The Lucky Ones

I missed most of #BuffySlays20 — the Friday 20th anniversary of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series premiere — because, as usual, I was working. My pop culture job that is almost never these days actually about me celebrating or even barely being aware of pop culture because I spend most of my time managing. Chief-ing.

I didn’t watch the series premiere of Buffy, but I wasn’t too late to the Bronze overall. I caught up with my college roommate Chris, binging on VHS tapes of the first two seasons mailed to our off-campus apartment the way you did if you were lucky enough to know other fangirls from the early days of the internet who thought that dubbing you episodes of a show you absolutely must love as much as they did was a perfectly valid way to spend their time and technology.

When we were marathoning early Buffy, I remember it still seemed shocking to see a girl who might punch first, then ask questions. Who could fight her way out of danger using nothing but her bare hands. I remember walking around campus — I was 20, maybe 21 — and reminding myself in the long shadows, Don’t be stupid, you can’t actually do that.

There’s a moment — the moment, for me, of many moments in that show that have stuck wet and bloody and breathless in my memory. It’s in the second season finale, “Becoming, Part II,” and if you knew and loved Buffy you already know the moment I mean.

Buffy’s battling her ex-boyfriend, Angel, whom she loved and lost (because he went evil after they boned) and then kept loving even as he stalked her and vengefully destroyed everything he could of her life because it reminded him so cruelly that for a little while she made him feel human again. Anyway they’re battling, as they do, at a more fevered pitch than even the last arc of episodes, and he thinks he’s about to win.

“No weapons, no friends, no hope,” he snarls over her. “Take all that away, and what’s left?”

She closes her eyes. He thrusts his sword at her face to end it all.

She stops the blade between her palms, opens her eyes, and says, “Me.”

The only thing that really consistently makes me feel better these days is pushing my body. Up a hill, down a hill, up, down, another step, another lunge, another rep. I don’t usually feel that great about it when I start. Sometimes I’m just tired but more often I’m weary and anxious and scared about the world as a basic state of existence and it’s hard to imagine anything could make me feel less that way.

Sometimes I wake up now before dawn and lie in bed until there’s just enough pale purple in the sky to know I’ll be able to see a coyote before I trip over it, and then I get up and put my shoes on and leave my sleeping wife and take my tiny dog and drive 10 minutes to the base of a trail built by Boy Scouts that goes up, up, up and around and spits us out on the plaza of the Observatory, which is so stupidly cinematic and picturesque that by the time I catch my breath I have no choice but to remember that I am both alive and very lucky, still, to be able so easily to thrust myself back into the world of the living. We are the lucky ones.

Then I run down the hill and start another day. I don’t run up the hill, not yet, not for longer than brief bursts of vertical sprints. But I am going to, eventually.


Originally published on March 13, 2017, at tinyletter.com.

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