When my husband and I moved in together, we spent a ton of time in front of the television.
I know, I know, not the first thing you’d think of when a new couple move in together, but Chad and I love media, we love psychology, we love analyzing media psychology, and we wanted to share our favorite television and films with each other. For example. he’d NEVER SEEN BLADE RUNNER (I’m sorry, but still what the absolute fuck – as many movies as he’s seen and he just SKIPPED THAT ONE?!?!?) and I’d never seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So we spent quite a lot of time, alternating back and forth between stuff he wanted me to see and stuff I wanted him to see. Some of it, (Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer) quickly became favorites of mine too, and stuff like Evil Dead I admired for what it brought to the genre, but passed on adding it to my bullet-pointed list of favorites.
However, one movie that had fallen under my radar immediately became a favorite after Chad showed it to me.
“HOW HAVE YOU NOT SEEN THE CROW??!” Chad screamed one night.
“I saw it, not long after it was released to video, actually. I was just – distracted,” I admitted.
Chad grinned. “What was his name?”
college dorm room
sometime in the 90’s
Him: “Come to Raider’s Room.”
Me: *laughs* “Am I cool enough to come to Raider’s Room?”
Him: “You’re cool enough to me. And I’m inviting you. We’re going to watch The Crow.”
Raider was an English major – stupid smart, slightly rebellious, goth-around-the-edges-before-goth-was-really-a-mainstream-thing, and he often held get-togethers in his room where everyone would watch movies. I’d heard there was alcohol hidden behind some sort of complex cabinet or chest of drawers thing in Raider’s room, and he was just the rule-breaker to have such a thing. The little college I went to in a small town in the middle of nowhere Missouri was a dry campus – or at least they tried to be. There were bottles of alcohol hidden randomly in almost every dorm room. Even I had a Zima in my mini-fridge, happily soaking up an apple Jolly Rancher.
While Raider was in my circle of friends, I was usually gone on the weekends – back home to visit the parents, or out dating whatever idiot I was dating at the time. So I had never gotten to go to one of his get-togethers.
This particular weekend, I was not dating any idiots. And I had been thinking a lot lately about the boy with the velvet voice on the other end of my phone.
Me: “I’ve heard that’s a good movie.”
Him: “It is. Come over. Please? I really wanna see you.”
*back to present day where I’m watching this movie and giving it my full attention with Chad*
*hits pause on the television*
“HOW HAVE I NEVER SEEN THIS MOVIE??!?!?!”
“I thought you’d seen it.”
“Well, technically I saw it. But I obviously didn’t pay much attention. This is tragically beautiful.”
“You know, the rumor mill back then wan’t what it is today – and I was in college. I never watched the news. I honestly don’t think I knew Brandon Lee was dead when I saw this movie.”
(ok, mildly incredulously – my husband saves full-blown incredulous for special occasions)
“HOW . . .” he began . . .
“Facebook wasn’t a thing. Fuck, the internet wasn’t a thing. Plus, I was. . . “
“So I was right!”
“Of course you’re right. His name was Justin.”
*back to the 90s to my dorm room and a phone call*
Listening to Justin breathe on the other end of the phone handset, I envisioned that lock of hair above his right temple falling over his right eye. Like it always did. I envisioned me brushing it away and tucking it behind his right ear. I felt color rise to my cheeks. The corners of my mouth curled upwards.
Me: “I suppose I can cancel my plans tonight and come hang out in Raider’s room.”
Justin: “Movie starts in 45 minutes. I’ll save you a seat.”
I hung up without saying goodbye.
I always hang up without saying goodbye.
Do you ever see a fictional character end a phone call on tv or the movies with a closing? No. And I copied what I saw on screen a lot. Growing up an only child, I didn’t have anyone to play with. My fictional characters were my friends. The brain even sees fictional characters as “real people” and can have real emotional responses based on what happens to them in the narrative.
But I didn’t know any of that then.
I just knew I’d gotten invited to the cool kid’s hangout.
By the boy with the velvet voice and sad eyes.
And my heart was very happy.
