I never asked to be anything more. Thought that to myself bulleting down Filmore Street, the one on Grey Avenue. New one this time. Calls himself the scamp or something, maybe it was the shrew. These lads do be ratcheting out at an alarming rate these days, as if there’s a conveyor belt somewhere surrounded by Cambodian children, glueing together the parts that make the very worst of humanity. Wouldn’t be so bad if they refrained from sprinkling a dose of tacky dress sense over the finished product. Can’t afford to smile to myself, shouldn’t be making jokes on the job anymore. Fuck it. This one’s getting away. Whoever he is. The Scamp, The Shrew, The Bottle of Fucking Mountain Dew. Can’t keep track of them these days, in both senses. Nevertheless, I do my best to have fun with it. “I’ll have you one day, Shrew”, as I look to the skies cursedly. It starts to rain. The good news is my cape and tights are now fully rainproof, bolstered by today’s improving latex strength and fiber technology. Bad news is my body’s gone the other way. I try to think of the word to describe the scenario. Juxtaposition. Doesn’t take me long to remember it, seeing as it was also the name of that lad who tried to block out the sun last week.
It wasn’t always this way. I take the train home because it’s one of those nights, the subway reminds me of before. No wear and tear, no limits. No repetition. I think that’s the main issue. Repetition. The physical toll may control the whole living or dying situation, but the mental side creates it. I reminisce about the time I fought on these very tracks, though I think it was the next stop over. Marigold had harnessed the station electricity in an effort to collide the trains. The danger was tangible, the fear palpable, the stakes optimum. That was my peak, and what made it so was not so much my victory, but the feeling that I could genuinely lose. Anyone like me needs that kind of opposition, a foe cut and dried from the same mutated cloth. Christ, I miss Marigold. If I’d known things would get this shoddy I’d have spared him and broken him out of Hargur by now myself. These days its Alan from Goldman Sachs who’s more of a threat than the supposed real enemies. His costume is much sharper too. Ok, this is my stop. 34th time I’ve walked onto this platform. 33 of those in the last six months. Can I retire? Kind of should. Should I retire? Kind of can’t.
Wading through the crowds. I constantly forget my natural state of being is at one with theirs. If a light flickers for even a fraction of a millisecond, those in the room will divert their eyes toward it. I am not even that. Nobody looks, nobody stares. There’s no indication to them that without me, they’d all be long dead. Should’ve been one of the kind who foregoes the alter ego altogether. ‘Fuck it, I’m the guy’. I’ll take my pay in plaudits and cash, please. Then I remember there’d always be something. Someone will ask am I doing enough, citing crime statistics. Someone will wonder why I don’t do more interviews. Someone will wonder why I’m buying one of those novelty beer hats at Walmart. Fuck, News already debate whether I’m too powerful for the world’s own good. Couldn’t stand having to answer that kind of tripe with anything other than action. Maybe I’d like a flicker now and then though. The proverbial pat on the back, not necessarily for saving an entire populace from an evil sorcerer. Just from my boss for working ten minutes overtime, or my sister for remembering her birthday. I’d rather that. What I do ensures I have to sacrifice the character of my real person, or at least, what others perceive of me. Can’t be 100% the man they want me to be when I’m only ever halfway committed. A tragically overlooked consequence that renders me tragically overlooked. I’ll look the other half of myself up on twitter to cheer up.
Ten minutes later I’m in my doorway. Everything’s silent. It’s late. I’m late. Dinner’s in the oven. Ava’s already asleep. I fetch my food and a beer from the refrigerator, catch the end of the taping. Alone on my sofa at 1am, this is the state of being I most prefer and most rue. A state of undisturbed reflection, casting a pure lens on my day, my week, my life. Maybe it’s too pure. It’d be easier to stop thinking about it and start focusing on the tv, but I cannot. Granted unto me are powers restricted to all others, and yet, I maintain the most basic of human weaknesses. The subtle kryptonite, sadness. Subtle but exponentially more crippling an affliction. I try to shake it with another beer, but I know I’d need another and another and another. The second last one is usually when I begin to stop ruminating. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m in some sort of edgy new comic book. Restless ageing Protagonist, grappling with the intricacies of an increasingly ordinary extraordinary life. At least I’ve gotten another laugh out of myself. I really need someone else, though, someone else right now. My own company is not enough. I need her. The only human being on this earth who knows I am not the man I am but another. I need her lips on my left cheek and her index finger on the right, mopping up my tears again before I feel a liquid line scatter down my face. A whisper, “I love you”. I love her too. I need her. Why then am I relieved she’s asleep?
