Vampire Connoisseur

During the summer following my Ph.D. graduation, my friend, PJ Underwood, lent me every single season of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel series on DVD. It was just what I needed! Although I was still surfing the momentum of graduate school—teaching three summer school classes and writing more than I ever had before—I suddenly enjoyed more free time. I gazed at the brightly lit box with awe, as I sat, for the first time in years, and actually watched television shows instead of just occasionally hearing it in the background, while I busily edited my essays or graded student quizzes. I loved Buffy and her adventures. I loved the show’s irony and its quirky winks at the audience. I incorporated the show into my dreams, where I dated Spike and reincarnated as a vengeance demon.

I do not purport to be a true vampire connoisseur, but I can hold my own in a conversation about vampire narratives. Aside from the fact that Buffy was a good show, perhaps one part of it that struck me at the time was the notion of actually having time. The vampires (and some of the demons) perpetually had their “whole lives ahead of them,” (unless they met the unfortunate end of a stake). I had time, too. I had finished my Ph.D. program at 30 years old and was just starting out in life (by academic standards anyway). I suddenly had the time to participate in indulgent activities, like making bread from scratch and flat-ironing my hair.

What do I like about immortality on Buffy and Angel? Well, first of all, the majority of the vampires are young and hot. They get vamped when they’re in their prime, none of this Claudia bullshit from Interview with the Vampire—forever stuck in a child’s body. Also, none of that other nonsense on True Blood where poor Eddie Gautier has to live his potential eternal life in his middle-aged body, unable even to glamor anyone; and poor Jessica Hamby, turned before her first romance and doomed forever to regenerate her virginity. How dreadful!

Vampires on Buffy can’t see themselves in the mirror, so what does it matter? It does matter, though. If I were immortal, I’d definitely want to fight crime, and on television, fighting crime is best done in a leather catsuit. What? Also, I’d want some immortal pals. I can’t even imagine how people would function, knowing that everyone around them will inevitably die and leave them behind.

There’s one part of immortality that has always bothered me, though (in addition to my True Blood anxiety of living in an utterly stagnant body) and that’s the fact that Earth’s just not that big. How long before one gets bored of the seasons, of people, of this kind of life? I am reminded of an episode of The X-Files (“Tithonus”) when the agents go after a man they believe is a serial killer who photographs his victims. Turns out, the poor guy just can’t die. He’s 149 years old and was meant to die from yellow fever but refused to look Death in the eye, so Death took his nurse instead. (That wily Death! Nurses just get it from everyone, don’t they?) Anyway, there’s a scene where he’s explaining to Scully how long he’s lived and that it’s no life at all. He claims that even love doesn’t last long, maybe “75 years, if you’re lucky. You don’t want to be around when it’s gone.” He tells Scully that he had to look up the name of his wife, one hundred years after she died. It bothered him that he couldn’t remember it.

I think that he’s probably right. This planet is cyclical in nature, and really, how many times do you want to go around it? In my poem, “Immortality,” I let Sister Nun live two lives. In the first, she gets to live out her fantasy of living in the flesh forever with “a band of immortals.” I let all of them keep their beauty and youth, but I give their bodies more flexibility, sometimes changing colors or sprouting wings. Her second life begins when the pain and burdens of living overwhelm her. However, although she is not in the flesh, she gets to see the world through the eyes of the living. In this way, she maintains her immortality but without the painful attachments of corporeal life.

For the audio version, click here or below.


When things go
well, Sister wants
to live forever like
a superhero with a
band of immortals
who crawl all over
buildings helping
people out.

When the world is
over, they fire
marshmallows in a
red cave and remember
old loves who
died again and again
throughout the centuries.
Their own beautiful,
permanent youth, changed
a hundred times over,
glittering pink some days,
opaque and withholding on
others. Wings at times,
that which separates them
from the larger pack. Lean
muscle, recognizable to
those who study
immortality or the history
of friendship.

Other times, agony’s familiar
noose, a corrective sinner’s
flog, Sister longs
to change back to
energy. Watch the
story through the eyes of
everyone else. Blissfully
detached, and a gentle voice,
asking, Do you like it

Featured Image: Viago from What We Do In The Shadows

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