my hero, batman
This is the story of the boldest man, the greatest hero that I have ever known. To fully understand the heroism and the originality of this man of valour, one must understand the oppressive circumstances from which he emerged. It all takes place at the Selden Campus of Suffolk Community College.
Suffolk Community College is located in central Long Island, New York, between the Long Island Expressway and Sheol. It is a plot of land on which, I am sure, some contract with Beelzebub had taken place several millenia before. There is no way in which that plot of land could have become so successfully cursed in such a short amount of time- it takes more than seventy five years of botched federal spending to create something that monstrous. But I digress- let us start at the beginning.
When you arrive on Suffolk Community College’s campus, the first thing you will notice is that the sky turns grey above your head, and the bright colorful clothes you are wearing turn a rancid hue of their former pigmentation. As you cross over the campus line, the music in your car automatically turns into clubbing dance music, and your car automatically turns into a souped up Honda Civic or a Ford Mustang. If you are a woman, your makeup becomes overly saturated in color, and if you are a man, your hair will suddenly turn into spikes gushing with gooey gel.
The trees on the campus are in a perpetual state of late November. I’ve witnessed the same patch of trees hold onto the same grey leaves through an entire spring. The concrete on the campus walkways is cleverly poured in such a way as to permit all various types of floribunda to sprout through the cracks. And so, withered dandelions and brown grass are to be seen underfoot every few steps. The buildings were contracted to the same fellow who designed Alcatraz, mind you he was given a bit more creative license. Instead of having only concrete and brick as a building materials, he was allowed to incorporate rusted metal. Windows were discouraged. I relayed some of my architectural observations to one of my art history professors. She retorted “The buildings are after the paintings of Mondrian. They are pared down, pure shapes. Essences. The campus is minimalist.” I replied “Minimalism is convenient for a federal budget that wants cheap buildings built quick.” My professor said I was ignorant. I dropped her class. It’s not that the building were so ugly- no, that adjective implies some aesthetic violation of sorts. No, it’s that the buildings were nothing- just unnoticeable squares, devoid of human spirit. What’s worse, these horrid, monolithic structures were thoughtlessly littered across the campus, as if some angry, giant child had kicked his blocks here and there and never cleaned up after himself.
I just went to class, did as I was told, and told myself that I would be out of there soon.
I was fighting across a windtorn parking lot, the sky was cloudy and the land was grey, when suddenly I saw a flash of yellow run across the sidewalk. It went up the side of a tree. I thought I was seeing things. The yellow blur in the distance hung from a tree, then a loud noise came bleating across the parking lot, followed by the sound of laughter. I quickened my steps, but it was too late. When I approached the scene, all that remained was a starstruck young woman. “Oh my God, it was batman. He was like, a chubby dude in a batman costume, he had a yellow beach towel around his neck like a cape, and he like ran up to the tree, totally climbed up it, and then started to sing the superman theme song on a bull horn. And then, like, he fell off the tree, and ran off. I think he got a little hurt, he was limping and shit. That was, like, fucking awesome.”
I was dazed, I was stunned, I was perplexed, I was filled with hope. Did somebody dare do this? Who would dream of doing that? Who could conceive, who on earth would put on a batman costume and…
I got to class, and two other kids had seen him. Somebody else said that they saw him, two days ago, dressed in a batman costume, sprinting across the central square at top speed, singing the superman theme song. “Oh my gawd, then he layed down in the middle of the square, and put a sign out that said “Do not disturb.” And then, like, he put this little tape player out, and played some kind of rainforest, psychic music shit, and pretended to go to sleep. I was fuckin dyin. The security guards came up to him, but he picked up his tape player and skipped around them in circles, singin the superman theme song. Then he ran into the cafeteria, ran across the table tops, and out the door into the trees. It was fuckin amazin.”
And so, the sightings continued for the next few weeks. And the next months. And the next year. Everyone had seen him everywhere, but never with any pattern. One day, he hid in the back seats of Professor Boyd’s music composition class, and he stood up and ran to the front of the room. He handed out flowers to the girls in the front row, at which point the professor tried to grab him. He squirted him with a water pistol and ran. The next time he was spotted, he ran across the field during a woman’s soccer match, and disappeared into the trees near the baseball bleachers. Next time, he ran up to some meathead guido in the middle of the square, and tickled the guy for a minute straight. And the next time, he ran across an honor society ceremony, grabbed somebody’s cap, and ran behind the curtains of the auditorium and disappeared backstage.
Oh, if I could only relay the joy, the sheer joy, the heavenly elation that this brought me. Here, in this godforsaken wilderness of cement and scrub oak, one man took a stand for all that is right and true and beautiful and absurd and funny and stupid. My next year at the college was changed. Everywhere, everyone was heard talking about Batman. People could be seen laughing. Publicly. Twenty thousand college students talked about him over coffee, in labs, in gymnasiums. His yellow cape had introduced color into this grey world. I later found out that, upon the day of graduation, Batman spoke to the college paper. He said that he kept his costume in the trunk of his Honda Civic. He donned his cape and mask because he just wanted to make people laugh. He graduated with straight A’s and went on to NYU film academy. I’ve never heard about him since.
I spend too much money on roses for my front garden. I never clip a morning glory vine, no matter where it chooses to climb. Onto my palette, I squeeze out ribbons of vermillion paint, costliest of colors, as if there is no tomorrow. I paint on canvases that are too big to sell. At night, I play my violin to an open street window, and cause a woman walking her dog to pause on the sidewalk. I hang my paintings in the local coffee shop. I built my front door with my own two hands, and on it I placed a gnarled lion’s head door knocker. I freeze people in time, capturing their faces on canvas like children capture fireflies in jars. I am forever living in the wake of Batman. Everybody should.
“I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.”
-Steven King, Shawshank Redemption
a five second motion sketch of a
violinist on a Florentine street, pencil on paper, 3″ x 9″