I'm including it here because:
*I forgot I had it earlier,
*it's really hot, and
*both the image and the issue bring back memories of my time in the Monk's clutches.

In the comic (and I guess you can consider this a SPOILER ALERT), Two-Face has captured our hero and poisoned him with a compound designed to unleash his inner monster--his "Hyde" side, if you will. While waiting for the drug to take effect, TF addresses his captive:

I'm not talking to Batman--I want to talk to the other one: the one that hides beneath the leather mask. The good man--your daytime persona. Your Henry Jekyll. A man with a secret he can hardly contain. A man who lives in plain sight and wishes more than all the world that he could run away from it. ... The good, honest man is just your daytime face--that's the real mask you wear. The man in the black leather mask who skulks in the shadows is your true persona... You don't have to keep it inside. Whatever it is that holds you back, let it go. ... Don't struggle. This is all perfectly natural... It will only hurt until you accept the truth. You're no one else--you're only Batman.

All of that reminds me of the way the Monk coaxed me into his control (except, of course, that once he had me there, he replaced the name "Batman" with "Ratman"). I reached a point when it simply became too difficult to keep up the balancing act between the part of me that wanted to surrender to him (Hyde) and the part that wanted to fight back (Jekyll). Rather than tear myself apart, I let my Hyde side take over completely.

And then, a few months ago, I simply snapped out of it. Came back to my senses, and broke free. I wish I could claim I'm completely back to my old self, but that would be a lie. As one of my crimefighting colleagues points out, I may have to struggle with this for the rest of my life. It seems instead that I'm truly changed--I've been to the bottom and come back to the surface, and nothing can removed what I learned (and what I did) while I was down there. Put it this way: now that I've been utterly humiliated, I've learned a thing or two about humility. If you're following my serial story, you know that the Batman there is also dealing with the lingering consequences of being broken by an enemy, although his recovery is taking a rather different form.

I was back in contact with the Monk for a few weeks recently--including one phone conversation, when my personal storyline suggested that I had no other choice--and held my ground each time. Lately, though, there's been not a word from him. Nothing. If you ask him, he'll insist that he's written me off because I've disobeyed him (shunning is one of his favorite methods of punishing adversaries he's pissed off at), but my version of the saga is a little different.

From my perspective (and, as always, I can't write openly about all this because I know he reads these accounts), his silence has provided me with exactly the opening I needed in order to further clear my head of his influence. Getting him out of my system is akin to getting over a relationship which has ended, or recovering after the death of a loved one: it takes time, more than anything, and the silent treatment has bought me more of that at last. A part of me is ready to move on (to see other bad guys, as it were), and of course another part longs for the days of captivity and subservience.

I take that all-too-familiar inner struggle as a sign of progress: it means I have my Jekyll side back again. The other day (after months being otherwise engaged and unable to suit up on a regular basis) I put the batsuit back on and spent a nice long time in it, reflecting on what I've been through and where I'm headed next. One thing was abundantly clear: no matter what other yeanings I may experience from time to time, a part of me is and always will be the good guy in the leather mask, fighting the good fight. I carry a part of my childhood hero with me at my core. I may be other things as well, but on a very deep level I am Batman... and always will be. While I doubt I've seen the last of the Monk, I count that revelation as a victory.

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