Issue 2 - Spring 2006 - The Fight Issue
MAN NOT SUPERMAN
All the things old girlfriends had found gross about me, Lois Lane found charming
BY JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN
She missed normal men. Lois wanted someone normal. That’s how I won over a class act like Lois Lane — it was the fact that I was a mere mortal.
She had had her fill of the night rides over Metropolis on Superman’s back. She had done the demystifying “I’m-letting-you-get-to-know-the-real-me” trips to the Fortress of Solitude. He had even taken her to Niagara Falls to see the statues made of wax that honored him there, and because she insisted, they took the train. That drove him crazy. At one point, as the conductor punched his ticket, he turned to Lois and said, “Do you have any idea how ridiculous this is for me?” And then he laughed. He laughed because he loved her. Despite all of this, she had still decided to leave him.
I first met Lois at a charity penny arcade event. At one point in the evening, as I stood hunched over a pinball machine, I looked over to my side, and there was Lois Lane just standing there, watching me. The left flipper wasn’t working, so I tried to keep the ball on the right, but when it came down the left, we yelled like a couple of kids rolling down the side of a mountain together. >>
“I’ve always wanted to reach in there and hold the silver ball in my hand,” I said.
“I never thought of it that way,” said Lois, and five minutes later she was ripping open an empty pack of Clorets and writing her number down on the white inside.
When I was a child, she was the girl who brought Oreos for lunch, the one who during recess held me cruelly aloft on the seesaw as I squirmed and begged to be let down. In high school, she was the popular girl who wanted nothing to do with me, who saw me as nothing more than a bad aftertaste — like the kind you get when you almost vomit, and can taste the vomit, but don’t actually vomit. In college, Lois was the bored coquette, languidly offering me her leg in the cafeteria, saying, “Feel how strong my calf muscles are.” Lois was all of these, but then, at the moment she handed me her phone number, she became something else entirely. She became a woman who had chosen me.
In front of Lois, I wasn’t embarrassed by my softness. In fact, all the things my old girlfriends had found unattractive and gross about me, she found charming.
Once, I even gave my nipples eyelashes and smeared lipstick around my belly button. Lois swooned as I made my fat gut sing her sweet songs of love.
I liked making Lois laugh. One evening I even purchased a jar of olives simply because one of them, pressed up against the glass, looked like an old man’s head, with a little skewed stroke-mouth full of pimento. I gave it a voice. I made it say things like “Get me out of here,” and “My ass is asleep,” and Lois appeared to find this delightful.
Although they were broken up, Lois and Superman decided to remain friends, and since they traveled in the same circles, I knew it would be only a matter of time before Superman and I met, and I knew that when we did, by any possible system of measurement, he would destroy me.
But in what way, I wondered. I mean, what could he do to me? Squeeze my hand really hard when we said hello? No: he could out-fight me, out-think me, out-run me, out-fly me — he could reverse time, for Christ’s sake!
Lois told me that I should expect a call from Superman. She said he was really anxious to meet me, and several weeks into our relationship, I got the call. When I answered the phone, I felt my chest tighten.
“I’d like to keep Lois in my life,” he said, “and I guess that means we should get to know each other. I don’t want to make this into a big deal or anything, but Lois tells me you’re sort of between jobs right now, and I could use a sidekick. I’m trying to change my image a little. I don’t want to come off as such a lone wolf anymore. It would be part-time, and I could teach you a thing or two.”
“Look, don’t get me wrong,” I said. “You do great things. Wonderful things ….”
“Silence,” he said, but he didn’t say it in the way you’d think, all capital letters; he said it quietly, sadly almost. “Silence. Just think about it.”
When I saw Lois that night for dinner, she had already spoken to Superman, and she was going on about my sidekick-ship like it was already a done deal.
“It’s just what you need to get back into the workforce,” she said, and she looked so pleased. Before I knew it, we were drinking glass after glass of red wine, and I was agreeing that it might be a good idea. Lois is just so beautiful when he’s pleased.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Your new outfit,” he said.
He shooed me off to the bathroom, and in the toilet stall I changed into what was essentially a skintight black unitard. There was no cape. The whole thing succeeded in making me look both skinny-legged and rotund around the middle. Across the chest, in small Courier font, was the word Stuart.
I pointed at the name questioningly as I walked back to the table.
“It’s your sidekick name,” Superman said. “And you’re not supposed to wear your uniform with underwear.”
It all came to a head one Thursday night. There was this Thursday-night tradition where all the superheroes got together for beer and chicken wings, and on this particular evening, Lois was going to join us. The superheroes sat together at one table, capes all undone, laughing and slapping each other on the back, while the sidekicks sat at another table, commiserating and trash talking.
I looked around my table. There was the angry-looking hunchback the Green Lantern worked with, and Wonder Woman had brought along a sad-eyed, mousy college-aged girl who sketched on napkins all night. The Flash had taken on this grizzled old sack of bones whom he called Benjamin and who smelled of cabbage and urine. Superman told me Benjamin was the Flash’s father, and he needed some looking after. The Flash mainly left him in the car.
And then, of course, there was Batman’s sidekick, Robin. Robin told me that the Caped Crusader was such a control freak he had continued to bathe Robin well into his late teens.
“I can scrub my own ass,” Robin would yell, but Batman was so strong. When he put his hand on Robin’s shoulder, Robin wasn’t going anyplace.
I looked over at Superman chatting with Batman, the best of buddies, and I imagined what their conversation was like on the night they had heard about me and Lois.