Once when I was younger Over-Protective brother came to my rescue. I was in the car with him and the woman who was to become his Ex-Fiancé. They were young and in love and therefore volatile and prone to explosive fights that played themselves out publicly and with gusto. I was sitting in the back seat of what was then considered to be a Very Cool Car, when one such fight broke out and Ex-Fiancé demanded that she be let out of the car. Over Protective Brother screeched to a halt and they both flew out, leaving the front doors open, keys in the ignition, engine running and me sitting in the back seat feeling like I had just witnessed an accident- trying to avert my eyes but being strangely compelled to watch.
Four guys were walking down the street, and must have thought that the universe had just bestowed upon them a heavenly gift. A Very Cool Car, doors opened invitingly, all ready to be driven off. Two of them jumped into the front, and in their excitement they missed the small detail of me sitting in the backseat – they heard me before they saw me. At around about the same time that Over-Protective Brother heard me, and came running back to the car. A scuffle ensued, Brother landed a couple of punches, and the guys ran off with a newly acquired mistrust in the universe. The story quickly became part of family lore, and as with all accounts of history, it is the victor who chooses the version. And so it became the story of how Over Protective Brother saved me from four potential hijackers.
Recent events in my family have, however, led me to reconsider history, and to ask the question “Do you get credit for rescuing people from a situation you created?” – Can you Protect people from your own mess? How thin is the line between being the villain and the hero? And who gets to decide?
Personally I blame it all on Fairytales –the overwhelming architecture for all of our relationships. From the earliest possible age we tussle over the power to cast ourselves and others in our intersecting stories, trying on characters, discarding them for others that feel more comfortable, then more exciting, pulling in a supporting cast as the narrative road twists and turns.
And as my family finds itself in the centre of a new type of drama (Over-Protective Brother has fled the country, becoming Angry and Indignant Brother, and nobody is talking to anyone else) I have come to realize that the only important thing is to always be the star of your own show, because it is too easy to become simply a prop in someone else’s story. Princess, Crone, Fairy Godmother or Witch, it doesn’t really matter – it’s the power to cast yourself that, in the final analysis, is the thing to keep your eye on. And so back to the story of my rescue from the hands of the car thieves – I prefer the story of a young girl put in danger by the selfishness of two fiery lovers, who are returned to their senses by her cries for help. Brother vanquishes the villains, but is shamed and filled with remorse, and swears never to put others in such peril again. And they all live happily ever after. Well, I can dream, can’t I?