My little sister and I are having a snack in our babysitter Sarah’s kitchen. She just took us to the store to buy Mom a present and a cake.
The phone rings.
Sarah answers and looks over at us as she whispers into the receiver. Suddenly, she hangs up and rushes us into her car. The cake on my lap reads, “Happy Mother’s Day!”
We pull up to our house and the front door is open. Mom is crying. Dad comes downstairs, hands me his suitcase, and tells me to help him bring it to the car.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my lifeblood. I can’t imagine my life without it. It’s helps me dig deep for strength when I can’t find my own. It gives me hope in the darkness. I’ve watched the series countless times, and its meaning changes along with my life experience.
Out of all the characters, Spike is my greatest weakness. He’s my fandom and first fictional boyfriend. He’s platinum blonde with piercing blue eyes. His cheekbones could cut glass and he’s got a grin that would fluster a nun. He lurks in the shadows, cigarette in hand, his long black duster billowing behind him. He’s snarky, passionate, and occasionally evil, with this uncanny ability to read the world like an open book. He also paved the way for all of the blonde, blue-eyed boyfriends I would ever have.
That’s not where the story starts, though. It starts when I was 12.
Dad’s suitcase is heavy. Without even looking me in the eye, he takes it and puts it in the back seat. The driver side door opens. Then closes.
I watch him drive away. He’s not going to live with us anymore.
We go inside, but no one knows what to do. I sit in a chair and rip paper into strips. I saw someone do that in a movie once.
Weeks pass. Mom starts a journal because the doctor thinks she should write down her feelings. Sometimes when she’s sad she talks to me, too. I help with the laundry and the dishes. I’m good at barbecuing, so I cook for us. My sister is only 3, so I take care of her. I take care of Mom, too. In order for us to function, I turn myself into the person I need to be. I become the protector, the caretaker, the warrior. I am a rock.
I don’t ask why Dad left. I figure it has something to do with his obsession with online games. Mom waits until I’m older to tell me that he would sit there for hours, making up stories to tell in chat rooms; he was a firefighter, a hero with a whole other life that didn’t include us. He would sneak off to pay phones to call people we didn’t know.
Buffy is on every week and we’ve been recording it on VHS, so I rewatch my favourites. Spike is so in love with Buffy. She rejects him and uses him and I hate her for it. Spike’s whole world revolves around her and she’s just throwing it all away. I would never do that, because I am so ready to be loved.
Months turn into years and the series ends, but my affections are unwavering. I have notebooks full of fan fiction and I draw him over and over, trying to get his face just right. My walls are covered in photos of Spike that I print at the library for two dollars apiece.
My father is back, living under our roof. But he’s not interested in us. He is a ghost in our home: intangible and malevolent. There’s an empty seat at my graduation.
While my father is unreliable and fleeting, Spike is passionate and consistent.
I go to high school and I date. He’s dirty blonde and blue-eyed, but lazy and unambitious. It doesn’t work out.
I go to college and I date. He’s pale blonde, blue-eyed, and spiteful. He tells me I have no talent. He tells me he doesn’t think he loves me. My friends ask me why I let him talk to me like that. But we have a lot in common and I don’t want to feel alone. It lasts four years before he leaves me.
I graduate college and I date. At a party one night, a friend introduces me to a blonde, blue-eyed guy who flirts and dances with me. He whispers things, roundabout ways of confessing love. After three weeks he tells me he never actually liked me.
After every single guy, I kick and scream and berate myself. How could I be so stupid? Why am I still making such terrible choices? Where is the passion, the reliability, the love? Never again!
Until the next time.
Slowly, I begin to see things clearly. There is this huge gap that I’ve been trying to fill. I’ve been desperately looking for an unhealthy, unrealistic scenario in which someone is going to come along and make me the center of their world, as no one has done before. To erase the heartache of my childhood. Spike will always be my weakness, but he isn’t just passionate, he is obsessive. He does terrible things in his pursuit of love and I rationalize everything so that he can be the hero I need. I have been making excuses for others, living off whatever scraps of love I can dig up.
I’m 27 now. Vincent and I have been together for five years. He’s blonde and blue-eyed because let’s face it, I have a type. Spike once claimed that all great loves burn and consume, but this relationship isn’t like that. We’re more like coals, steady and warm. He eases the heaviness in me and shows me how to exist in a world where I don’t always need to act as protector and warrior. Our relationship isn’t characterized by obsession or expectation, but by love and acceptance.
I find myself comfortable and safe and sometimes that scares me to my core. Life had taught me to guard my heart and it’s still hard to ignore that impulse.
Buffy has spent 10 seasons (7 on the show and 3 so far in the comics) trying to come to terms with her life and the men who became a part of it. I feel like we’ve walked a similar path and when things are difficult, I turn to her.
“Maybe, for once, we should try doing the thing that scares us most.”
It feels good to follow Buffy’s advice. She’s a Slayer after all.