“Holy shit, this movie is sad.”
*and we’re back to present day*
*I’d paused the video again.*
“I mean, Brandon Lee is – was fucking amazing.”
“Like drop-dead fucking gorgeous tormented twisted amazing.”
“How senseless he died on the movie set!! And it was a gun accident??”
“It was a gun accident.”
“What part of the movie?”
“You’ll see it later. I heard it was when he jumped on the table and everyone started shooting at him.”
sometime in the 90’s
five minutes til the movie
I’ve changed clothes three times and redone my makeup twice. I lived in the furthest dorm away from campus, and I saw the time as I walked under the clock tower. I picked up the pace to get to Raider’s room before they started the movie. I knew The Crow was something creepy, and I didn’t like creepy movies, but I was super-excited to have been invited to a social event . . . as an INFJ, I didn’t feel like I belonged to any group of friends, but I DID have friends, and when they invited me somewhere, I was quite pleased to go and hang out in the corner, watching everyone else interact. With a movie, I didn’t have to interact. And I’d specifically been invited by someone I really wanted to get to know better.
And he clearly wanted to get to know me better. There was no mistake in his invite. He was waiting for me.
I was young.
And so optimistic.
And so in love.
And so happy.
The credits are rolling. I’m astounded and furious all at once.
“OH MY GOD.”
“I mean . . . how did I not notice this AMAZING movie at the time?!?!”
“Like I said – I’m surprised you didn’t fall into the mall goth culture simply from this movie.
*googling on my phone*
“Huh. It DID spawn the mall goth culture. I mean, I bought my fair share of clothes at Hot Topic, and black is still my favorite color to wear, but as far as immersing myself in the culture, I never did.”
*I put my phone down*
“But man alive, if I’d have been paying attention to this movie, I probably would’ve buried myself deep in the goth world. This was beautiful. And tragic. And lovely. And sad. And happy all at once.”
“I mean – not just the story, but the story surrounding the story – of his death, and what he could have become. . .”
*Welcome to the fan club.”
“The Cinematography is breathtaking.”
“Let’s watch it again.”
“In a minute. Justin, huh? From your song?”
“Yes, from the song.”
“You don’t mention the movie in your song.
“I do not.”
I am a singer-songwriter, and singer-songwriters write a lot of love songs. To quote Taylor Swift:
“I’ve learned through writing that if something made me feel deeply or anything at all, it was worth it.”
I swear, I do not hold a torch for Justin, but I did write a song about him. Not all love stories make good songs. Our story made a good song. And I agree with Taylor – something made me feel deeply, and it was worth it.
So worth it.
Even for me to miss The Crow thirty years ago.
Heart pounding, I skipped the elevator and ran up the stairs. The movie was starting any second, and there were stray locks of hair to tuck behind an ear to reveal . . . . blue eyes? Green? What color was that boy’s eyes? I could have told you once.
I opened the door to the infamous Raider’s room. A group of students were already there, hanging out. They all called out a greeting or a wave as I stood in the doorway. Raider got up and hugged me. My group of friends were a hugging bunch. I was stupid happy. I felt welcome and accepted . . . two feelings fairly outside my wheelhouse. I scanned the room for my boy with sad eyes and velvet voice – and quickly saw him, casually sprawled out on the bottom bunk of a bunk bed.
With HER curled up again his chest.
SHE lived in the dorm closer to campus.
SHE had a shorter walk than I did to Raider’s Room.
I’d never know if he called her first. I actually never knew if he called her at all. Didn’t matter then, doesn’t matter now. What matters is I watched as a lock of hair fell over his right eye and she lifted a hand to brush it behind his ear.
What also matters is my pride refused to let me turn on a heel and bolt from the scene.
I mean, I had FINALLY been invited to Raider’s Room, and I didn’t want to be rude.
OK I DID BUT THAT WASN’T WHO I WAS BACK THEN.
It’s honestly probably not who I am now.
I did turn on my heel, but instead of 180-ing my ass out of there, I pivoted sharply 90 degrees, planted myself on the floor in front of the television, and kept my eyes forward the entire film.
