I wrote this one year, eight months, one week, and two days ago.
It was only on our third date that Lois Lane brought me back to her apartment. “Come on,” she said, squeezing my hands as we stood on her doorstep, “don’t go anywhere.” But it seemed impulsive to me, as though she had thought about the idea all day and only now in the soft lens of alcohol and autumn did she decide, and commit.
Her house was an L-shaped living room nestled against a bed- and bathroom. A sofa sat in the L’s bottom near the stairwell into the basement. Across from us was a kitchenette tucked against the opposite wall. We collapsed on the sofa, nervous energy and all.
“I feel like a thirteen-year old again,” Lois said, her crown of hair against my heartbeat, after a long silence of neither of us knowing what to say.
I studied her face for a second, considering the possibility. “Nah, I can’t picture you as a thirteen-year old at all.”
Lois laughed, then pretended to pout. “No no,” I said, looking at her eyes or the beginnings of grin lines on her forehead, “I mean it’s just that I can’t picture someone … thirteen years old … as beautiful—”
“Shut up,” she said, kissing me. Lois kissed like silk. “I bet,” she said with her eyes dancing, “your mind would be blown if you saw high school photos of me.”
“I say I wouldn’t.”
“Well, then.” Lois stood up, leaving behind only the imprint of a warm body on what was now my favorite sofa in the world. She opened a door, pulled a light cord, and went down to the basement. I felt the tide of silence return to the living room until I heard her curse.
She walked back up, faster than she had gone down, her face set in storm. Our eyes met and she looked away, making an exasperated noise and balling her hands into a fist.
“What is it?” I said, hurt.
“It’s just … some stuff in the basement that should have been gone by now,” Lois said, walking to her Ikea fireplace mantle and fidgeting with it.
“Wha—well, don’t worry about it.”
“It’s not supposed to be there,” she snapped.
I stood to walk to the basement but before I had taken two steps, she interceded, a huff of perfume and anger.
“What?” I said, laughing at all of this.
“Shut up,” she said. “It’s not funny. It’s not my stuff.”
“So whose is it?”
I looked at her, wide-eyed. “Who?, you mean your—”
“Superman’s you idiot—oh god not again—”
A warm breeze of red and blue swept through the apartment, depositing between us the man of steel himself and knocking me back onto the sofa. Lois’ face, framed by hair askew, was furious. Superman on the other hand glowed with raw power and grace of a man who was eternally thirty.
“Alien ears,” Superman said, looking around the room and then sizing me up. “Supersonic hearing.”
“That’s an oxymoron,” I muttered to myself, more trying to keep up with my worst nightmare rather than delightedly joining the conversation.
“Us again,” Superman said looking at Lois, his supersonic hearing ignoring me. He pulled her close to him in one dancerly flex of all his muscles at once.
For a beat, and for the first time in the time I’d known her—as a coworker, then a friend, then now—she didn’t seem to know what to do. But she rallied and slapped Superman wide across the face.
Surely Lois hadn’t really hurt him but you wouldn’t know it from the way his face crumpled. He took a step backward onto my foot.
“This guy?” Superman said, pointing to me as a crimson of pain blossomed in my foot, leg, and soul.
“Yeah, this guy,” Lois screamed. “Go away. Go fuck up someone else’s. Go drop out of college again. Go eavesdrop on someone else, you overgrown insincere piece of shit.”
As much as I had sympathetically listened to Lois’ stories about her ex, with which she had prefaced our first date with the same gravity as an amusement park would have you sign a liability waiver, it was hard to watch Superman stand there and take this from the woman he had once loved. To watch the best man in the world who had not only impressed us in the last two centuries with physical feats of daring but philanthropy and novel-writing. To watch him stand there with a tiny indentation in his chest from where Lois continued to poke him over and over, always in the same spot.
“Marseille,” Superman whispered. “Toulouse. Peoria.”
“Get out. GET OUT!” Lois grabbed her jacket around her. She reminded me of a neighbor I had when I was young. I was cutting behind houses, walking home from school one day, when I saw her (my neighbor). She ran around in a suburban backyard much too small for anything trying to catch the wind. In her haste she had knocked down a nest of blue bird eggs with her red paper kite. And she, who couldn’t’ve been more than nine years old, stood there looking at a mess of dark yellow on her green lawn, wind blowing through her hair. Shivering.
Superman looked at Lois, then at me. He shrugged his shoulders, asserting whatever was left of his dignity. He quietly went down in the basement while Lois and I tried very hard to not look at each other. He came back up with a dozen boxes in his arms, and a sofa.
He jumped out the window without a word.
The house was a mess of paper, dust, and one upset garbage can. Lois looked small and sad in the middle of it all. I sat there, watching her, for too long. And as I stood and pulled her close to me until she stopped shaking, I felt nothing I could say or do would be appropriate, as if there was no configuration of limbs and words that would make me belong to this space and time.
Lois sniffled and pushed me away.
“Hao,” she said, “I have to clean this up. Can—can we just say good night?” She stared at me. “And end tonight on normal?”
She pulled me by my shirt and kissed me. She pulled my head closer with her hand. We broke away quickly anyway, thinking the same thing. I think. I thought of how dates with Lois tended be small talk and snuggling. I thought of how dates with Lois were enjoyable evenings, but nothing special. I thought of how Lois’ eyes lit up when she talked to Superman. I thought of how Lois kept a necklace with an S on the fireplace mantle. I thought of how they fought, which had its own language and rhythm. I thought of how every relationship is different with its own diction and syntax, but how some relationships form prettier, more interesting, longer sentences than other. I thought of Lois before tonight and after. I thought of how little I knew about this girl I loved, how little I’d ever know. I thought of the difference between “alone” and “lonely.”
Her eyes, dim once more, searched my face.
“Good night,” I said, staring. I turned and walked out the door, creating hardly any breeze at all.