When I was eight, my mother bought my siblings and I Star Trek shirts, complete with little gold insignias. It was an unexpected and thrilling gift. My younger sister’s shirt was red. She was little, so she was set loose to play any random character she pleased, as long as she knew that character would have to die. My older brother’s shirt was command gold, which put him in the captain’s chair. He lorded that fact over me with a cruel delight, but I didn’t care, I didn’t want to be Kirk. I wanted to be Spock. Unfortunately, there was a hitch in my plan.
I was deeply disappointed to find my shirt was a deep grassy color never seen in Starfleet. My brother insisted it meant I worked sanitation in the bottom of the Enterprise. The only command he would issue me was ‘take out the trash!’ I refused to play. Instead my off colored shirt and I took to the empty lots in my neighborhood in search of new life, new civilizations and a narrative that contorted to give Spock a shirt the color of his own green blood. That seemed logical.
Leonard Nimoy’s character Emboldened me. I wore that shirt to school, which was not received any better than my plastic cowboy boots had been the year before. While the shirt caused none of blisters I got from the boots, I was more roundly and harshly denounced as a geek, a loser, and a fag, all of which meant the same thing; I was too weird for my own good. Difference, was problem, if not a complete affront. None of the insults were logical, and the Spock in me said so. I did too, aloud.
I took great comfort in Spock’s logic. I know I am not alone in this history, but, sadly, back then I had never heard a word. I held his logic for weeks against a tide of harassment. Whether I wore an off-brand Star Trek shirt or no, there were plenty of taunts for me in the ceaseless jockeying for position in my third grade class. I didn’t understand it. Why did it matter? No one could say. I copied Leonard Nimoy’s imperturbable calm. I imagined I was tall. I arched my eyebrow, rather than saying something lame in response — unless it was lame for me to say, “That isn’t logical.” (It probably was.) It didn’t matter. For a little while I was less easily upset. I upset too easily.
A few years later Leonard Nimoy found his way into my head again. His beautiful, sonorous, but slightly eerie voice narrated as he hosted In Search Of… a program I loved and hated. It scared me and delighted me. The journalism may have been sketchy, but it showed me the world was bigger and stranger than I ever thought. There were things to discover and things to explore, here on Earth, nowhere near the distant and fictional planet of Vulcan. In its own strange and creepy way, it gave me hope. The world was filled with things to find and I set out to find them. Each summer afternoon became an adventure, even if I never located the Sasquatch I was sure wandered the woods beyond my home.
I never said these things to Mr. Nimoy. How would I? I once considered taking to the line of a book signing and thanking him, but in the end I decided against it. I had no good way to sum things up, and surely he had heard similar and better stories before mine. I didn’t want to be more noise from the crowd and I didn’t want to take the place of someone who needed him more than me. I think he knew that he mattered. He brought grace and meaning to things that, without him, hovered on the edge of schlock. I am sorry to learn he is gone. I had hoped he would live to a Vulcan’s age.
Gregory Scott Katsoulis