Wednesday, May 18, 2005

166. Alfred

My employer's recovery continues, albeit in halting fashion. Master Bruce has grown more communicative of late, but he has clearly been profoundly affected by the hasty and unexplained departure of Master Richard several days ago. There is a sadness in his eyes that both surprises me and breaks my heart.

He has not been down into the batcave, has made no mention of that side of his life. At the same time, he has done little to resume control of the Wayne organization, either.

He strikes me as a man in limbo, unsure where to go or what to do next. He spends far more time outdoors than he has ever done in the past, however, and the exposure to sunlight must be restorative on some level, given his natural proclivity for darkness.

I suppose I should be happy he is alive. But is what he is now experiencing anything resembling a "life"?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

165. The omniscient narrator

Neither man spoke now. There was much they could have said, under the circumstances, things like...
*"I want you,"
*"I've been dreaming of this moment ever since we met,"
*"I love you," and
*"oh god oh god oh god."
And it wouldn't mattered which one said them out loud, because they were both thinking the same things--not in the same order, not with the same intensity, not with identical meaning--but it didn't matter. All that mattered now was this kiss, the feeling of one man's lips pressed against another's. It was gentle and yet still strong, it was warm and moist and it felt so damn good they didn't stop. They had no costumes to hide behind: they were not Batman and Robin, they were not Bruce and Dick, they were not Objects X and Y. They were simply two men alone together in the universe.

Bruce wrapped his arms around Dick's chest and held him while they kissed. He closed his eyes and opened them again and still the kiss continued. He squeezed Dick tightly and looked into his eyes once more, and the two of them found themselves lying down in the bed facing each other, their members beginning to stiffen.

It felt good, Bruce thought to himself, to be in this very spot at last. He felt the way he had when he'd first unmasked himself in front of his future partner: open, vulnerable, aware of his own fear but not immobilized by it. And, finally, deeply relaxed.

The memory of that earlier moment was far, far away--he hadn't thought of it for months, maybe longer, and suddenly here it was again. He reached over, grasped Dick's cock in his hand and held it, just held it, not letting go no matter what. But there was no resistance on Dick's part. Not in this single passionate moment. The two of them just gazed at each other and kissed and fondled each other's genitals and felt each other's strong arms and chests and ...

... and then Dick froze. No motion, no expression. He sat up in bed, shook his head, walked over to the closet, grabbed the first available clothes, and left the room.

164. The omniscient narrator

"We have to talk."

The words weren't coming out right, Bruce thought to himself. They were the right words, but he was saying them all wrong: he noticed that he had automatically adopted the intimidating stance and tone of his earlier life as a crimefighter. It was comforting, in a way, to realize that he was still capable of conjuring up that persona, but it wasn't the one he wanted to assume right now.

He tried a new tactic. He stood in silence by the side of the bed and stared straight into Dick's eyes.

Grayson was as intimidated as anyone would be who found himself in the line of fire. "Bruce, I ... I don't know what I did, I don't remember, but I'm sorry. Oh god, I am so sorry, I ..."

Bruce sat beside him on the bed. This was not going the way he'd planned. He knew how to dodge every kind of blow imaginable, and how to deliver two dozen more than that, but nothing in his years of training had prepared him for a moment like this. He laid his right hand on Richard's leg and left it there for a long, horrible moment. There was no turning back now.

Dick looked slightly confused--awake, but barely--as Bruce leaned forward to kiss him on the lips.

163. The omniscient narrator

Dick Grayson was sound asleep in the guest bedroom, dreaming he was a lion in a cage. His fur was matted and flies buzzed around him; he tried swatted them, but found his tail would not move. Then he became a puppet version of a lion, each of his limbs attached to a string so long that he could not see the other end. The only thing that was plainly visible was that his life was not his own; he was controlled by someone else somewhere else, and there was nothing he could do about it. Nothing at all--

--and then he heard it. The gentle knock on the door, timid and tentative. Could Alfred be bringing him breakfast in bed? How long had he been sleeping, anyway? And why was he drenched in sweat?

"Come in," he said, groggily. As the door opened, he had a flash of recognition: he remembered sitting in an office somewhere, a doctor's office of some kind, waiting patiently for the physician to return and treat him for some sort of illness. It was all kind of fuzzy, and he tried to flush it out of his mind.

He rubbed his eyes, looked up, and saw Bruce standing before him, wearing a robe and presumably nothing else. The older man's voice was stern. He looked angry.

