By now, the tears are streaming down my face. The sobs are uncontrollable as they fight to escape from the deepest parts of my soul. It’s not uncommon for me to cry at movies…especially films involving kids, but this seems different. Usually the tears come because a child is hurt, or lost or sad…or crying themselves. But in this case, Max wants to leave and go back home. The movie ends with his eating his soup, looking at his mom with a smile on his face and happy to be where he is. So why did I find myself reacting like this.
I’ve thought about my reaction a lot since I turned the DVD player off in my little home. And the more I reflected, the more I realized how much like Max I was at one point in my life not too long ago. In the movie “Where The Wild Things Are”, a young boy runs away and finds himself on an island with strange creatures…make believe creatures. And while he is there, he starts his relationship with the inhabitants based on a lie. He says that he is a King. And as he spends more time with these creatures, they begin to develop a relationship…a friendship…perhaps even a level of love for one another.
The two primary characters in the story are “Max” and “Carol”. There is a scene mid-way through the film where Carol scratches a heart with the letter “M” in it indicating his love for this young boy. Near the end of the movie, when Max has realized that he has hurt Carol, he goes to a special place to find that Carol has destroyed a dream world that he had created. He bends down and creates a heart with the letter “C” in it from the twigs and scraps strewn about the ground.
Pondering those two scenes helped to cement in my mind the anguish that I felt about the movie. For a number of years, I had been living the life of a young teen boy. I was searching for something that I had never found in my own youth. Relationships and friendships… I would find them in chat rooms. And while I was there, I would create my own lie about who I was and what I was. No claims to be a king, but it might as well have been that outlandish. In my mind and in my heart, the relationships seemed so real and the feelings that I would develop for the teens on the other end of my chats were genuine. But like the creatures in the movie, they were really only a figment of my imagination.
The last chat relationship that I had prior to my arrest was with a young man named “Chase”. He was 15 years old and in our imaginary relationship, two months older than I was. We spent countless hours together talking and sharing about the things that teenage boys talk about. School. Hobbies. Fears. But there came a day when the friendship ended and I had to re-enter the land of reality. I didn’t get to say good-bye. I didn’t get to explain who I was or what I had done. I don’t know if he cried or screamed or what. I don’t know if he was sad or confused or hurt. It was just over. We didn’t get to “howl” together.
I’m glad that that season of my life is over…that I’ve come to a place where I can be satisfied with genuine relationships. Like Max in the final scene in the movie, I’m happy to be home. But there is also a realization that I left some damage in my wake…that I may have (and probably did) hurt some young people along the way because of my selfishness. And so, as I sit and watch films or hear stories of the separation of friends, I’m sure that I can expect the tears and the sobs to return. But next time, I’ll be ready and understand their source.