WHEN I WAS A KID in the mid-seventies, my parents used to take my brothers and me to the drive-in movies.
I think it was the summer of 1976 when we pulled the car up in the parking spot, attached the speaker onto the slightly rolled-down driver’s side window, and settled in for a double feature of some kind.
I don’t know what the first movie was. It could have easily been one of the “Herbie the Lovebug” films, but I couldn’t swear to it in court. It was definitely geared toward children, whatever it was.
The second picture was always for the adults. My brothers were usually asleep in the backseat by the time the late movie began, but I would only pretend to sleep. On this night, the late show was a Richard Lester gem, “Robin and Marian.”
It starred Sean Connery as Robin Hood, Audrey Hepburn as Maid Marian, and Robert Shaw as the Sheriff of Nottingham. It was much more of a complex story than I could keep up with at the age of seven, but I remember the last twenty minutes or so pretty well.
Whatever the main conflict was, it had escalated to a certain point. At this point, we had two armies on opposite sides, and, if I remember correctly, Robin and the Sheriff decide to meet on the battlefield with broad swords and armor, one-on-one, to hash things out for good and all. Whoever won would be the champion, and the other side would have to accept defeat.
These two mortal enemies went head to head so that no one else would have to get hurt. That was what was agreed upon, anyway. Of course I rooted for Sean Connery! Robert Shaw just deserved to get his smug sheriff face broad sworded, or whatever.
It was a pretty intense fight scene. I remember they looked larger than any two people I had ever seen. The outdoor screen made them giants. Good and Evil, battling it out right in front of me like these Greek gods.
I’ve begun to see Depression as my mortal enemy. To my knowledge, I’ve never had a mortal enemy. Maybe an arch enemy or two but never a mortal enemy. With mortal enemies you really have to hate the person, really want to see their demise. I don’t think I’ve ever really, truly hated anyone.
I screamed “I HATE YOU!!” at someone I loved more than anything in the world one time. I remember feeling like a light inside me had gone out, like the wind made by the uttering of such terrible words blew out the pilot light in one of the rooms of my soul. I’m darker inside because I did that.
I didn’t mean it when I said it, of course. There’s no way I could have. I could never hate anyone, especially that someone. It’s not possible. I was just so sad and angry with myself that I had no idea how to live. Nothing made any sense.
I never thought I had a mortal enemy. Then Depression just showed up on set without even auditioning, demanded the lead role, and informed us all he was also directing.
“Excuse me! Who are you, exactly?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” answered Depression. “You just do what I say and everyone gets hurt. Got me? Comprende?”
“That doesn’t make any sense, actually. So, no…I don’t think I comprende. Why would I want anyone…everyone to get hurt? Why would I do what you say if that’s what’s going to happen?”
“That’s how it works. I don’t write the script.”
“You know, you’re right. You don’t write the script. You just improv your way through a day and expect me to know how to keep up. You just expect me to say, ‘Yes, and…’ to everything. Well, I’m sick of it, honestly. It’s time for me to be the lead writer for a season.”
We have these kinds of talks sometimes. I feel like if I can get him in a one on one type situation, we might be able to battle things out between us without anymore casualties.
With age and experience I’ve gotten to the point where I have a pretty good idea of when my Depression is coming. It’s gotten predictable. It’s showing up in the same old places again and again trying to pass itself off as something new.
“Hello,” I say to it. “I can see you.”
“Do you know what I could do to you?” it asks, with a touch of charm that seems strangely pacifying.
“Yes, I do,” I answer. “And as long as I think I’m alone, you will continue to have power over me. But I don’t think that anymore. We might have to battle it out every once in a while, but I am the hero of my story. You’re my mortal enemy. I have enormous respect for you, but whenever you try to take me on I will smash your face in!”
It’s a team game, this life.
I’ll gladly be on your team if you need another. If not, I can cheer from the sidelines.
Either way, I’m for you.