BATMAN DOESN’T FLY…HE GLIDES
Black as the darkest night, standing – or possibly hovering – in the slightest of divides between the pure black and any of the many shades of gray, is the figure in the suit. There is the crisscross of Kevlar weaved over top of a hardened shell. Somewhere in the darkness is a utility belt, though it is not seen by sight, only memory. Then, blurred into the darkness is the wing – a long, seductive wing – that forms the cape. Two pointy ears are visible only as the lightning flashes echoed by a thunder from within. The surge fosters unyielding courage and a yearning to stand and never back down. In the center is the Bat, broad across two pectoral muscles, sculpted as if by Greek Gods through relentless training. There he waits for a wrong to be made so he can pounce on the evil and consume it.
So, yeah, I wouldn’t have minded having a Bat Suit. I could have used it the one time I fell a couple stories off a building. I wonder if the Kevlar would have kept my legs from breaking. Actually, I didn’t technically break both legs. I broke my left leg in seven places and shattered my right foot. The reason, simple – a dare. More ridiculous, was that after receiving the dare, I was released from it. A group of us were returning from an adventurous night of extracurricular activities. We were smoking cigarettes on the catwalk, coming down from a night at multiple bars. The catwalk was a glorified sidewalk that led to the second story entrance of our dorm, Brough Hall. It was built in the 1970’s to allow students a path to their dorm, if the Hocking River flooded, a common occurrence in those days.
A dare was issued to climb into the third story window of our dorm. The window sat above the catwalk, above the ground below. Time passed and eventually the others left me to one last cigarette by myself. I would like to say it was a deep-seated sense of pride that motivated my next action, but it was probably more a need to prove myself based on insecurities. I climbed into the third story window. Rather, I attempted to climb into the third story window. Instead, I fell, went into shock, thought I might die, and experimented with some inappropriate humor that was probably not appreciated by the medical staff at the hospital where I was sent. Actions of heroes are sometimes paid for out of the moment, but depth of character is earned with the agony of perspective. Falling isn’t the same as gliding, but it can be managed with the right usage of a utility belt.
What boy doesn’t grow up wanting to be a superhero?
As a boy, I remember my mother asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Even as a kid I possessed a small amount of reason, knowing that my response would be taken lightly, as is the curse of every child. “I know it’s probably a fantasy, but I really want to be a superhero…like Batman, but I know that real superheroes don’t exist.”
My mother was supportive in her response. She must have looked at me with a smile and said, “Why can’t you be the first?”
The hero to be was Batman. The reason was simple – he has no superpowers yet he’s the pinnacle of human perfection in so many ways. The idea that Batman has no superpowers makes his idealism achievable. On a deeper level there is something about the vulnerability of a man inside a suit that has universal appeal. Something about the masks that society wears that indicates a yearning to stand tall and present a more capable facade.
Growing up a gymnast, I was presented with little fear of climbing and jumping from things. So little fear in fact, that trouble usually followed. Swinging from barn rafters or jumping from tree branches did little to frighten me. This fearlessness may have kept injury at bay. Fear seemed a constant adversary, often illuminated in the lives of others. I wanted to be the hero that could halt fear and limit its hold.
Broken Egos and Weakened Minds
His fist was shaky and hadn’t even the strength to make impact with his opponent. Batman had been awake for a straight month, hunting down the escaped criminals of Arkham Asylum. Bane had freed them so he could take down the Bat. Bane snatches The Bat up with his steroid strength, immobilizing the weakened shadow with countless blows. He raises the Bat high overhead and, in one movement, drops him onto his knee, shattering the bones of the crusader’s back. Bane isn’t finished. Several more blows come as Bane makes his way to the rooftop of Wayne Manor with his barely alive champion. He throws Batman off the top of the immense building. Bane leaves Him for dead.
His cowl was still lying behind his head, showing the world that Bruce Wayne was Batman. He lay there unconscious. It would be months before he would make his recovery – a recovery that no other man could. A recovery that was impossible to all except Batman.
