The Lessons He Taught: Be Your Own Hero

July 4, 2008
By Caitlin Hill, Franklin Square, NY

There are things about James no one else will ever know.

No one will ever know things that I know, that I've seen. No one will share the time with him, and the experiences with him, that I have. No one will help him through like I have, and no one will rely on him like I have. No one else will ever know the James I know, the James beyond the boy-who-endures-all, the man without weakness, without fear, the one who can't be touched, the unbreakable. I know beyond that. No one else knows these things about James. I've seen him broken, defeated. I've seen him, in all his glory, close to the edge. I've seen him jump.

I know that he can't sleep alone sometimes, and walks down the block to share my twin bed. I know that he cries sometimes, for no other reason than the world letting him down. He was the boy with the vision, the one who kept the faith. But with time comes wisdom, he says now. Now he's the boy who's jaded. The boy who wants more but can't go one, because he knows he'll never get it. James is the boy who's broken, but paints a mask on every day, like the clowns he's deathly afraid of, like the cover a book which might feature things like sunsets and forest trees swaying in the wind, when in it's depths there hides a story of tragedy and pain, war and defeat.

I know James lost it once. Just once, when I couldn't save him. When his music couldn't help him. I don't think about it. If they told the children that their God had lost his eternal battle to the Devil, the children would find no more reason to pray. No reason to believe. This is why there are things no one will ever know about James. When the unbreakable boy breaks, when the man who refuses to give up taps out in the early rounds, the world will be at a loss. The ones who were never quite that strong to begin with, will have nothing.

So I watch. And I stay with him. And everything is better now, for James. He's haunted, but he assures me that he'll make it. He's scarred, but he's awake again. Alive, again. He has learned to let the scars tell their stories, like only they can do, and he is learning from them. James is better now, but I still suffer. In a single night, he shattered my illusion of invincibility. He shattered the illusion that someone, if just one man, could prevail through the stormiest weather. He broke. He was a broken man. He had given up.

There are things about James no one else will ever know. Like how he gave up. Like how he lost faith, he let his demons overcome him. I try not to think about it, but I'm plagued with the knowledge that the almighty hero, isn't a hero, but is just another boy, in a hero's cape and mask. Just a boy, with a haunted past. I wonder if there is any hope left. Hope for the common people to win when their fearless leader has lost. Hope for me to be strong when my role model, my hero, my inspiration, was not. Is it better to forget, to pretend? Is it better to live such a life, deprived of pain? Or is it better to know, to have all the insight and knowledge in the world, to know that the best can fall, and to know that we, ourselves, are counted out, but to fight anyway? I believe it is better, to be tied to anchors and flung overboard, and to fight til' the death to get your head back above the water, than to drown yourself peacefully, the whole time under the illusion that you are controlling the boat.

James has made me weak, and he has made me strong. He has scared me. He has shown me that it is a hell of a lot harder to enjoy the show if you peek behind the curtains. He has taught me that people are not as strong as they seem, and that people like himself, the ones who seem to have braved it all, maybe can't make it, sometimes. But through it all, though I have become jaded with the knowledge that I am weaker than he, and I may never be strong enough, I have faith. I still have faith, that when it is the final battle, it doesn't matter who has painted the fiercest mask, who wears the most armor. What matters is who is the fiercest warrior. What matters is not who has won, when the battle is over, but who has given every little thing that they have. What matters is who knew their battle was a lost caused, a plane doomed to crash, but who still fought on.

Other people will never know that James stopped fighting.

But when the hero of the story fails, you must be your own hero.

I will never stop fighting.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.

Parkland Book