Let's Go, Superman This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

September 13, 2013
Custom User Avatar
More by this author
They had entered the party at 7 p.m. – as one would, having never been to a high school party before – two hours before anyone else arrived. The host danced nervously around them, her eyes flashing at these strangers. They were not new to the school or exotic exchange students, but spent most of their school hours huddled in the eaves of the music room, sheltered from the warzone of high school. David was the less socially inept of the two: he was on the basketball team, and had been invited to the party over the clang of metal lockers and profanities in the locker room.

He had solemnly rejected the offer, his face slack and disappointed, though his brain thrashed against the inside of his head, whirling with the possibilities that could come with this invitation. Evie, however, had nearly exploded when he told her. She spoke a mile a minute about how this could catapult them up the social ladder, and David had had to quiet her, worried that one of her words would catch itself on its way up her throat and damage her national-award-winning singing voice. It was one of the only things Evie had going for her, other than her boyfriend, Lee, the wildly freckled French horn player. So, they folded themselves up into Evie's aunt's car and rambled down the highway, the decaying summer light drawing its last rays on their worried faces.

Now, David and Evie sat on a brown leather couch with their eyebrows knitted, their arms crossed, legs bouncing. They had asked about the host's dog, her classes, and dragged elementary school memories out of the cobwebbed corners of their minds to start a conversation.

“Um, you know,” started the host, a sophomore with enough electric blue eyeliner to land a plane, “you guys could, like, leave and come back later.” Her flatly hopeful tone suggested they really should leave – and maybe not come back at all.

The pair jolted up, nodded stiffly, and shuffled out. Evie's face crumpled.

“So,” David jumped in, trying to keep her from crying, as she was the worst crier in the entire Midwest. Her face would fill up like a canvas with red splotches, and mascara would make black rivers. “Coffee?”

They drove to a gas station, the only place David knew that wouldn't contain anyone going to the party. They got coffee, then sat on the hood.

“Do you remember in fifth grade when you were invited to Esther Moss's laser tag birthday party and I wasn't, and we both went anyway?” Evie spoke in a broken whisper. Threads of her white-blond hair had escaped their braids and were tickling her nose.

“Yeah. You inhaled four pieces of cake and threw up all over the scoreboard, and Esther's mom made you go home.” David winced, remembering.

“We should have used that as a learning experience.” The neon lights of the gas station buzzed and flickered, bathing them in a harshness. David wished he could dive into his coffee and stay there.

“We're losers,” Evie lamented. David opened his mouth to reject, but the words dissipated before he could say them. They were losers, and there wasn't anything to do about it. He was an offensive player on the basketball team and had helped get them to the semi-finals, but he also had an IQ of 140 and spent his Saturdays at Mensa meetings.

Evie had it worse. She had washed up from Louisiana seven years ago, her drawling voice and questionable manners dividing her from the throngs of highlighted hair, wild parties and loud, mean peals of laughter. They had become real friends two years ago when her boyfriend, Lee, another Mensa kid, had paraded her across the school parking lot to where David was studying. Still, they knew next to nothing about each other. Lee, their only anchor holding them down as friends, was in Kansas for an orchestra competition.

Evie tipped back her coffee cup, drinking all but the grounds, and began counting stars under her breath. He watched her until she got to 53.

“Evie, this isn't even the most embarrassing thing that has happened to me.” Immediately David wished he could snatch back those words and rip them up into tiny pieces.

“Oh, really, Dave? You, the amazing, secretly brilliant basketball player, aren't embarrassed? So you've been caught with a different geek, skipping another most important party of the year? Please, enlighten me!” Evie's cheeks and ears burned the color of the last slivers of sun.

David figured he needed to find some common ground with this girl. She was wildly passionate about anything that crossed in front of her. David, not so much. Except for that one, minuscule thing, that phase he never wanted to think about ever again. Until tonight, he supposed.

“You make me sound like Mr. Perfect.” Evie scoffed. “Did you know I had a Superman phase?” David closed his eyes against that memories, but when he opened them, Evie looked unimpressed.

“David, thousands of kids had a Superman phase. Sorry, you're not special.”

“No, I definitely am special. Way special. Not only did I have the limited edition collector's issues of all the comics, I had three outfits, including six capes. I had every single action figure,” David paused and chuckled at his eight-year-old self, and stole a look at Evie, whose eyebrows had hitched themselves up into an interested pose. “I begged my parents to take me to wherever they were shooting any kind of Superman-related show or movie, and we would camp out for days until I could take a picture with Superman. On the first day of school, I introduced myself as Clark Kent and everyone called me that for three months until they caught on. I wore fake glasses, and then I actually got real glasses.” At this point, David removed his glasses, clearing his throat. “And, I memorized the entire script to ‘Superman II.' I was the biggest snively geek you'd ever meet.”