Coming home from the bars, a group of us stopped on the catwalk for our last cigarettes of the evening. This balcony, of sorts, was about fifteen feet off the ground with a surrounding railing of about four feet. It was originally used to give students a dry way to class when the Hocking River would flood, which hadn’t been a problem in decades. We used it as a sanctuary to calm down from the adventures of the night which usually circulated around drunken stupidity and overflow of the mouth – ridiculous conversations that seemed oh-so-important at the present but forgotten by the next morning, conversations including newfound ways to save the world. Intoxication can lead to profound discussions that make sense at the time but are usually ignorantly based on shallow emotions of rudimentary truths.
Someone brought up the fact that the third-floor window was open. A dare was formulated for someone to climb in through the window. My undergraduate degree program was Adventure Recreation. Part of a degree in Adventure included a good deal of rock climbing. “Hey Scottie, I dare you to climb up there,” Andrew said to me with a grin.
“Alright,” I said stepping toward the wall that reached the window.
“Let’s wait until you’re sober, man,” Jason stepped in, arms out, then around me. Jason, a twenty-four-year-old freshman, had served a tour in the military before enrolling in college. He tended to be a voice of reason at such times.
Argument, maybe even resentment formed, but just as quickly disappeared. Rules of decency include not arguing when one is intoxicated. This practice allowed pleasant conversations to continue until later when everyone had forgotten. Then I could challenge my fate. Admittedly, climbing a dorm wall probably does not appeal to the typical person or would be observed as anything close to a rational decision, but was possibly for a student trying to find a purpose in life other than going to college to get a better job. This quest seemed adequate to create the ever-coveted adventure.
Random conversations took place, allowing for slight distractions as the time passed as an eternity. The wall became familiar, offering smiles on the faces in the brick. Marks of dirt and erosion from rain and wind became freckles on the back of my hand. It took about a half hour for my friends to leave the outside to retire to their beds, allowing for what I thought would be my last cigarette of the night. “Alright, see you Scottie,” Andrew said as he went into the dorm. He was the last to leave the catwalk for the night.
Everyone went inside. I remained. I stood on the catwalk by myself, looking out over the courtyard. I checked my cigarette. I had about two hits left before I would attempt my climb. There was something I gathered there, looking over that courtyard in the ambiance of the night lit by streetlamps that were older than I, which I still don’t fully understand. There was some kind of a majesty, or possibly a connection to the world greater than a lifespan. Something timeless, maybe legacy, left by the human race. Something that would aid me in finding purpose through the adventure I craved. I finished my cigarette, flicked it into the courtyard, and turned to approach my climb. Maybe I was wearing a Bat Suit. Maybe my longing for something greater was my armor. Maybe my intoxication was my cape and cowl. My villain was the routine of my everyday life. The oppression that holds people back through fear was my fight, or maybe it was only what I justified as my fight. It might have been my young, shallow mind searching for an excuse to be something greater than what I currently saw in myself.
Streetlamps Illuminate Gleaming Leg Hairs
Batman can’t fly, but to the villains in his stories he soars. He can’t really appear in and out of the darkness, but technology and training lend this appearance. He isn’t really bullet proof, but his suit gives him the appearance of immortality. Somewhere in the minds of evil doers and his fans he’s achieved the status of legend. He is a symbol to inspire. I have even seen the acronym “WWBD” standing for What Would Batman Do, comparing him to Jesus. Batman achieves this through his unyielding courage and fortitude, whether it be right or wrong. He’s never been defeated to the point where he does not come back. I go through the motions of the everyday waiting for my adventure, wondering if I will I have my bat-suit on when it comes?
Looking down, I could see my knees just below the hem of my green Abercrombie cargo shorts. Below that, my bare legs and my tan Steve Madden loafers. There was no ground in contact with them. I was falling.
I attempted my climb into the third story window of my dorm. I was at the top when I found a comfortable perch to rest on as I tried to open the screen to the window. Before doing so, I paused to take in the experience, if only for a moment. Here, I was content, a runner, just inches away from the ribbon of the finish line. There was a clank. The loud booming clang of a frying pan. Maybe, though, it was no louder than a memory. A single clap of thunder roared in my head as my body was jolted. I can hear that clank now but at the time it could have been the jolting motion. The brass iron light fixture I had perched my foot on, the one I was using as a small anchor to wedge myself into the building, had cracked. The clank of years of being fearless jolted me into reality, an unfamiliar place. I picture a sudden dropping movement starting with my foot, then my leg, my other leg to catch up, then my body, and, finally, my head and arms all taking off in high gear as I fell. Down, down, down, picking up speed, picking up momentum – or not. My hair must have waved with the same weightless freedom as it would if I were underwater, as my limbs floated, maybe searching for stability. What happened to my perch, my place of comfort? I followed my Steve Maddens to the ground. The thought that was going through my head was, “This is going to hurt.” It never occurred to me that I would be injured. Rather, I thought I would just have the sting in my legs that comes from jumping off something high.
