I’m about two-thirds of the way through John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, Let Me In. The original Swedish is actually translated as Let the Right One In, which is the name of the excellent vampire movie done in 2008. The English-language version released last year was surprisingly good, considering the high bar set by the initial movie.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the novel. As usually happens when these things are made into screenplays, there is much that is left out: various storylines, thoughts of the characters, commentary by the novelist, and so on. One of the commentaries by Lindqvist concerns Oskar, the twelve-year-old who is the target of bullies. This is an element that exists completely independent of its being a vampire story.
When two of the bullies are harassing him in the restroom, Lindqvist notes, “He had put his hand up in class, a declaration of existence, a claim that he knew something. And that was forbidden to him. They could give a number of reasons for why they had to torment him; he was too fat, too ugly, too disgusting. But the real problem was simply that he existed, and every reminder of his existence was a crime.” (10)
Much later in the book, after Oskar has learned some terrible truths about Eli, we’re told that “the thought ran through his head over and over: I don’t exist. I don’t exist.” (308)
When I was young, at about the age of Oskar in the book, I was terribly shy. I was so shy that, at times, I felt like I wasn’t even a real person. Other people lived life so easily. Other guys had conversations with girls they really liked! After painful years as a teenager, I eventually came to understand that it’s okay to be the person I am. It’s something we all have to face. Everyone has their own grappling with what it means to be a person—what it means to exist.
In his book, On the Threshold of Transformation, Richard Rohr offers this: “Have you ever met a man who didn’t seem comfortable in his own skin?…Consider the possibility that, as a child, when that person first came into the world, he was not given the first permission—permission to exist.
“Many people have never been given this foundational permission—either spoken or unspoken. No one ever held their face, looked into their eyes, and said, ‘Welcome to the world, dear little one. I’m so happy you’re here, that you exist. I love you.’” (58)
That is a permission that I was given. From my earliest memories of life, I have known that I was loved; I was given permission to exist.