A Warrior No More
Back in 1979 a little (?) movie was released, titled “The Warriors”. It was all about a New York gang wrongfully accused of killing the leader of the largest gang in the city, and their struggle to get back home to Coney Island. Along the way there are lots of fights, a little romance, police, and even the death of a couple of the members. I really loved that movie and would go see it every Friday or Saturday night for one dollar at the midnight movie at the mall. (This, of course, was back in the days before home VCRs and the like – although I freely admit that “The Warriors” and “Valley Girl” were the first two movies I ever pirated for myself. Sad commentary on my movie tastes, eh?) But, as usual, I digress.
The reason I mention this movie is for one particular scene. When the Warriors finally get off the subway in Coney Island, after fighting, dying, and running, the leader, Swan, looks around at their town; it’s filthy and ugly. He looks out and speaks some truly important words: This is what we fought all night to get back to? As he speaks his voice is filled with disgust and not a little self-deprecation. For years, that moment in the movie has made me sad for them but left me feeling a little hopeful, like maybe he realizes there is more out there for him. Something better. Brighter.
I had that same moment myself today. A totally life-changing, era-ending moment. And it came out of nowhere – as they often do.
I was looking on an old flash-drive for a copy of my resume. My PC is broken and I was hoping it had somehow found its way onto one of the four drives I wear on my work lanyard. I never found my resume, but I found something else. Something I had written some time ago to a friend – well, that’s a misnomer, I suppose, so let’s say it was something I had written to someone I knew. Without a great amount of unnecessary detail (especially since I have been taken to task on another writing site for exposing too many of those), I’ll just say that this person was depressed, I was told, because of a traumatic event involving one of his children. The inference was that I was partially to blame for this incident and that this incident, such a horrible thing to deal with, was crushing him with guilt and despair, torturing him, and all those around him. As I read my words, truly a sort of “sympathy” and “encouragement” email, I felt nauseated. Sick. Stupid. Ridiculous. Throughout my letter I encouraged this person, sent prayers for him, his son and his entire family, from myself and everyone in my family – we were all so heartsick over the episode – while at the same time explaining to him that it was not his fault, that he had done everything a father could do, that his children adore him and admire him…that no one could have asked more from him. The pain I felt on his – and his family’s behalf – jumped out of that letter, as did my own feelings of shame for any part I had played in this, and brought tears to my eyes.
Until I remembered that he later told me it was all a lie.
Nothing had ever happened to his son. It was an excuse. A tall tale. Told for what purpose, I will never know. And now, I no longer care. As I stared at the words on the computer screen I heard his voice in my head when he admitted it hadn’t happened.
And suddenly I felt like Swan, the War Chief of the Warriors when he got back to Coney Island – the home he had had loved, missed, and fought to return to: This is what I fought all my life to get back to? This is what I almost jumped off a twelfth floor balcony for? Slit my wrists for? Cried my eyes out for? Nearly destroyed myself for? How stupid am I?
I can hear your answer: Uh, pretty stupid. Hey, I agree.
I came home after that, berating myself all the way. And then I took off the rings I swore I never would – having once proclaimed that even if he was a liar, I was not, so on my hand they would stay – and gave them to my sister to cleanse in sea salt.
For some time now I have felt that I was free-ish of that circle of lies, but occasionally it would come back and bite me – hard. Oddly enough, it’s gone now. All of it – a flash or two of self-disgust at giving everything I had to a lie, but beyond that…nothing.
I am a Warrior no more.
And I am glad. Really, really glad.