When I was in grade school, we were given an assignment to write about someone who we believed was our hero. The kids around me began getting together to tell stories about their loving parents who let them stay up late or take care of them when they're sick or relatives that took them to Disney World and Florida for the summer. I went home that night and contemplated on what loophole I could find out of this assignment. That night, as I stayed up til morning hours washing mountains of old dishes while recieving a few more bruises for not finishing fast enough and listening to my father's drunken raging rants, it became all too clear to me that Heroes don't exist. I remember feeling deep rage toward all the other kids in my class on the day of the presentations. I sat through all of the speeches with my head buried in my sore arms. The teacher called me up to the front to read mine and after a few threats of time out and no recess I reluctantly trudged to the front. I remember looking around at the the seemingly smirking faces that stared back at me as I felt the burning heat come into my face. "What's taking so long?!" those kids started to whine and I looked down at the crumpled paper I held in my hands. I had written only three words in dark, thick marker and as the anxious voices rose from the class I thrusted my paper out in front of me so everyone could see. As the tears stung my eyes and my body started to tremble furiously, I shouted in my quivering voice,
"Heroes Aren't Real!!!".
I threw my paper at the kids and the teacher in front of me and ran from the room. I had to spend the rest of the week in the corner for not doing my assignment, yelling in class, and leaving the room without permission. The indestructable Superman died that day.
DeeAnna hasn't been my friend for very long but we'd met two years ago. She is a lesbian and if you were to look at her, you'd probably mistake her for a boy with her guy clothes, very thin build, and short haircut. But when I first saw her, I was intrigued and wanted to know whatever I could about her. The other night she finally came over to meet my parents and just hang out for the day. I held my breath as she talked with such ease to the two people who had always brought me to my knees and then felt actual joy as I lead her on the tour of the house that I feared to return to. Outside of my house, there is a smaller house/ tree house that I used to basically live in. She found interest in this and wanted to go up there.
We stepped through the small door and almost immediately, we both sat down and just started talking. It didn't even matter what came to mind as we rambled on and on about trivial topics and random details about ourselves. I'm not sure how we slowly fell into the darker parts of our histories but before we knew it, our sentences were longer and our eyes couldn't leave the ground. The air felt much heavier than it had and I began to nervously shake. I told her my story and to my surprise, she didn't even flinch. I knew right away that she understood more than anyone else could. She began to unfold her own tale of tragedy and the things she began to tell me were things that I could only find in my nightmares. And as her breaths came unevenly and her eyes became darker I realized that this wasn't some rehearsed story that had been delivered to any listening ear. It was as if I were listening to a new potential hit as it was being sung for the first time. Her gaze became more distant and all I could think about was that I wanted her to come back from whevever her mind had drifted to. She suddenly seemed so far away that I was afraid that I would lose her forever. She described her mother's drug abuse and how her sister suffered for it. How their only savior from their mother's wrath was the stepfather that would make DeeAnna come to despise men for the rest of her life. At eight years old she had to testify against her own mother for almost killing her sister and eventually help to put her in jail for nearly five years. All of these things horrified me despite the things that I had experienced and yet all I wanted was to bring her back to me.
What she said next became the moment that freed me from one of my childhood losses.
After all she had just told me about what her sister went through, she bgan to tell me how her mother had never laid a hand on her but she would always offer and beg to take her sister's place. She was made to leave the room or watch despite her pleas. She stopped talking and took a few breaths. To my relief I saw her eyes coming back into focus and she looked over at me. Her voice became very quiet as she said, "But despite what happened to me, the only thing I would've given anything for would've been to take those beatings for my sister."
The scene of the younger me in front of the taunting classroom suddenly flashed through my mind only this time I knew what was on that paper. All of the times I had been held down and beaten, praying for some savior that didn't exist now seemed less scary to me. My hero was sitting so close to me that I could see myself in her eyes and at that moment, I wasn't afraid of anyone. Superman had been resurected, deflected his bullets, saved me and gotten rid of the bad guys and had then taken the form of a tall, thin, and boyish eighteen year old woman. At that moment she became stronger than anyone in the world, a real living legend. I believed that we could eventually fix each other. She could save me and I could heal her. Together we would be invincible. We would be infinite and we would work to change the world no matter who we had to take the beating for.
And now as I stay up til early morning hours washing mountains of dishes and recieving punishment for being too slow and tripping over drained bottles, I know now that I'm not alone. When I am held down, I will have someone to cry out for this time. And when I have to write a report on my hero I'll be standing in front of that crowded classroom with a paper that may just slightly sound like what you have just read. And I'm sure when I'm done reading it, she'll be right there to clap for me because, as I've been lead to believe,
that's just what heroes do.