"We have to talk," Bruce said.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

162. Bruce

This morning I did something I have not done for as long as I can remember. I took a long bath, dressed--the clothes of a civilian, an ordinary man--and took a walk. I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin and breathed deeply. As I stood there, the last few months of pain, anguish, and doubt seemed to melt away, if only for one fleeting moment.

I do not know whether I will ever again don the uniform of Batman. A part of me longs to, but I see now how great the price I must pay for the choices I have made with my life. I realize and admit that I was never meant to be a hero. It is time to simply be a man--a role as immense and overwhelming as any other.

Only one thing is clear to me. There is something I have wanted to do for a very long time, but fear blinded me from even recognizing it, let alone taking action.

Until now.

Monday, May 09, 2005

161. Dick

Holy fucking shit. I feel like I've been drinking--okay, forced to drink--for about nine months straight, and for some reason that didn't kill me, and now I have the most intense hangover on earth.

This computer I'm using says it's May already. I can't even remember most of 2005 so far, and last fall is a total blur, too. I have this splitting headache, and I just want to sleep all day and all night. But when I do, I have such horrible nightmares, only it's hard to convince myself that's all they are. It just feels so fantastic to be able to stretch out in a bed and feel those soft, soft sheets caressing my skin.

I looked in a mirror for the first time yesterday, and realized how gruesome I look: crazy-man beard, scratches all over my body, crazed expression on my face. I realized I stank, too, and I really meant to shower and shave, but instead I went back to bed. I'll do it today.

Bruce and I found ourselves in the kitchen at the same time a few days ago. I've been so goddam hungry, but then I have no appetite. I think I've been scared that I would just throw up anything I ate. So, anyway, there were we. It was the first time I've seen him in... Well, I don't honestly remember the last time I saw him. All I know is, he must hate me. I don't remember what I did, but whatever it was, I have a feeling it was very, very wrong.

He wouldn't even talk to me. He just stared at me in that super-intense way he does, and he wouldn't stop. I felt like he was trying to drill into the back of my skull with his eyes. Scared the shit out of me, but at the same time it was the first chance I'd had to look at him in ages.

Goddam, he's every bit as beautiful as I remembered.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

160. Bruce Wayne

I feel as if I am gradually awakening from a deep, immobilizing sleep. It has now been 20 days since Richard and I made our way back to the batcave--a period I have spent in a personal hell almost as horrible as the one Hugo Strange had in store for the two of us.

20 days: this is the first I have thought in real time for ... I don't know how long. And to be able to write out the name "Richard" instead of thinking of him as "Object Y," or myself as "Object X": the sensation is pure exhiliration.

While I have faced many a foe, I have never experienced anything on this level in my life. Everything I once believed about myself has now been challenged, broken, destroyed. I must rebuild my identity.

I am by no means ready to resume my old life, either as Batman or as Bruce Wayne. It seems that those two roles are now a part of the distant past--I must begin again, start from scratch, struggle to make something of myself once more.

I do not know yet what that will mean. But I have faith that I can accomplish it. I must have faith--without it, I am nothing.

Friday, May 06, 2005

159. Alfred

Friends who have raised small children have explained to me how the magnitude of a given event tends to change in their perspective. An infant's facial expression, a toddler's first tentative steps, a child's attempts to speak: each of these small triumphs feels colossal in a way which is foreign to colleagues who spend their days in the adult world.

So it has been here at Wayne Manor lately. Four days ago, Master Bruce left his door open instead of closing it. The following morning, I actually saw him for a split second, roaming the hall in search of something I could not fathom. He was silent, but the next time I saw him, he said, "Hello, Alfred," as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. That was all, but it was more than I have heard from his lips in months, and the joy that washed over me was enormous.

Earlier this evening I walked into the kitchen, only to find both Master Bruce and Mr. Grayson sitting at the table, eating calmly. Silent, again, but they seemed to be sharing some sort of wordless solidarity. I could not help smiling. I felt that it was not my place to linger, so I retired to the Batcave. When I returned, they were gone. Each man's door was closed again.

First steps. First steps.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

158. The omniscient narrator

In his dreams, he is still less than human. "Object X" is naked and on his knees, happy to be released from his cage but scared of his newfound freedom and mindful of his lowly status. He is a slave without a master, a bottom without a top, a vessel with nothing to contain. He tries to look at himself in the mirror, but the surface is black. It reveals nothing.

The night is long; he doesn't know it, but he's been sleeping for days and days. When he awakens for a moment or two now and then, he's still in a trancelike state. He lies in bed and stares at the ceiling. The sheets feel soft and inviting, and he envisions them taking the place of his cape--the cape he tells himself he does not deserve to wear, ever again.