Heroes and Alternate Selves
It was hot and muggy while I was wearing pajama pants, but too cold on my uncovered arms. I felt like I was stuck between two worlds. The dark scent of wet asphalt lazily drifting across my senses the slightest metallic tang forcing itself into my brain as if it were a person elbowing their self through a crowd. If it was any stronger, I wouldn’t be able to smell the musk of wet wood from fences which was stronger than the smell of book pages and didn’t have the chemical bite that you can only smell when you first open its untouched pages.
I walk along the small hills that are on top of larger ones, I wrap my arms around themselves trying to keep the wind at bay. I squeeze myself into a smaller hunched form, feeling the raised lightly blue tinted skin that makes up my goosebumps.
Occasionally a gust will blow making my loose pants flap in multiple directions trying to follow the wind as it traveled but they are hindered by my calves. The same calves feeling like they are red, burning, and glowing like the pipes on a hot rod going full throttle. I curl closer to my core like newborn babies do for the first five days of their life outside the womb; the muscle memory of being curled tightly in a space they’ve outgrown still clinging to them like an afterbirth. Only to be washed away with time and care.
This made me think of all of the other girls at school wearing pajamas because of pajama day. I barely catalogued their faces as I rushed to class. However, I realized that many of them wore symbols of superheroes like Batman and Captain America. It seems so strange at my school which is rather feminist to have so many girls wearing symbols when the creators were often misogynistic. These creators are still not completely inclusive often making girls more sex symbols than heroines.
I came to two conclusions:the first was the superficial one dealing with the cleanliness of their clothing, and the second was subconscious. So many feel safe when they hear about heroism in the world, would wearing symbols of these guardians make them feel safe? As if they were covered in a coat of armor like a medieval knight.
Heroes seem cliche to me. Superman, the one that is most recognizable, is just an inked figure of heroism and masculinity. Captain America will almost always be lecturing about the noble thing to do. I like real people, people that have the same insecurities and fears that normal people do.
I’m happy for you if you get hurt and get back up, but I don’t want to hear about the positive details. I want to know the nitty gritty. I want to hear about the days when you didn’t see the point in getting up in the morning. I want the bad. I want to feel you and be you, and see what makes you tick. I want to hear about the times where you got kicked down over and over and for a second you considered not getting back up.
I want a human superhero.
That sounds like an oxymoron.
I want a superhero who struggles because of their own flaws and morality. I want them to try to reach for the insanely high pedestal people put them on but always feel like they fail.
You can have your Supermen, and Captain Americas. I want someone like Peter Quill who only saved the galaxy because quote, “I’m one of the idiots that live in it.”
I need to calm down, breathe in... Breathe out. The more my calves scream their displeasure at climbing these hills upon hills, the more I rant. The water from earlier rains evaporates into invisible tendrils creeping up my legs, like spiders crawl up my curtains, cold and dead by the time they get to any height. However when the steam is still hot it takes time to caress my ankles and calves causing hairs to raise.
I push myself to reach the crest of the hill, looking at the sidewalk rather than the houses. Most are well kept but the red one is always looking in need of repairs. I barely see the dying grass, an ugly brown like a darker shade of a yellowing bruise. While some few places still cling desperately to life like a child clutches their mother’s skirt in unfamiliar places, the same green it was months ago.
When I reach the top I am panting heavily and fighting the urge to collapse on to the concrete dirtied with unseen dirt and leaves. My throat aches for water, dried like the dead grass farther down the hill.
I look out into the sea and my throat aches more because I know that no matter how much water it holds; I will never be able to drink it without a drier ache returning with a vengeance afterwards. I can only enjoy being hypnotized by the waves pouncing onto the sand like my terrier pounces on her toy. Before drawing back they are watching intently like you watch your microwave clock ticking slowly to completion at 11 pm, so you can stop it before the machine’s timer can release a high pitched, ear piercing trill that sounds like this machine is a child screaming for joy or for fear.
I try to rest, squatting down, but that only makes my back ache and my knee pop like an old woman. I begin to wonder if in some alien universe if there another version of me as wrinkled as our shared minds. Curled into herself to protect her old bones from the wind making our hair blow into our eyes. She would be decades older and infinitely wiser knowing sorrows and joys that I have yet to experience. What does she think of while gazing at the sea she has always been so close to?
Does she internally shake her head at her youthful mistakes? Her failed tests, friendships, and relationships. Does she remember the experiences that I have yet to have? Her career, her marriage, and her children that are bad or good. But as I try to connect with her thoughts I only see dozens of faces that I instinctively know are me, different skin colors, and different lives. I know none of their thoughts despite our shared minds. I am but a shadow of another life that they will never live, regretting squatting down to look at the sea. Before I stop the connection, my head beginning to spin from all of these images. I then walk the rest of the way home contemplating this experience not even seeing where I went, knowing the way home.
I was reminded how little we are, how mortal. No matter how strong and legendary you become you cannot forget your mortality. You cannot forget that you are not the only person with the ability to do what you do. Heroes are people, and maybe their alternate selves live among us, small and non-sequential, knowing that their lives are different on a different world. I think they have this deep seated disappointment at feeling like they have something larger to accomplish but never knowing what it is. Maybe they are always looking for somethings that they cannot find, never having the peace of mind to connect with their other selves or scoffing at the idea.
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