Last night I hung out with my good friend Holly and her boyfriend Nick. Holly was wearing a Batman t-shirt. “Oh, did you see the new movie?” I asked like an idiot, because, of course she has seen it, and it was only strange that this was the third or fourth item of conversation rather than the first. Batman was the basis of our friendship, after all, and we later spray-painted an image of Batman on our kick drum when we formed a band.
But why should I tell this story out of order? The first time I met Holly I was in high school. I had recently transferred to the large public school in my district (after more than a decade at a small Christian one) and I knew only a couple people. I joined the art club as a loner, and saw a girl with a familiar icon stitched to her backback. “Nice Batman patch,” I said with sincerity, but she thought I was being sarcastic, the way a snobby character in a high school soap might be. We did not become friends. A couple years later, though, we found ourselves in the same art class. We sat at the same table, because I had made friends by that time, and one of my friends, Nancy, sat at Holly’s table. I only really talked to Nancy, Holly was just the girl next to me who had ignored my attempt at solidarity years before. Finally, one day, another student pointed out that Holly and I were both wearing Batman shirts that day. We couldn’t avoid it any longer. As narrowly-escaped Death will eventually hunt down its charge, we became friends.
It would be better to use a metaphor for life, though, because Holly’s friendship injected vitality and fun into those final, cynical teenage years. We liked the same bands and she taught me new ones. We geeked out about comics and cartoons. We laughed at length about the smallest things. I was a senior when we became friends. What if I had known Holly all through high school?
I was a year ahead of Holly, and all of this was before facebook existed, so after I graduated high school we nearly lost touch. It was harder to track down a friend in those days, but I was persistent. I called her home. I visited her work. I left messages with her mom. I kept missing her, she was elusive as the Batman himself. But then one day we connected, and we stayed connected. In high school Holly had asked me to play the drums in her band, but I declined. Years later, just out of college and equipped with a new variety of self-confidence, I finally agreed. We called ourselves The Art Table, for nostalgia’s sake. That’s when we emblazoned our kick-drum with graffiti of the Caped Crusader.
That was the summer of 2006. I had just moved back to my parents’ house after a disappointing year of “finding myself” in California. I had a college degree, but no direction, so I painted and played music with Holly in her garage and took naps on her couch with her cats. We ate snacks and watched 30 Rock and Home Movies, and that summer I felt safe. I didn’t have to have my life figured out. I was making up for the fun I didn’t have those early years at my new school, and I have Holly to thank for that, and Batman I suppose.
I could go on. Our friendship has aged well, with common ground now spreading far beyond our early excitement with a cartoon, and an affinity that runs much deeper. I started this with the intention of writing about The Dark Knight Rises, which I saw and loved and will see again. But you can easily read a thousand reviews of the film. As genius as Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman is – and it is genius – it’s still one in a great many versions of a legend. I know of a character that has only one incarnation. Once upon a time I wrote my college application essay about Batman. Today I’d write this, I’d write about Holly. Maybe I’d actually get a scholarship.
(Our band, for the sonically curious.)
(Also, I mentioned that plenty others were writing about The Dark Knight Rises. My friend JVP has some poignant words on the film here.)