It was early October of 2004, and I was sprawled on my green sofa snacking on Haribo gummies, waiting for my straight-as-sin hair to dry into hopefully-luscious curls. My sofa was the stuff of dreams, which is– long story, short– why I didn’t have a bed.
I heard a tap on the door, and I looked up to see my big brother poking his head into my room.
“Gotta minute, sis?” he said.
“Yehp, whath’sup?” I replied with my mouth full of semi-chewed red gummy, and my hair full of rollers.
“You’re disgusting.” he deadpanned.
“Your face is disgusting. Boom.” I retaliated instantly, all the while offering him a Haribo.
He took one and sat down. It was yellow, but he ate it anyway.
He never ate the yellow ones.
“What’s wrong?” I prodded, turning to face him on the couch, tucking my cold feet under his legs. The pillows shifted and I could see one of my old comic books squished under the cushion. I pulled it out and hit his leg repeatedly, knowing full well that it made him madder than a wet hen.
He yanked the comic away from me, folded it out calmly on his lap and said, “I just wanted to be the one to tell you…” He paused and the tension slid goosebumps across my skin. “Christopher Reeve passed on today.”
I looked at him blankly, not understanding.
“But we’re going to save him,” My voice was small and confused, and was met with patient silence. “But. He’s Superman.” My voice seemed to diminish with each syllable, but the silence that grew in the aftermath of my shock was giant in size.
I was shrinking.
I was shaking. I was lost.
Normally I would just fall into one of the panels of my paper book. The heroes in there would save anyone– big or small, brown or white, girl or guy. But not today.
Today, there was no Superman.
My brother opened his arms and I fell into them instead, sobbing. He dried the tears on my cheek murmuring, “Cry me a handful, little one”, and I did. I cried a handful and then a bucketful, and finally stopped.
At a moment between hiccups and sniffling, my brother nudged my chin up and asked, “Ya know he wasn’t really Superman, right?”
“You never did understand.” I sniffled. “We’re all Superman. He called for our help, and we didn’t make it on time.”
“You tried. I’m sure the Man of Steel had something like that happen before.” he said, pointing at my stack of comics. “What did he do? Give up and turn into a gummy-eating mess?”
I thought about it and then reluctantly answered. “Eventually he puts on his suit, I ‘spose, and keeps on keeping on.”
“Yeah,” I said. “… but first– first— he grieves.”
So I laid my head back on my brother’s shoulders, and let the big fat crocodile tears wash away my heartbreak.
“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Christopher Reeve
What’s your definition of a hero?