Every Night, I Save You
“Every night I’d save you.”
Buffy the Vampire Slayer got it right.
The story goes: Buffy throws herself off the tallest building in Sunnydale to save her sister, her friends, and her world. She dies.
Spike, the vampire without a soul, the one who loves her in spite of having no conscience and no concern for morality, cannot save her.
So instead, he saves her in his dreams.
Forego your doubt as to whether vampires dream. Forego your doubts about this storyline. Forego the tendency to lapse into ‘shipper games of Spike vs Angel, Buffy vs Dru, who is hot or not and why.
We dream of saving the ones we love. All of us. Even soulless vampires.
Spike gets lucky. Buffy comes back to life. Buffy is not so excited to be alive again, ripped out of heaven where she was happy, and yet. Her family? They are overjoyed.
Her vampire lover who she will never love tells her, “Every night I’d save you.”
He tried. We all try. Even much too late.
I go to sleep every night, and I have some iteration of the same dream. I am running after a bus, or I am worried about being late for one. I am trying to get dressed, but I cannot strip off all my clothes, I cannot strip down to the bone, and so I cannot decide what to wear and I miss my moment. I am staring at a beautiful man from the other side of a stream, a meadow, the ocean. The world is sad, and so is he. But I am so happy to be near him.
Sometimes, lately, the dream changes. Sometimes we are holding hands on the bus, or he is kissing me. These are the good dreams, the reason I sleep for as long as I can manage. These are the dreams that I return to with arms wide open and door wide open and lips wide open, and.
Then there are the dreams where he is engaged. To a woman with bouncing blonde curls, or to Olivia Wilde, or to the pretty Israeli model he fantasized about rather than deign to think about fat women like me. Dreams where he is an open book and women write their stories, and he holds them all equally valued, and this is why women love and hate him both.
In real life, he is dead. In photos of him the man I loved is gone. He is replaced by the man I once believed he was, the man he introduces himself as. This man in his new photographs is suave, collected, sure of himself. He offers his Harvard degree as a reason women should go out with him then leverages it to appease their anxious parents. “I’m a good catch,” are his favorite words.
So why are you still single? No one would be so crude as to ask such a question. No one wants to prod beneath the surface.
Maybe there really is no “beneath the surface.” Maybe the man I fell in love with never existed. Maybe I was so lonely that I conjured a man when really there was only ever a vampire, soulless as the rest, determined to get whatever he could and that includes getting whatever he could from me.
I remember differently.
I remember a man who was always alone. I remember bird-wing shoulder blades and eyes that would dart away from mine, then back again. I remember the jungle fear of “are you going to kill me” on both our necks. I remember what it felt like to be near him and I remember something real. Something that he smoothed over as soon as he could and I feared because I knew he would reject me in the end, I could see it all play out. I could see it, and so I tried to get ahead of it, and made it happen faster.
It would have happened no matter what. Some storylines are larger than our own individual lives. He would have chosen her. The prince belongs with the fairy-tale beauty queen and women like me belong in our Medusa-caves, silently plotting to kill the king. We have nothing against him personally, maybe we even love him, but we are so done with living in a monarchy.
I was born to be queen of the weirdos and he was born to be the death of me.
Except. I met him. I met him, and somewhere underneath all that bravado and all those degrees, there is a man who is trying to escape this life just as much as me. There is a man who has rolled over and played dead but maybe, I hope, is not dead yet.
There is a man who wanted to fight for racial justice, who somehow found himself strongarmed into a different professional destiny. A man who wanted to find a woman to watch Battlestar Galactica with and go hiking in Alaska, but his family gave him cars and sailboats and cameras and college tuition instead of love and like me he took what he could get. Like me he learned to shut up and stop fighting and smile for the family photos and love anyone who offered the slightest bit of affection. Because that’s what you do, when you’re a child like we were.
I think he was a child like I was. A “Concrete Angel” child. The kind of child who spends their whole life praying for death, because maybe then they’ll have a family who truly loves them. When they’re dead and gone and there is nothing objectionable in them to hate or mock or destroy anymore.
I think there was a real person in there. Underneath the practiced sneer. I looked into the mirror of his eyes, and I found the real person in me.
But by the time I ran back to him to show him what I’d found, he was gone.
Maybe he really is gone, but I don’t believe that. I believe he is like me. Just waiting somewhere underneath the surface for someone to care enough to find him. I will always care enough to find him. No matter how lost he gets.
Every night I save him, but it’s not enough.
In real life, I didn’t know. I didn’t know he needed me, as badly as I needed him. I didn’t know he was so lost. I didn’t know he needed me to find him. I didn’t know that loving him was an option, an act the universe would permit me to do.
I’m not a monster. I don’t want to head for the castle to kill the king. I believe the “All Along the Watchtower” perspective. We are all trapped in our roles. We are all trying to claw our way free. We are all of us dying in here.
I don’t want to kill the king, I want to save him. From everything that being the king demands of him.
I don’t want to kill the handsome prince but I don’t want to marry him either. I want the prince to cease to be a prince. I want him to return to being a person, someone who tries and fails, loves and hates, needs and despairs, and longs for what he thinks is impossible.
We all of us long for freedom. Even princes. Those who eat from golden plates and sit at tables heaped with food are no more free than any of the rest of us. They tried to be good children of god. They tried to be good children of their parents. They tried to be loving and meek, brave and stalwart. They tried to build a better world. We all do.
Every night, I’d save you.
Every night, I try to save him. Every night, I fail. Because I cannot save him, any more than he can save me. The pain that cracked our worlds in half already happened. It’s too late now, to go back.
We have to build something better out of these cracked worlds. We have to find ourselves, and find each other, in the wreckage of the Temple.
I loved him. I will always love him.
Every night, I’d save him, but I have to stop trying to save him. I have to let him go. I have to let him face his own demons.
I can be the girl who tried to save him, and failed, or I can be the woman who learned to love a man who is terrified and broken, like we all are.
“Every night I’d save you” is a fantasy. I always fail. He is right there, inches away from me, but just like in real life, I cannot say what I mean. I cannot find the words to break the spell.
I can love him. I can believe he will find those words for himself. That, I can do.
I’m not interested in marrying the handsome prince. I wish for no one to be a prince or a princess, a hero or a villain, a monster or a victim, ever again.
We are all so much more than that. He is so much more than that.
And now, thanks to him, so am I.