“What happened? Why aren't you working on restoring vintage comics as we speak?” Evie spoke softly, with not the smallest bit of mocking.

“Evie, people have to grow up. I was obsessed with Superman for a year, which happened to be the year my parents got divorced. Little kids, they find something to hold onto, especially when they feel like there isn't anything holding onto them.” He let out a breath and hopped off the hood.

He began pacing, dodging the cigarette butts that decorated the asphalt. The parking lot smelled of rain, that earthy scent that twisted and rooted itself in your nose.

Evie's mouth curved up a little, a smile shining under the surface. Her head bobbled in under­-­standing.

“You know what?” David spun around. “Let's go find something to hold onto. Let's go back to that party.” It was 9:25. Evie's smile burst through, her teeth shining brilliantly against the station lights.

“Let's go, Superman.”

The hostess was hanging upside down from a tree when they got back to the house. She seemed not to notice that David and Evie were the same people who had shown up two hours early and sat awkwardly on her couch. She slurred a greeting.

The rest of the house was just as intoxicated. It reminded David of the warning videos for drunk driving. Voices ricocheted off the walls. Students who had never talked to David shouted greetings and clapped him on the back, and the girls either drew Evie in for an affectionate, sweaty hug or glared at her.

“Evie,” David hollered over a ridiculously loud club remix, “this might have been a mistake!” Eight red plastic cups had been thrust at him, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw a gangly freshman boy swinging a wrench toward a wall. There was a thunderous crack followed by plaster crumbling, someone screaming, metal crunching. The lights flickered briefly and cut out altogether, as did the music. The only illumination of the shocked teenagers was from the street lamps, squeezing through the windows and bathing the walls in orange.

There was a cacophony of groans. People trickled out the front door, until there were around 20 left.

“Dude, I biked fifteen miles for this. I am not ­leaving.”

“What do we do now?” a girl whined nasally.

“Uh, candles?”

“Great idea, burn the house down. You can't even walk a straight line. How will you light a match?”

Evie volunteered to light the candles, and placed them out of reach of anyone who might knock them over. They stood around in stiff silence. The moment hung by fraying ropes.

“Spin the bottle?” a small voice ventured.

“Are we 12?” someone sneered in ­response.

Evie cleared her throat. A dozen heads whipped in her direction and her cheeks bloomed scarlet.

“My friend David here can recite the second Superman movie,” she suggested, a shy smugness swimming in her voice. Eyes flashed in his direction, targeting him.

“Um, no- ” the same snooty voice started.

“Dude,” someone boomed, “that is, like, my favorite movie! Or ‘The Sound of Music.' It's a tie.”

David's mind was careening off its wheels, trying to make sense of what was happening. This, he thought, was probably the reason he and Evie were not friends. Her watery cerulean eyes looked lazily at him, not looking the least bit ashamed.

“Please, David?” she asked, gesturing wildly where no one could see, trying to convey that this was their one and only shot at being recognized.

“Uh, no, I think I'll pass.” David tried to pour as much venom as he could into the casual response.

“David, COME ON!” Evie's voice was bordering on hysterics.

“No.” He was never going to speak to her again. This was worse than when she told the whole bowling alley he was a genius and they entered him in an embarrassingly easy trivia game. “I can't.”

“Yes, you can!” She wasn't going to give up.

“No. Really. I can't.” Their argument floated around the house and seemed to interest even more people, like moths to a flame. Ten people started yelling “David, come on! Yeah, David! Please!”

“No, I'm awful. I'm terrible,” he pleaded. This party was awful. Evie was terrible. She looked at him angrily now, her face a snowbank set on fire.

“Just do it,” she repeated.

“No!” he barked.

Her eyes sank to the ground. His stomach sank as well. Someone in the crowd of teenagers coughed.

“Fine,” Evie spat.

“Fine,” David said weakly. His stomach twisted in knots. He didn't owe her anything. She had dragged him here, fluttering her eyelids and thumping his arm repeatedly, excitedly. She wasn't even his girlfriend, or even really his friend. She was more or less using him to crawl her way up to the highlighted hair.

Then another thought threw itself into the boiling mess that was his brain: this was an extremely ­important party. He was among gods and goddesses, with their alcoholic breath and flat-ironed hair. He would let them down. He would go home and watch C-SPAN with his mother, and talk would crawl along the hallways for days about this disastrous party. ­Unless he could save it.

“All right, I'll do it. But don't laugh.” He winced and wrung his clammy hands.

“We won't,” a shrill voice called from the crowd.

He got up onto the mahogany table that was littered with potato chip wrappers. “So this is planet Houston,” he began.

Lines threw themselves out of his memory and into the living room. David glanced down as he began the second scene, and Evie's smile was like the sunrise.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

Site Feedback