DEPENDING UPON YOU PERSPECTIVE, fifteen years can either be a long or short period of time. In terms of the universe, which scientists estimate to be approximately 11 to 15.5 billion years old, fifteen years is the cosmic equivalent of a yawn, the batting of an eyelash, or a handshake. But to those of us not involved in the study of globular clusters and Hubble constants, fifteen years is a long time. I first entered into the “profession” fifteen years ago and was, like most of us, young, egotistical, and seemingly invulnerable.
It’s a widely held belief that time heals all wounds. Mine include twenty-seven bullet holes, trace radiation poisoning, twelve fractured bones including two compound fractures, a shattered collar-bone, the loss of vision in my left eye, six concussions, a complete blood transfusion, and sporadic lower back pain caused by advanced degeneration to my lumbar spine. Time, coupled with hours of physical therapy, has healed some, but it sure as hell hasn’t mended them all. And these injuries have largely disproved my boasts of invulnerability while shrinking my once-massive ego, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I’m young and strong, relatively speaking, but nothing like I was fifteen years ago.
Where to begin?
In 1988 at the age of twenty-four, having completed a formal education at a respectable east coast university that shall remain nameless, I relocated to New York. My first love was film criticism, though I my writing acumen left much to be desired. Thus I’d majored in business and, after completing my LPA certifications, found work as a mild-mannered accountant for a major metropolitan newspaper. I couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan, so I resided in a modest studio apartment in the suburb of Far Rockaway. I commuted into the city daily, usually taking the 31 bus or the A train.
Despite what is often depicted in the world of four-color funny books or “graphic novels” as they flatulently became known in the late 20th century, those individuals like myself, who lead dual lives do not fly to our day jobs and make rooftop wardrobe changes. While this sort of cavalier behavior may have once existed in the past, the reality is that everyone has an iPhone and a Twitter account. The risks are simply too great. It’s a dangerous predicament to find one’s double-life exposed before a curious, invasive public and a corporate-controlled media designed to destroy and debase the lives of others between commercial breaks.
So yes, like the multitude of men and women who comprise New York’s vast work force, I commuted to the office each day in traditional fashion. I preferred the bus but typically took the subway because it was faster. But I seem to be diverging too much into the past and over mundane specifics that are irrelevant to the advancement of this particular narrative. Fifteen years may be a long time, but it doesn’t lessen one’s proclivity to ramble.
July 15, 1999, is among the most memorable days of my life. It’s the day I became Crisis. The specifics regarding my metamorphosis are unimportant. If you’ve ever read more than a handful of action-hero “origin” stories in your lifetime or watched any recent super-hero movie, then you’ve probably heard or seen it all before anyway. And like those muscle-bound, long-underwear-garbed crime-fighter, I chose an alias–Crisis. It seemed appropriate, and to the best of my knowledge, no one else in the business was using it. So after much self-debate, I took it. It seemed like a good idea since I’d already been saving lives in disguise for three weeks before being struck with the notion of concocting a fitting eponym.
One of the first New York Post articles to report on my activities featured the headline “Crisis Averts Crisis” with a subheading of “Who Is Crisis and Should We Even Care?” The incident occurred during the morning rush of September 21, 1999, and involved an explosion in the inbound lanes of the Lincoln Tunnel. You may have seen photos of it on the evening news. The blast ripped through the overhead support structures and would have likely caused the entire structure to collapse. But I repaired it all in four, perhaps five, seconds–it’s been a while and my memory is presently less than perfect.
And that’s the point.
Not long ago (but what seems like a lifetime) I stood at 405 Lexington Avenue, specifically, atop the Chrysler Building. The 1046-foot skyscraper was a haven for people like me. You’d have to be in the business to fully understand, I guess, but it has a lot to do with the isolation of standing atop the huge metal gargoyles, the rush of the skyline at night, the feeling of being, if you’ll pardon such an obvious cliché, on top of the world. It’s a feeling that few will likely ever experience, an exhilaration like nothing I’ve ever felt, and I’ve been there dozens of times. It feels, in a word, sensational. I breathed in the cool evening air and filled my lungs with the aura of New York.
My time in the Big Apple isn’t long. This much I know.
The world is different to me now. It looks different. And don’t bother making the joke that it’s because I’m seeing it with only one eye–the vision loss occurred in 2001. No, something’s different, and I’m not referring to the events and aftermath of Nine-Eleven. Something’s changed for me on a personal level. I’ve done the hero shtick for fifteen years. A cosmic eye blink in the life of a star, but a long time in the life of an ant like me. The adrenaline rush I once felt flying through the city’s subway tunnels at speeds in excess of 195 miles per hour, the friendly warmth that radiates across my jaw as twin bolts of electricity escape from my fingertips with William Tell precision to bring down an enemy, the elation I once felt upon saving the life of an innocent–these sensations now hold as much interest to me as watching a blank computer screen.
So I don’t do it much anymore. Instead of metal skyscrapers I spend most of my free time with Sarah or engaged in reading the likes of Washington Irving, Virginia Woolf, or Neil Gaiman. Yet I feel torn. Torn between the life I’ve lead for so long and a life that doesn’t involve a dual identity. And I guess what I find the most ironic is the realization that I, who have adopted the identité secrete Crisis, am in the midst of my own mid-life crisis.
Who says the universe doesn’t have a sense of humor?
NEXT: Mid-Life Crisis continues.