Like this article? Chip in to keep stories like these coming.
I was wandering around the art gallery during my lunch break when the message buzzed through on my phone. I saw that it was from my friend Audra, and expected it to be a continuation of an earlier discussion about bullying. Instead, it said:
“Oh no Leonard Nimoy died!”
I stared crying. I tried to be secretive about it, breathing deeply and casually wiping the corners of my eyes over and over like not-crying people just casually do. The cry was rebellious, though. It wasn’t going to be a secret cry. It was going to be a cascading-over-my-lower-lashes, eyeliner-splashing, tidal wave of a cry. There wasn’t a washroom in sight, so I sat down on a bench and tried to sob quietly until the worst of it had passed.
A security guard came over and asked me what was wrong. Probably she thought my house had burned down or my dog had been run over.
I told her that Leonard Nimoy had died, hyper-aware of how snotty and disgusting my face was. The security guard looked confused and medium-sad; she offered to get me a kleenex, which is probably the best that I could have expected given the circumstances.
Now I’m sitting in a coffee shop, scrolling through twitter and stewing in my feelings. I’m having a lot of feelings. Some of them are Nimoy-feelings — my love of his Full Body Project, my admiration for the fact that he advocated for equal pay for Nichelle Nichols — but, to be honest, most of them as Spock-feelings.
Spock was a magnificent misfit, even beyond the realm of the human crew of the Enterprise (and the very human-centric Federation). To Vulcans, he seemed wildly emotional; to humans, he seemed cold and rational. He was heartbreakingly too much of both to ever be either; no matter where he went, his features, actions and general manner marked him as alien.
The son of the Vulcan Ambassador to the Federation, Sarek, and a human lady who dressed like she was some kind of artist, Spock grew up on his father’s home planet. He spent a good chunk of his childhood getting the shit bullied out of him by Vulcan kids with Draco Malfoy-eqsue levels of obsession with blood purity. Spock had to work twice as hard as anyone else just to be considered half as good, but eventually he gained entry to the Vulcan Science Academy. And then.
And then it turned out that all along Spock had been playing the long game, and when they finally told him he was Vulcan enough to go to their school, he flipped everyone off (including and especially his dad) and was like, “Fuck all of you, I’m going to Starfleet Academy.”
This was, without a hint of hyperbole, literally the most illogically rebellious thing anyone had ever done in all the history of Vulcan.
Spock presumably had a somewhat easier time as a Starfleet cadet, but he still didn’t really have any friends. I mean, he had classmates who respected and feared him, and professors who envied his intellect, but no actual friends. Just a bunch of people whose idea of a good time was to get drunk and try to provoke some kind of emotion in Spock.
Then he joined the crew of the Enterprise and even though he was still totally weird everyone was cool about it.* He just did his thing, and didn’t try to be extra Vulcan or extra human or whatever. He was just himself, and his colleagues were more like his cool space family than anyone else. Especially Kirk. I mean, the entirety of Star Trek is basically the story of those two beautiful bros exploring the universe together and at the same time learning about each other’s adorable eccentricities.
And every time some alien conflict would come up, Kirk would be like, “Hey, let’s fight these guys,” Spock would be all, “No, let’s chill and hug it out. Except don’t hug me. I hate hugging.” The kicker? Every time Spock would be right.
Spock was just like this high-cheeked, slanted-eyebrowed space wizard travelling around and teaching people to talk things through.
Also every seven years he had to have ritual sex or else he’d die, but I mean. That’s another kettle of fish.
Here’s the thing: Spock is every weird kid who grew up feeling like they were incompatible with the world around them. He’s every kid who was teased, or bullied, or had the shit kicked out of them for being different. And then he grew up and found people who loved him exactly for who he was.
I know that it’s weird to be sad about Spock right now, because Spock isn’t dead. I mean, for one thing, he’s a fictional character. For another, he’s not even going to be born for another 215 years. Thirdly, Zachary Quinto makes an extremely babely Spock, so no complaints in that department. But still.
I can’t help but wonder how much of himself Nimoy infused into the character of Spock. As the child of Jewish immigrant parents growing up in Boston during the second world war, I’m sure that there were times when Nimoy very much felt himself to be between cultural worlds. And I can’t help but wondering if he also experienced some kind of bullying or social isolation as a kid. So maybe mourning Spock is a way of mourning Nimoy. Or maybe I’m mourning them both. I don’t know.
I just know that I have a lot of feelings right now that and I’m not sure what to do with them.
Farewell, you beautiful bro. You’re finally on your way to exploring those strange new worlds. I hope they’re wonderful.
*Except Bones, but Bones was a bag of dicks and doesn’t count