The following piece was presented at Jersey City Writers’ literary event – Superheroes & Supervillains: A Night of Dynamic Dare-do-well and Dastardly Deeds. Please enjoy.
Yasmin and I sit on the cracked steps of our building when Dexter comes out with his board and a piece of paper.
“Hey, Dex,” I say. “Feeling better from that flu shot?”
He pushes his glasses closer to his flat face, smiles, and passes another drawing.
“For you, Heather,” he says.
I roll my eyes.
He drew another comic version of me, this time I’m wearing this sexy one piece that shows off my body while I hold a large shield like I’m Captain America. My face is pretty and strong and my hair is styled into a perfectly round afro from the seventies and I have to say I look damn good.
“Oh, my goodness.” Yasmin claps her hands and pushes my shoulder. I shove her back and laugh with her. “She is not gonna go out with you, kid?”
Dexter tilts his head, placing his bony hand on his bonier hip.
“You don’t want to go out tomorrow night, Heather?”
“Maybe if you were like this guy here.”
Yasmin points to Superman on Dex’s board. He smiles.
“Yeah?” he asks.
Oh, lord. This kid is talented with a pencil, sweet, and smart but sick.
“Yeah, sure, Dex,” I say. “Get yourself some super powers and we’ll talk.”
“Deal,” he says.
He gives a thumb up, almost falls down the stairs, and skates his little fifteen-year-old butt down Magnolia Avenue.
Tuesday night and it’s so hot that I don’t want to go home yet. Carlos, my cute, tall, and strong Superman, kisses me in front of the building. Yasmin cheers with the neighbors on the steps.
“Gots to hook up with my boys,” Carlos says.
We all look up. Dexter stands on the ledge of his third floor window at the front of the building.
“Dexter what the hell you doing?” I scream.
He raises his arms and jumps. He doesn’t fly. The boy drops like a stone. We all scream. I cover my eyes and listen for a crack but instead I hear a thump. The fool boy landed in the recycling garbage piled on the sidewalk.
Saturday afternoon and I’m waiting on the stoop for Carlos to take me to Point Pleasant. I’ve been texting him the last hour and he says he’s on the way. Bullshit. He’s with his boys.
Dexter rushes out the building.
He stands at the bottom of the steps, his arm slung in a cast.
“Glad I caught ya,” he says. “Ready to see my superhuman strength?”
I raise a brow.
“Dexter, you’re not even one hundred pounds and can’t climb the rope in gym.”
“It’s all part of my disguise.”
He walks over to the back of a black Cherokee.
“Please, Dex,” I say. “Don’t”
With his good hand under the rear bumper, he bends his knees and tries to lift it. I flinch. His face turns purple and his body shivers. Just as I think he might raise it an inch the car alarm goes off. Dexter screams out, grabs his lower back, and falls to the street.
We’re at the Medical Center where his mom admits Dexter into the ER. Dex sits in a position that doesn’t twist his face like he’d just had been stabbed in the back.
“You going to get a gun and show me you bulletproof?”
He frowns and shrugs.
“We grew up in the building together. But we’re never gonna be boyfriend/girlfriend. Sometimes being friends is better. Less disappointment, you know?”
“I guess,” he says.
I put my arm around him and hug him close.
“Promise me no more stupid.”
“No more stupid,” he says.
I’ve had enough of being number three. His car is first and his boys are second. Of course he don’t understand. Maybe he’s too embarrassed because I’m calling him out in front of everyone at my building.
“It’s over,” I say.
Carlos grabs my arm. I slap it him. He grabs my hand. I kick. He shoves. I stumble back between two parked cars and into the street. A horn screams. A van speeds at me. Yasmin screams my name. Cold green mist covers my body and presses my legs and butt and pushes me up. The van a few feet under me whips by and brakes to a stop. The green mist carries me back to the sidewalk, to the steps, to Dexter where he sits with glowing green eyes and a concentrated expression. He stands, his face straining from the pain in his back.
“Are you alright?”
“That was you?” I ask.
He shrugs, then nods.
I place my hands on his cheeks and kiss my real superman deep.
“Damn,” Yasmin says. “Get that boy a cape.”