An Open Letter to Heath Ledger*

I have never seen Brokeback Mountain. Or A Knight’s Tale. And, to be honest, I did a search on Wikipedia to see what movies you have been in. Obviously, I know little about you. In my opinion, your greatest contribution was giving me a reason to watch and purchase the special edition of The Dark Knight.

And I must admit: I’ve always had a thing for “villains”. There’s something about a cinematic killing spree that makes me see humanity. The hurt, locked behind walls of calculated brilliance. The countless hours of drawing up a plan to finally get noticed.

I’m beginning to think they are starting to notice.

Your Joker flooded silver screens and everyone cried “Oscar!” Everyone cried “Best Supporting Actor!” But, no one cried for you until it was too late…

As an artist, I, too, have stripped in front of a paying audience… Bled only to be told my cut wasn’t deep enough… Come face-to-face with my skeletons for the sake of being judged by a stranger… And I can only imagine the agony of drumming of demons, marching to the beat of your worst nightmare, for the sake of Hollywood’s fickle approval.

I asked myself, “How does a man disappear so far into a character?” Wondered, of all the people handing you accolades, did anyone simply offer a hand?

At what point did you realize your soul was to be packaged and sold at the local Target in Blu-Ray combo packs? Realize you didn’t know if you’d ever get yourself back?

I was asked if I thought you overdosed OR committed suicide. Awoke the next morning, so full of secrets that I jumped up, searched for paper, and penned this letter. Repeating to myself, “Sometimes, you don’t know you want to die. You don’t know it’s suicide.” You only know the recommended dosage isn’t numbing the pain. Know that 99.9% of statistics are made up and 9 out of 10 doctors don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. So you pop, sip, swallow… pop, sip, swallow… pop, sip, swallow… until your emotional well feels hollow. Wait for someone to toss in a nickel for your thoughts. Wait for someone to realize the all too familiar splash has become a hard thud of unconscious sacrifice hitting the floor.

They mourned for you. Made a martyr of you. Like the damage was replaceable. Like it wasn’t too late to save you. Like apologies in the form of empathetic headlines is ever enough…

Heath Andrew Ledger. Son of Sally, Kim, and Emily. Brother of Kate, Ashleigh, Roger, and Olivia. Father of Matilda Rose. Your daughter has your eyes. A mouth that says, “Daddy,” with no reply. A heart that no one has to question how it got its scars.

Heath, I still believe in “villains”. Believe beneath every mask is a human wanting to be loved. Believe pouring out my soul to an audience who rates my success by how deeply I cut myself is somehow worth it.

I’m still waiting for freedom to taste less like a friendly shove off a cliff…

Waiting for these movies to have happy fucking endings….

Waiting for them to realize we “villains” are the ones with the strength to break, and cry, and risk losing our lives to the soundtrack of a standing ovation…

|*This is not a new poem for NaPoWriMo. I wanted to share it in honor of Heath’s birthday.


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