By the time I was four years old, I had developed this rather in-depth conviction that I was either an alien from outer space or the savior of mankind. Or both. I'd seen Superman and Spider-man in cartoons. I'd seen Luke Skywalker in the movies and sang songs about Jesus Christ in childran's choir. My mom, without meaning to, encouraged this conviction. She told me that I was special, not just because I could walk on my wobbly legs like Bambi did when he and Thumper stepped on the frozen pond. She told me stories of my difficult birth, my surprising survival against incredible odds, my remarkable singing voice, my sweet temperament, my kindness towards all the people I met, the weird birthmark on my head and my unexpected intelligence. That was my origin story. I was supposed to be another hero. All I had to do was wait for my superpowers to show up. I knew that they were coming.
And, based upon some conclusion I drew after closing my eyes really, really tight and putting the palms of my hands against my eyes until I saw "stars," I thought my superpowers were going to come from another galaxy far, far away or, like, Heaven. (Jesus was just another guy with superpowers to me at that point. I knew all the words to "Jesus Loves Me" and the "Theme from Spider-Man.") By routinely inflicting that injury on myself, I figured that I was actually receiving some kind of message from the place that I was really from. My cerebral palsy wasn't an affliction that caused difficulty, it was something from which I would eventually derive power. My mom and dad were not my real mom and dad. My little brother would bite me and fight with me because he was merely normal and understood that a supreme being like myself didn't belong with them.
Kids want to be superheroes. Kids play pretend.
On the last day that I was in daycare at Lithia Springs High School before my family moved to Buford, I remember that it was raining and darkly stormy and that the drops were beading against the window of the daycare classroom. I was told that we were leaving Lithia Springs, but I didn't understand it. I didn't understand that someplace else was supposed to be my home, that I wasn't supposed to be "from" Lithia Springs anymore. So I put my hand against the window, acted like I could touch the raindrops, that I could freeze them in place or command them to move down the window. I imagined that I had powers, that I had control over the weather. I didn't want to go to the town with the dumb name. "Buford" just sounded like a dumb name. "Lithia Springs" sounded mythic to me in comparison, the name of a goddess or a radioactive element. I sat in the classroom, looked up into the dark sky and tried to imagine that my real life - the one where my future as a hero was set in stone - was beginning. I closed my eyes, pressed my palms against them until I saw stars and waited to receive the message telling me exactly how to become a superhero. I might've imagined voices telling me what to do, but the voice sounded to me like mine. I wanted something else, someone bigger than me, to communicate to me, to tell me that everything was OK. But the whole thing was just a game I was playing, one where a four-year-old boy had power over the universe, where it was only a matter of time until I fulfilled my destiny and all the things that I didn't understand would eventually be explained. Until it was time for us to go, I sat Indian-style against the window, concentrated on the raindrops hanging in front of me and tried to make them move.
I wish I still had that sense of power, that certainty, that belief in single-minded purpose as strongly as I did when I was a child. But things happen. If that sense of myself as "special" or "a superhero" was gone completely, I don't know that I would even mourn it, but there are still elements of it within me. I still dream. I still stubbornly believe that I'm doing the right thing.
Somewhere along the way, though, the idea that I was supposed to help other people got lost, replaced by the notion that I was important and that other people were supposed to pay attention to me. And the me that I have become is not totally the me that I wanted to be when, you know, the aliens were sending me my special purpose and weather-controlling superpowers from Heaven.
Somehow I got off-course when finding my special purpose. This wasn't supposed to happen like this. I was always supposed to be able to fit in with people and talk to them. I'm not supposed to be this self-centered. I'm not supposed to be this sarcastic. I'm not supposed to EVER be a complete dick. I was never supposed to complain, and I was never supposed to have any reason to complain. My destiny was supposed to be set. I was always supposed to be the hero.
I am not always the hero. I'm not always nice. I'm not even remotely cheery or an optimist. I feel like I barely smile. In fact, I can be a self-centered, self-defeating ass. In fact, I can be a downright drag. I'm the dark one. I'm the villain sometimes. There are times when even my friends really, really, really need their space from me.
I want to get better. I want to be a hero again. And that's going to take a lot of work.
No One Likes Superman Anymore [Evil Robo-Dragon Remix] - I Fight Dragons
Benjamin Carr is a freelance writer and editor in Atlanta. Previous work has appeared in The Guardian and Ain't It Cool News Voices. He also has performed improv with JaCKPie Theater Workshop and written sketches for the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta.
Photo by Adam Lawrence.
Street art by Joe Black and Miss Bugs.
I Fight Dragons are Chicago's best and perhaps only NES-Rock band. They recently released their debut ep Cool is Just a Number and always thrill audiences with their incorporation of classic Nintendo sounds and devices.