I sat there, unmoving, until the last credits rolled off the screen. Then I stood up, pivoted sharply behind me 90 degrees, and bolted for the door.
I never said a word.
I didn’t even tell Raider goodbye.
I sat and brooded in my dorm room for hours, the orange streetlamp shining lines through the blinds across my room in a 90’s film noir with no femme fatale. Just a moderately timid twenty year old with a broken heart.
Justin was not my first broken heart. Nor was he my last. Nor was he even my worst.
What he WAS, was a missed opportunity. A possibility. A chance to be a different version of myself with a different person. There were inside jokes, and birthday presents, and shared songs, and lovely memories, and arguments, and make-up sex, and a thousand different memories that were never created because I didn’t get to Raider’s room first.
But either way – I would’ve missed The Crow. If I HAD made it to Raider’s room first, I would’ve been so wrapped up in the velvet voice and hair-lock-tucking, I wouldn’t have paid attention to the movie at all.
Not until Chad showed it to me a hundred years later.
As so many Gen Exers have today . . . fuck, so many people – let’s take the generational aspect out of it for a minute . . . as so many of us have discovered today, life – adulting – is not what we thought it was going to be.
Stories like this – stories that on first blush appear to be good-guy-wins-bad-guy-loses were beacons of hope to those of us who studied media to figure out what adulthood was going to be like. But – like adulthood – like life – like this movie – things are not that simple.
Chad showed me this movie years ago. I filed it in my lexicon, decided I’d watch it again someday, and moved on. A couple of weeks ago, he texted me a GIF from the movie. (We communicate a lot in GIFS.)
How’s work going?
UGH. It’s raining again today. It’s rained all week. My mood is already extremely low . . . the rain isn’t helping.
I love this man.
This is the man who assembled our favorite fictional character’s words from their weddings into our wedding vows. He knows me better than anyone. He knows how much I love imaginary worlds and fictional characters, and how deeply I care for them, and how badly I want to see them succeed and now much I grieve for them when they don’t.
And my mood was low that night, and I was far away from him and my fuzzy family, and I sat down to re-watch The Crow because it was moody and dark and I remembered that
it had a somewhat happy ending because Eric not only got revenge on the people that deserved to die, but he helped a young girl he loved have a better life in the land of the living. . .
And it is an amazing journey of the examination of grief. From the sadness
to the anger
to the acceptance.
And . . . finally . . . to the end.
What happened to Eric and Shelly was horrible. They were murdered because they fought an illegal eviction
*STARES THROUGH THE FOURTH WALL*
but Eric was able to come back in a supernatural way and dispense justice
so the bad guys got what they had coming to them, and the good guys were together in the end, and the people that loved them got messages on how to live on this earth with a little more peace of mind.
Eric tells his friend:
“Little things used to mean so much to Shelly. I used to think they were kind of – trivial. Believe me, nothing is trivial.”
And Sarah narrates:
“If the people we love are taken from us, the way they live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.”
Do I have to keep typing “SPOILERS” when you know I’m going to keep spoiling this movie that’s almost thirty years old?!?!?
The Crow ends on a bittersweet happy note. Eric and Shelly kiss, and we are meant to believe they live happily ever after in the afterlife. Those of us that watched their journey feel some sense of justice and happiness for their characters at the end of the film.
But the grief around The Crow is deeper than the fiction. Brandon Lee’s death left a fiancé behind. Eliza Hutton and Brandon Lee’s mother gave the director their blessing to release The Crow after he was killed, and the credits of The Crow hold the terrible, beautiful words:
“For Brandon and Eliza”
The transference of the grief James O’Barr felt losing his fiancé that caused him to write The Crow story in the first place is part of The Crow’s legacy.
Then there’s the grief of the entire goth culture.
I could look forever for a simple article to link that to, but honestly that statement requires an entire research paper and I don’t have the energy or the time to look for it – if it’s even been written. But I feel goth is grief. It embraces grief and darkness and makes it all something beautiful.
Just like this movie does.
