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David Bowie and someone else's 'Heroes'

David Bowie and someone else's 'Heroes'
David Bowie in the 1976 film "The Man Who to Fell to Earth." (Studiocanal Films / Showtime)

Losing David Bowie isn't like losing a favorite musician or losing a parent.  I've experienced both. I am not sure I know what he was to me.

In my life, Bowie ended up embodying the plot of a science fiction novel. I don't think he'd have minded showing up in someone's life, but he might have been disappointed that he was acting out a novel someone else had already used.

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Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" was the basis for "Blade Runner." A central idea of the book, one that drives the movie, is that a replicant (an android) can be filled with the memories of a human. When a synthetic creature can be loaded with the organic, emotional information of a person, it complicates the issue of what is or isn't human. If a thing can cry about your childhood, because of your childhood, how is it a thing? Isn't that all you can do? There are no robots in my story but someone else's memories became mine because Bowie put them there.

My ex-wife, the mother of my children, spent years talking about a college boyfriend. They had gone on this romantic, slightly obvious trip to Europe, during her sophmore year, and said goodbye to the strains of "Heroes." It was a story that, by osmosis, became my memory. Very little made my wife cry, but "Heroes" did. We always had to turn it off when it came on. Eventually, I would cry when I'd hear the song in public, though I wasn't referencing my own memory. I was responding to the echo of someone else's memory.

Our marriage ended, but the college boyfriend returned, decades later. He is with her now, still, like "Heroes," which is there for those who need it.

As I take in the news of Bowie's death, I see trucks rolling out in the night, filled with rebar and wires and plumbing.

I don't know what is in any of those trucks. Maybe nothing I need, maybe everything.

On Twitter: @sfj

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For the Record

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Jan. 11, 2:42 p.m.: A previous version of this post referred to the high school boyfriend of the author's wife. He was her college boyfriend.

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