There are few movies that truly inspire me or at the very least that I relate to. This flick about the Kray twins is most definitely one of them.
Let’s start with the topic of Legend; it’s about twin brothers in the 1950s who rule the East End of England with an iron fist and in Ronnie Kray’s case, just a little bit of insanity.
I can understand that world because I lived in that world – though I was by no means a Francis. I was more the girl in charge of the Francis’s of the world. It was sort of an unspoken rule that I was the babysitter who made sure the girls stayed in line.
When a friend we’ll call Nina came to me and complained about the way she was being treated by her boyfriend – a rapper sometimes drug dealer, I sighed softly and pulled her close. Instead of supporting her I said “This is the life you signed up for. If you don’t want to be a part of it leave but you can’t complain because life isn’t all that bad is it?” Does that seem cruel to you? Probably because at the time it was an awful thing to say, sadly however it was also true.
We were living in a world ruled by men. Proper women dressed up to go out to buy groceries; we didn’t complain when while we were out our men flirted with other women or got into fights. We stood by with pride because it didn’t matter that he had another girl on his arm, he was coming home to the wife at the end of the day. We knew the rules and complaining about them wasn’t going to change anything.
Nails, hair and makeup had to always be on point, and our behavior was to be exemplary. We were not supposed to get drunk, and if we did get drunk we weren’t supposed to act drunk. We were supposed to be at the very least arm candy and at the most there to make the men look good while we hold their jackets when they fought.
Women in this world mean less than nothing and it isn’t because our men didn’t want to love us, it’s because their focus was not on love or healthy relationships. It was about building a reputation for themselves as King of the Streets. Either get on board and behave accordingly or get the fuck out.
Which I suppose is exactly why one by one the women in that world seemingly vanished from sight…only to be replaced by younger more naïve versions of the ones that had come before.
When Ronnie Kray says to Francis “It’s possible to be a ghost while still being alive…” that one phrase is what I honestly think made me realize that if I wasn’t careful I would end up just like Francis. Alone, addicted to pills and inevitably dead.
I always knew that world held this possibility for me, but it’s the line at the end that gets me…when Francis played by Emily Browning (who is bloody amazing by the way) says “in case you thought I made it out alive…” that I began to realize something had to change.
I was the ghost in my own life. I wasn’t happy, I was fucking miserable. Every weekend was the same, work my ass off during the week so I could afford to get my hair and nails done literally every weekend to sit around a table in the “VIP section” (so not as glamorous as it sounds.) of a dingy strip club in Surrey British Columbia getting drunk because I was bored and miserable and there was nothing better to do.
By day I was helping people get off drugs, by night I was warning people about cops because I genuinely loved and cared for these people. Beyond the dealing of the drugs and the gangs and the bullshit they are still people – and for a short time they were my friends. I loved them, I cared about them and of course I wanted the best for them…but not one of them could say the same for me.
I had become a living ghost.
“God doesn’t ask if we accept this life. There is no choice. Life’s forced upon you. The only choice is how you live it. That’s a choice as well.”
It had taken nearly dying because of an infection in my throat that almost choked me to death. I suddenly came to understand that while I’d been taken into emergency surgery and kept almost comatose with drugs none of these people cared about me. Not even a little.
One of them “Nina” actually did call me just after I’d been admitted to the Emergency room. While the nurse was freaking out about how my throat had swollen almost fully shut cutting off my air supply Nina was angry that I wasn’t at the club that night.
A very handsome fireman (the one who showed up when the ambulance failed to do so and drove me in his work truck to the ER legitimately saving my life.) grabbed my phone and hung up on her while she was whining about how bored she was at the club. I didn’t have the ability to tell her that I might die.
When I did later explain to her why she’d been hung up on…I didn’t hear from her for six weeks.
While I was in recovery not one person from “The Famiglia” as we called ourselves, bothered to check in and see if I was okay.
I did eventually go back to the club. It was nice to hear “Hey haven’t seen you for awhile how you been?” As I looked into the eyes of the man who asked (whose name I cannot give you for…well fear of my life really.) I smiled softly and said. “Well yes, that is because I almost died.”
Interestingly he suddenly became very busy with someone else he needed to speak with. It was in this moment that I realized I was equally as unhappy as Nina. I was never going to be a Francis; my life was meant for more than seedy strip clubs and dinge bars. Getting pregnant and ascending to the title of “Wife.”
I don’t know what exactly, but I know I was born to do something great. Somewhere along the lines of my life I got off track but I’m back now. I’m not a ghost any more, I’m not hiding from my past I’m fucking reveling in it. I’ve earned that right and I am free of the chains that bind me to the days of old.
There is a man I think about almost daily. A man I love so much that sometimes the missing of his presence in my life nearly chokes me. Yet I know that in this life we’re not meant to be together. We can’t possibly be together. Not if I am to live a life worth remembering. I miss him so much and I wish I had been his chosen wife; his one and only Francis, his Black Bird. I wish I’d been the one to give birth to his children, and I worry every time I hear sirens that maybe this is the last time for him.
I wonder if he thinks about me but I doubt it. I wonder if he’s okay and if he’s happy. The fear I hold for his life is above mine. If I thought for a second I could change his direction, change his path and change anything that would take him out of danger I might consider returning to that life.
At the end of the day though if I had the power to make those changes he wouldn’t be the man I fell in love with. I never had the guts to tell him that I’d have taken a bullet for him. I never had the opportunity to show him how much I truly love him but I think about him almost daily now.
And I pray that he decides one day to stop being a ghost and start living life. If he ever reads this knows first and foremost you were you are you will always be my first true love. I’m not sorry I couldn’t stay though…if I had stayed I’d be dead and you wouldn’t even have noticed.
“In case you thought at least Francis survived or she wouldn’t be telling you this tale…well…now you know. But at least I was finally free, God had finally cut me some slack.”
What do you do….when the only person who could get to you…walked away?
All my love,
Devon J Hallgate