These three pieces about Gerard are originally published at The Dark Balloon; I’ve edited and republished them here, this being the first of the three.

It’s time to talk about Gerard.

Gerard, who is in a cafe sipping espresso.

A middle-aged Parisian man with a long thin mustache and a beret sits and watches children bicycle by him. Gerard’s beret was a gift from his father. Gerard has no last name. Gerard has no father.

Gerard, who is actually a superhero.

Gerard does not remember when he was given his powers. In Paris, time passes like molasses and Gerard does not own a calendar. Gerard’s powers are a calling.

In his free time, Gerard reads newspapers and books.

Gerard drinks his espresso vanilla. He sips it hunched over his table outdoors, which the cafe de facto reserves for him. A sleek black umbrella protrudes from the table to cover his sleek body. It keeps the coffee, in its tiny cup which rests on its tinier saucer, out of the sun. Gerard picks up the handle with his forefinger and thumb, brings it to his lips, and tilts. He drinks coffee as we dream people should.

Gerard fights crime.

When Gerard sees the mugger jump to the lady, he unconsciously feels his own mustache and sprints into action. In dusk he runs across the softly lit streets of Paris; he looks not unlike a black-and-white Luigi. “Stop, sir!” he cries in beautifully enunciated French. “Stop at once.”

Gerard reads, writes, and speaks fluent French, and we do not.

The criminal unhands the lady and sprints away. Gerard rushes to catch her as she faints. Her eyes flutter open as his touch.

“Oh Gerard,” she says in breathless French, “it is you. It has been you all along.”

Gerard is famous among the city locals. Even he knows that now and cannot deny it.

Gerard is single, he has reasons.

After escorting the lady home, Gerard takes a long and scenic route back to his apartment at its urban fringes. He remembers being thirty-years old. The year he lost his wife. A beautiful woman as sleek as him, but more angular and vivacious. She wore dresses that fit just perfect.

“Help me zip this up,” she said. She had a tinkling laugh.

Gerard appeared in the room with a smile that would surprise the Parisians of today. He leaned down and gently touched her lips with his.

Gerard remembers all the times she has ever kissed him (7,381,281). Especially the last one.

“Help me up,” she said. Gerard stood up from his chair and walked to her bedside. He places, placed her hands beneath her back and lifts, lifted. He moves, moved her pillow forward. He is, was, is crying. It is, was all he can do to not feel her wrinkles, which he has, had done too many times that day. So he leaned forward.

She had full lips, which seemed bigger than his from a distance. She is missed.

Gerard is a superhero in small ways mostly.

If you are a small child living in Paris and you are sitting on a curb with your head in your arms, Gerard will squat to your height and talk to you in a low murmur. He will whisper, “You did the right thing.” He will stand up and walk away. His words will be almost no comfort at all, but as you turn them over in your head you will feel a little less distant, and lonely, and lost. That is all we can hope for. That is all we can be.

Gerard is not the best superhero, but he is a superhero. Sometimes that is good enough.