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You Want to Know About Heroes?

I can shatter bone. With no more effort than it takes you to grab a pencil, I can pulverize your femur. With a flex of my quads I can leap to the top of your house, and with a swipe of my arm, I can topple it. As a child you gazed with longing at candy-colored comic books, wishing to be all that I already am.

They cry. All night. Voices in the dark, shouting, screaming, pleading. They scurry across the earth, unable or unwilling to pry themselves from the role of victim. "It's too hard," they say. "It's too hard. Help me."

 

I did, at first. To shut them up, to win myself a decent night's sleep. I saved the first one. A sweet-bodied guy with shining chestnut hair and eyes to match. As I convinced his assailants they had chosen the wrong victim, he took in the carnage I wrought with those dark, wide eyes. After the electric terror faded, after the sting of being rescued by a chick had eased from them, I found those eyes were the same as the rest of him--sweet and grateful. I let him thank me. All night. He eventually dozed off, but the screams kept coming. I stared into the blackness and wished for them to stop. The sirens echoed their wails--one passing so near it started my boy out of his exhaustion. He rolled onto his side, blinked those stupid doe eyes at me and said, "Aren't you going to help them?"

 

I got up fast, was out of there before the shape of my head had smoothed from the pillow. I left him lounging in bed, confident that now he was safe, his hero was going out to save the rest of the world.

 

I went and got a drink.

 

Then another.

 

Then another.

 

Behind me, some bastard at the pool table smacked his girlfriend in the face for sloshing his beer. I let him.

 

There were other times I felt more generous. Times when a rapist was found mangled and stuffed in a trash can. Times when a serial killer stopped killing and the cops thought they'd somehow lucked out and managed to jail him on unrelated charges. But for each of those times there were scores where I heard, and did nothing. Times when I just didn't feel like getting involved.

 

I can still hear them. Despite the four window air conditioners I have running at full-tilt, despite the music I play so loud it throbs my eardrums and gives me vertigo, I can still hear them screaming for me. I turn up the volume, and pray for sleep.

 

So, what do you think of me now, kids? Do I fit inside your hard-lined squares of colorful ink? Do my words fill in the bubbles?

 

Am I your hero, or what?

 

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