You can change your mind
But you cannot change your heart
Your heart knows what you’re hiding
Your heart knows where you are
I was in about one of the darkest places mentally that I’ve ever been in the night that I saw Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway. First of all: oh, that’s right! I actually saw Turn Off the Dark. And I saw it in previews before they “fixed” it! I saw the Geek Chorus and Arachne in all of their absolutely arachnid-nuts glory. I think I might have loved it, but, again, I was completely despondent the night I walked into the Foxwoods Theatre. I needed some glory, completely wackadoodle though it may have been.
My best friend and I got into the rush line outside of the box office at 8 am on that cold January morning, and waited for two hours to get the last two tickets for that night’s preview performance. “Was it worth it,” you might be wondering? I maintain that Turn Off the Dark was as good as your heart was willing to let it be. I’m the exact blend of geek who was all about the prospect of a Spider-Man musical, so I had a pretty great time and I listen to “Boy Falls From the Sky” to this day. I mean, I bought a t-shirt and everything.
You will always be in front of me
Even as I disappear from view
For I have done not a single thing
Without the thought of you
In January of 2011, I was clinging to the absolute dreggiest of dregs of a long-term romantic relationship. In my young, wide eyes, ours was an epic fairy tale-storybook-comic book-worthy love story, and the thought of it ending made me want to crawl into a hole and die. I thought that the relationship was The Story of my life, and what was I without it? What was the point of me if I had failed at this? I had failed at Love, I had failed at what made life worth living, and I couldn’t see any way around that fact. I had one semester left of college, and what should have felt like the beginning of a new, exciting chapter in my life only felt like the end of everything.
That New York trip was supposed to be such a relief. And it was, to start. Atlanta had become a waking nightmare. I was terrified to go anywhere, lest I run into The Person. When I did have to venture outside of campus, I tried not to pay close attention to the cars around me. What if he drove past me, surely on his way to an amazing adventure with some new, awesomer lady friend? When my best friend and I got to New York and into a cab, I distinctly remember thinking, “I can look out of the windows here.”
After we got our tickets to Turn Off the Dark, we found ourselves in a bar, counting down the hours until the show. And I got a phone call from The Person. He was going to be coming to New York that very day. With his new, awesomer lady friend. To see a show on Broadway. And suddenly it felt like no place in the world, no matter how far away, was safe from my heartbreak. Every window was closed again. I broke down entirely. A stranger in the bar wordlessly wrapped me up in his arms, thinking that someone in my life must have died.
I cried my way all over NYC that night. I sobbed in Starbucks, waiting in line for a hot chocolate. I collapsed in the Toy Story section of the Times Square Disney Store. I wept my way all the way through the doors of the Foxwoods Theatre, aching and furious and betrayed and terrified and electric and absolutely dangling off the edge of my own sanity.
The city conducts a symphony
I’ll search through the trash for a melody
That might lead us back to dignity
In this junkyard of humanity
To let you go without regret
The thing that makes Spider-Man amazing– and Spider-Man is my absolute favorite, whatever the media– is that he has to let go, even when it nearly kills him. I have never developed that skill. That day in New York, my fingers and my heart were still firmly webbed to a person and situation of which I desperately needed to let go. I am working to develop that muscle, to be like Spider-Man. I have never let go. I have never jumped. I have never fallen on my own terms, just to see where I might land.
See the boy fall from the sky.
Sometimes we love things just because they were there for us when we really needed them. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark was fucking there for me. It was an absolute hot mess, but, to be fair, so was I. When I was hanging by a thread, I needed to be in a room with Spidey– swinging and singing and slinging all at once. I needed to buy that overpriced t-shirt to keep my raw, exposed guts contained and soft. I would call it a “guilty pleasure,” but man, I don’t feel guilty about it at all. I’m grateful that I had a place to be that night when all hope felt lost.
Keep the bizarre little things that keep you whole close, be they wildly expensive Broadway trainwrecks or whatever else. Build a web with all that weirdness and joy, and, if a day should come when you have to let go, trust that it’ll catch you until you’re ready to bounce back out into the sun.
“Boy Falls From the Sky” Music & lyrics: Bono & The Edge