Sunday, September 18, 2005

197. Dick Grayson (letter from the coast of Mississippi)

Dear Bruce,
I know it's been a while, but ever since I got here I haven't had a second to sit down and write you a thank-you letter. It's way overdue, but given the circumstances I trust you can cut me some slack.

Everything has been moving so fast these last few weeks--not unlike the storm itself. It's kind of funny, because my life had slowed to a crawl over the spring and the summer, ever since I left you and the Manor.

I guess this isn't really the place to talk about that. I just hope you can somehow understand what it was like for me: knowing that a huge, unforgiveable mistake on my part nearly brought your life and my own to an end. There were times, when I got back to my own place and had to face the prospect of starting all over again from scratch, that I just wanted to destroy myself once and for all--to wipe out whatever remained of my identity after Dr. Strange had his way with me.

I want you to know that I missed you more than I can ever say. I just couldn't face you--and by "you" I mean both Bruce Wayne and Batman. I loved both sides of you, even if there were times I thought what I felt was something much darker.

It seems crass to bring up finances under the circumstances, but I'm going to anyway. I don't know how to thank you enough for your generosity. Even after I left the job of Robin, even after it seemed like you'd never see me again, you continued to send me those monthly checks, which meant that I didn't have to think about a job while I was trying to rebuild my shattered psyche.

And now you are paying for this extended trip down to the Gulf Coast! If I did have a steady job, there is no way I could afford to leave it for weeks, months, maybe a year, to do this work I am now engaged in, helping to rebuild this place. Alfred tells me that in addition to covering the cost of my travels, you have donated an immense amount to a host of relief-related charities. That doesn't surprise me, but it moves me deeply.

I wish you could see the things I have seen since I came down here. These people have lost everything. Crime is rampant, but much of it is driven by abject poverty. I spent several days in New Orleans battling roving gangs exactly like the ones we had to confront in Gotham, only these have been pushed to the point of sheer insanity. (That town needs a Batman even more than our own--I wish to god it could be you, but I know that I of all people can't ask that of you.) The kind of work I'm doing now does not involve a mask or a costume--but I know that I would not be able to do it without the training and the confidence you gave me.

I honestly don't know how long I'm going to stay. I feel like, in some small way, I am doing this in order to atone for the great damage I caused when I tried to play the role of your sidekick. Or maybe I'm trying to rebuild a community as a way of trying to rebuild my own battered coast. It sounds selfish when I put it that way, and I guess there's no getting around that. But I look at it, also, as a way to continue what I was doing as Robin, only in a different setting. Lord knows it calls for many of the same skills--skills I only possess because of your faith in me.

I hope you are well. I know we haven't spoken except through Alfred for ages now, and maybe one day that will change. But I sense that each of us has something we need to do for the time being, something we must do alone. Perhaps a time will come when ...

I don't know. I don't even want to speculate about what the future may bring. All I want to do right now is finish this letter, take a cold sponge bath (we still don't have any safe hot water), and get some sleep. Tomorrow's going to be another long, long day.

We don't have much access to technology, so I don't know when I'll be able to write again. But please know that I am thinking of you. In more ways than one, I wouldn't be here now if it weren't for you.

Love always,