I was personally born from grief. I was adopted as a baby. This has its emotional complexities that I’m still struggling with today. Yes, of course I was given up out of love and given to a couple who loved me, but in the same breath I was carried by a woman who didn’t want me, and constantly asked me in the womb what she should do.
I was a fetus.
How in the fuck was I supposed to know what she was supposed to do?
Her rage and grief and sadness of carrying me was internalized inside me when I was born – of course it was, how could it not be?
And their rage and grief and sadness of raising me when they could not have a child of their very own was externalized outside of me – of course it was, how could it not be?
We all do the best we can with the trauma we have.
And yes, I know I’m using this GIF again. It’s a fucking amazing line. When Eric kills Tin Tin declaring “Victims . . . aren’t we all?” he’s acknowledging a never-ending circle of violence. Tin Tin HAD to have trauma in his background to become the violent maniac he is in the movie. Tin Tin was a victim of his violence, turned violent, killed Eric in an act of violence, who in turn killed him in an act of violence.
Can you imagine
what a world we would live in
if we managed to stop these cycles of trauma?
But then again
would the stories
be as interesting
Like I said above, so many of us have discovered that adult life is not what we thought it was going to be.
I seriously just spent a half hour googling adulthood memes and now I’m so fucking depressed I might not even finish this stupid blog.
100 ACCURATE AND I AM STILL ANGRY AT THIS.
Crying too hard.
Oh yeah, and let’s add a pandemic, people who are too scared to admit there’s a pandemic, collapse of American Democracy . . .
wait, this was Tweeted in 2020.
BEFORE the current threat of nuclear war by a madman who might have Parkinson’s disease.
You know it’s bad when the writer of Idiocracy (a movie about a future where people have de-evolved to the point they are painfully stupid) Tweets this . . .
2016?? Oh God, that was well before *gestures around wildly* a lot of this.
Where was I?
ALL THE SAME THING.
What if . . .
just- just-just-just-just hear me out here
What if . . .
we all met on a hilltop and drank soda out of glass bottles?
What if we threw burning bottles at government buildings?
Right. That’s a terrible idea as well. Violence never solves anything.
Although it does work in the movies.
There are a thousand different people I could’ve been.
One of them was Justin’s girlfriend.
Another was the girl who was ALMOST adopted.
Another is the woman who recently lost her mother and a best friend to a disease that one believed in and the other didn’t and it doesn’t matter because it killed them both oh wait that’s me.
We all do the best we can with the trauma we have.
And let’s face it, trauma makes for a damn good story.
In real life and in fiction. And sometimes the lines are blurred between both.
I look for meaning in narrative. It helps me find meaning in life.
I’m particularly tingly when it mirrors my life.
Like Shelly fighting people who take advantage of and hurt others in the name of power and control.
Like her fucking cat named Gabriel like a character in my book that I’m trying to finish and I can’t because I’m either washing dishes or working or curled in a depressed ball or screaming in anxiety or writing blogs about old movies and darkness.
The secret is . . .
the secret is –
the secret is I have no fucking idea.
No one does.
We all want to pretend like we have a clue.
But we don’t.
We are all just winging it.
We all do the best we can with the trauma we have.
And along the way we live, love, laugh, buy stupid wall hangings with that message on it, cry, fail, win, start again, exist, dress in black and embrace the darkness, dress in white and pretend everything is alright, give birth, grow old, die, watch movies and analyze them, watch movies and don’t analyze them, write blogs about movies and life and tell stories about everything . . .
And send uplifting GIFs from sad movies to depressed wives.
Thank you Justin, for loving me – I know you loved us both and someone has to win in a love triangle and life isn’t always winning.
Thank you Chad, for loving me – you are my rock in a very scary stream right now and I appreciate the safe, stable place to sit and drink coffee.
Thank you Raider – for your friendship then and today, and your weird outlook on life that made/makes me feel my weird outlooks on life aren’t so insane.
And lastly, thank YOU, dear reader – because without you I’d just be word-vomiting on another stupid blog site and it all would be meaningless.