“Every villain is a hero in his own mind.” Tom Hiddleston
“You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Harvey Dent The Dark Knight
It was summer, and the dash cam video of Philando Castille being shot by a police officer had just been released. Earlier that day, I replayed the video over, and over, and over again, analyzing the words between the officer and Philando, the legitimate fear in the officer’s voice, and the shots as they discharged from the officer’s gun to enter the open window of the young black man to take his life. Although angering and confusing, what struck me the most was the back door of the car opening moments later, and Philando’s daughter stepping out onto the sidewalk to enter the arms of the police officer’s partner. I watched her to notice any signs of tears, fear, or trauma as she left the car. Instead, I saw a young girl who did not run from the back seat of a car that had just been shot into, but opened the door calmly and entered a world in which her father was no longer present.
So many thoughts ran through my head eat time I replayed the footage. I thought, “That could be me,”and, “What would happen to Mirus and Amare if that were to happen to me? Would they cry? Would they know what had just happened?”
That night, I sat on the deck of my home and drank. Sarah came out to join me after putting the girls to sleep. She wanted to know how I was feeling, and as usually, talking about my feelings is harder than knocking out a rotten tooth with an ice skate with a coconut on a deserted island with a dilapidated volleyball named Wilson watching in the corner. Instead of confiding in my wife, I pushed her away. In fact, I did worse than that.
The night drifted with the twinkle of lightning bugs and the sound of drunken conversation from the busy streets of Baltimore. The nuances that began the conversation escape me, but I do remember her saying, “That’s interesting because you said I was ‘your rock’ in the video attached to your interview.”
Zero beats pass when I say, “I lied on that interview. You’re not my rock. I don’t trust you. I don’t trust anyone. I barely trust myself.”
Many beats pass as I take a large gulp of whiskey and coke, hoping for it to heal my viral heart infection and the hollow feeling deep in the pit of my stomach. Finally, she says, with tears in her eyes, “That may be the most hurtful thing you have ever said to me.”
This is where I turned the corner from bad guy and became the villain of my own story.
“Fuck your feelings!” I say loud and with anger.
I say these words over and over again as I rant, and scream, and become angrier with each passing moment thinking of that girl leaving the back seat of that car and the injustices of the world that would leave me with a viral heart infection and my principal in power after saying I cannot say I am survivor of childhood sexual abuse on school grounds. Sarah tells me to calm down and stop yelling, but it only makes me more angry. I continue to yell so much that the neighbor opens her back door to make sure everything is okay, but I don’t care.
Soon, Sarah’s tears are gone. She does not yell back. She does not scream. She does not walk away. She sits there, on the deck, and lets me be angry.
Five minutes turned fifteen and soon to thirty. Afterward, my whiskey and my anger are gone. There is only a thin residue lining my glass and heart. Sarah, says one thing before going into the house to check on our children.
“If you ever question how much I love you, know that I just let you yell and embarrass me in front of our neighbors for over a half an hour.”
I have had some horrific things happen in my past. I have been homeless, sexually assaulted, suffered from a deep depression that left me physically sick and wishing to commit suicide, but I have never wished to travel back in time and change any of them. Each of them, no matter how painful, made me who I am today, for better or worse. All of them except this one. I wish that night had never happened and those words had never left my mouth.
Becoming a villain does not happen overnight. The process is slow, like shifting from one moment to the next until the calendar marks the passing of yet another year without growing wiser. Life’s traumas and tragedies, like water, attack slow and steady, wearing away the civility of heroism and justice. If you let it, all it leaves behind is anger, manifesting its self into hatred attacking those closes to use because they are the easiest prey. They are the ones we reveal our most intimate selves to, so why not hurt them the most.
Like Gotham, I was hurting that night. The viral heart infection had taken away my health, a petite white woman in the form of a principal had stripped my power as male survivor by attempting to keep me silent, the world’s therapist and psychiatrist seemed to not want Heroes, Villains, and Healingas a source for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse with each blocked email address, and I felt more alone than ever as a sexually abused educated black male in a society that refused to follow the rules of good and evil.
I was Gotham.
I was the villain.
There was no Batman to blame. No Batman to kill. There was only me, hurting the woman I loved because I was in pain.
And that woman saved me.
As a survivor, my victimization does not allow me the freedom of perpetuating fear, anger, and hatred toward those around me, no matter who they may be, or how I may be feeling. It leads to becoming a villain / perpetrator / abuser.
It’s been over a year, but I still apologize for that night. Each time she tells me, she is happy that it happened. She saw a side of me I often keep hidden. I often smile, laugh, and attempt to make everyone happy, but she never sees me angry. She was happy to see my humanity and be there when I needed her. I’m sorry she was and I will continue to apologize. Too often women feel as though they have to be the punching bag (emotional and physical) for the men they love. It is not right and must change. I never want Sarah to have to feel that way toward me.
I’m filled with embarrassment and shame over that night.
Each day I try and make it up to her because she is my rock. She’s the strongest person I know and will ever know. Each day I strive to become the hero I wish her to see me as being. I only hope I have her courage.