The next day is a little sunnier. I kiss her in the bed and taste dissatisfaction. I can hardly dispute. Her knowing where I am and what I’m up to doesn’t change the fact every night is a late night. She’ll leave me one day and I’ll accept it. Wish I could’ve given her kids. I bet she does too. Ah, time for work. The art of scraping by, and another reason I ought to unmask myself. Another reason I should’ve become a fucking bad version of me. Maybe I could team up with Mr Shrew. I laugh at the notion. No, I best stay on the right side. Staying true and protecting everyone is what makes me feel good. Except, I don’t. Huh. I guess I’m just too much of a coward to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. What would’ve happened if nothing happened? I should’ve just accepted what did and stayed in my room that day. Memories of the better times are not compensation enough for what it is now. This is not life. It’s the continued endurance of an emptiness resistant to fulfilment. Anyway, work.
It’s not that I want to die. To stop breathing is to feel nothing, and to feel nothing is the ultimate disservice bestowed upon a human being. It’s the opposite I want, to live, and to live beyond this rut. Short of a time machine, I struggle to think how it’s possible. Ava says I should join a class, maybe pottery, figure-making. How clichèd. The last thing a middle aged man wants to do is mould and remodel a nondescript jug for a 43 year old female instructor who’s having an affair with the guy that runs the self defence class next door. You can’t make new friends at my age. The crevices once gaping are long sealed, ever since the incident. Best friend? Check. Best friend turned foe? Check. Best friend-turned-foe who also happened to gain supernatural strength and thus inevitably ended up facing off against me? Fucking check. Jesus, that AND dead parents? I’m surprised Ava’s second name isn’t Adams or Angel or Alliteration or something. Almost on command, an explosion. Serious enough that the pizzeria is evacuated. I’ll take a closer look.
I stand corrected. Explosions. Fuck me. Casualty number unknown, but severe. Stretching all along Fillmore Street. Bodies and debris. This level of affliction I have not seen for some time. This is fucking excellent. Where has this been for the last eight years? I follow the carnage to find my combatant, my foe, my saviour. Forget what I said about dying, every thought has an exception. This one’s the big one, the last hoorah. A martyr to the city I’ve served and a god thereafter. This is how all of our kind want to go. I don’t love her enough anymore to stay and she doesn’t love me enough to grieve for too long. A blaze of glory, literally if possible. The only satisfying conclusive event to a life sapped of its life long ago. I spot activity on top of the Ohlmeyer Building on 21st. Atop I will meet the man, woman or monster who is my equal. The living manifestation of a curtain call.
The sunset. There’s a ferocious beauty in the way it gleams, reflecting on the skyline with aggressive candour. The concrete accepts the light quietly but remains, standing stubborn and upright in the face of nature’s bounty. It stands alongside the sun, not against it. Just as I do with the man I find atop this building. He sits on the edge, southeast side of the rooftop, eyes on the city before him. I levitate towards him, my arm reached out. He turns halfway and I can confirm the identity I’d suspected. “Marigold. How…”. In truth I know precisely how. I’ve known since the very first explosion this was not reality. Still, the lucidity of this event captures my engagement. He speaks. “Old friend”. He reaches his arm out to mine and we shake hands from the elbow upward, like Russell Crowe in that Gladiator movie. Forget what it’s called. I tell my old friend I miss him, the battles we had. He echoes the sentiment and shares a tear. We do not share the same coexistence this city does with the environment around it. We share something more, a codependency. Marigold laughs. Starts to back away toward the edge of the roof. “You say you didn’t ask to be anything more, friend”, his ankles bristling against the roof edge. “Well then, don’t be”. Off he goes with a smirk, just like he did before.
The television is still on, but the game is long finished. I pack away the bottles and I walk to the bedroom. The tears are almost viscous but they are not borne of sorrow. I kiss her on the forehead and tell her when she wakes, she’ll see me again.