Okay, that title is a bit misleading. This isn't about slavery at all--but I've been wanting to use that phrase for so long, and now's my chance.
During one of my "welcome home" chats with the Monk, I asked him how he now thought of me: as his student, his partner, his slave, some of the above, or all of the above. His answer was "some of the above," and, predictably, he refused to elaborate.
But the question got me thinking: How do I now think of myself in relation to him? All three of those options hold some appeal, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to think of a new phrase that seemed even more accurate: voluntary servitude. An oxymoron, perhaps, but one that felt just right.
Two things seemed clear about this world-turned-upside-down:
1. The Monk has the upper hand at all times, and
2. I have returned to him by my own free will.
The first of those seems incontestable to me; as I've come to discover over the last couple of years, being broken tends to have some longterm effects. In the first, adversarial stages of our relationship, M successfully stripped away every defense I had against him. I could never defeat him; the best I could do was escape. And within days of resuming contact with him a week and a half ago or so, I found myself more compliant than ever--happily so, this time around. Now that I've abandoned any form of resistance to him, I realize that his long-ago promise to "own" me--"mind, body, and soul"--is the most exciting fantasy I can think of. The mere thought of his dominance over me is enough to give me a stiffie that lasts for hours. It occured to me that even if his newfound friendly face turned out to be a trick, I had nothing to lose, because either way, I want to serve him.
Which leads me to the second, and far trickier, of my two core propositions. In the old scenario, I was a captive, a prisoner, a victim of brainwashing. Now none of those terms apply; I'm here by choice, and there is no thought of "escape" because I no longer have anything from which to flee. There's no cage this time--except my own mind, as M would say.
Gone, too, is the loathsome old nickname of "Ratman." Served its purpose, and now it's back to all things bat--the name, the uniform, even the mission of nocturnal avenger. M used to say he would break me down and build me back up--that the new improved Batman would be his creation. Took me a while to figure out what he meant by that, but it's begun to sink in by now.
By the same token, I realize that just as the Monk created "Batman," so too have I created "the Monk": I gave him that name, and with it a sort of mask and costume (metaphorically speaking) that he did not previously have. Symbiosis.
Back to voluntary servitude: as it stands now, I eagerly await each new lesson I learn from M, where not too long ago I used to dread seeing him around. (You may be wondering what those lessons consist of, and I can only say this: the ones he wants me to talk about, I'll describe here in great detail. When I sense that someone who might be reading these words should not know what's in store for him, mum's the word. That's how I handled the Mad Hatter, who has been dealt with quite successfully now. The threat he posed to Batman is over, and the potential he presents to the Monk and me is just beginning to be explored.)
Ironically, now that I've opened myself up to the once-forbidden fantasy of enslavement, I realize that that particular metaphor no longer applies to the current situation. I seem to be far more intrigued by terms like ownership and property than M is, these days; he talks instead of initiative and responsibility, which of course are the hallmarks of freedom. If I am to fully embrace my dark side--which seems to be the general theme of the day--then I must do so of my own accord, and not because I'm being forced to.
There is more, much more, to be said about all of this, especially that business about personal responsibility. For now I'll simply point out how convenient it is that I can still use the terms "sir" and "master" to refer to M now, since those are the words a student might use to address his teacher.
Given that our defining metaphor has changed from one of comic-book battle to something closer to spiritual enlightenment, or education in general, perhaps we can say my state-required schooling (primary grades through high school) is over, and I'm entering college now.
Perhaps I should call it a seminary instead. Oh, hell, let's call it what it is: the Monastery!
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