I was suspended on my way down by my thoughts. They held me as the wind holds a tissue, with a nurturing cradle. As I fell, my thoughts passed slowly and so did time. There was a quick dread of self-questioning that hit me with the slams of past regrets. Then came a false confidence much like that which comes from liquid courage, which tells you that you’re tougher than you actually are. I saw my legs, the glistening blond hairs made visible by the streetlamps, an organized series of mood setters that gave a glow just wide enough to be connected with the next. The corner, where the catwalk met the dorm, was also lit up in a slight reflection, bouncing off the tattered bricks that bared witness to all of the secrets they must have watched within the centuries. It was well lit as I traveled to the grass below, the green carpet planted on top of a dry concrete mud that would dust the ground when I hit. I had no desire to reach for anything, no thought of self-preservation. I was prepared to accept the punishment of stinging legs and then get up and walk them back into support. I thought I was fine, and more than that, I felt comfortable. Weird – falling usually invokes fear. I had none. I think I had that sinking feeling, like, “Oh Shit!” but nothing to the point of fear. It might be my injured mind still talking, wondering when it will ever be healed, but the journey down didn’t feel negative. In the strangest of senses, it could actually have been construed as fun. Sort of in the way that getting blown up in a video game can be fun.
I don’t remember hitting the ground. I don’t remember the crunch of my bones or the thud as my body hit the earth. They say PTSD limits what you remember because your mind cannot process it. I tried standing up twice on legs that bent like Gumby. There was not pain, or direction. More of a blind panic that was produced by shock.
It took time for my friends to join me. Now, I can remember reactions that should have scared me, but shock kept me from seeing these reactions in the moment. I can remember Jason’s terrified look with his lips slightly apart, and the tremor in the officer’s voice as he spoke to me while waiting on EMS. Or maybe time has aged my memory into what I now see. Maybe it’s an attempt for my mind to make sense of this tragedy, to set the trauma at ease and assure itself there was reason for it to happen so that it never has to happen again.
It’s been a few years since my fall, and to this day I don’t regret it. I still can’t remember hitting the ground, but I think on it often. I’m sure that Batman thinks on his parents’ death often, or at least he would if he were a real person. Maybe he is. Maybe the writers of the comics were able to capture something true within humanity that can only be expressed in ideals. Maybe only in the slightest of divides between the pure black and any of the many shades of gray is Batman, ready and willing to be exactly what he is meant to be.
Rebuilding my confidence was the act that followed in my play. Strange phobias crept in, surrounding this incident. I kept feeling like I was healed, but then I would find something else that needed to be dealt with. I wonder if viewing fear as something to be corrected is the right state of mind. The long process still might not be over, but my introspection has increased a million-fold. I lost invincibility, but I gained the ability to not require it. I damaged my body but adapted it to find a strength greater than anything I had ever known. The old saying “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is not accurate, but it is relevant. It isn’t the event that makes you stronger – some events can kill. It is an individual’s ability to conquer that which has not killed them that makes them stronger. There seems to be a limitlessness in a person’s ability to evolve that is only contained by that person’s will (much like a bat suit that evolves with technology). Having the heart of a hero was my fantasy as a child, and I’m proud that at times I have had the guts to pursue it. Rock on Batman.
In 2015, Scott Trainer graduate from Ashland University with an MFA in creative writing. He has written and published several smaller pieces, works as a Lecturer at The Ohio State University, hosts a writers meeting on Tuesdays, and is currently working on developing an artistic journal, Rubberneck-Y, to celebrate the passion and creativity of his local arts community. Along the way, Scott seeks to earn his Ph.D. in human behavior and use that to strengthen his local community, a fascination that was developed while working with children under the care of Children Services. Currently, Scott is working on a nonfiction narrative that struggles with understanding college antics and the bonds formed with close friends.