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I wake up in a chair. I must have fallen asleep while reading. My face, it's wet. Why is it wet? I must be crying, but why? Suddenly, the nightmares come rushing back. Even in my old age, the horrors of my superhero crime fighting days and The Great Super War bother me. I was once a superhero, well, I still am. I still have my powers. The Great Super War wiped out all super heroes except my sidekick Horace and I. Right on cue Horace walks into my room. He notices my tears, of course he does. We’ve had decades to figure each other out.
“Get up right now and follow me, being in the Super HeadQ is doing you no good.” Horace demands.
I get up, dry my eyes, and follow Horace, knowing almost exactly what we were going to do. The aftermath of the war left us both in ruins. We were alone, so totally alone. Horace and I had to find a way to deal with the pain, and it all ends the same. We walk out of the house, and I feel the cool air hit my skin. Fall is nature’s last push of beauty before a long, hard winter, and nothing compares to fall air.
Horace and I pass a comic book store, with The Air Reading Duo- The Adventures of Air Controlling Luther and his Noble Mind-reading Horace comics on display; comics about our glory days. Oh I wish I didn’t have to see that. We walk in total silence, lost in old memories, until we get to our destination; the local florist.
The owner of the shop recognizes us and without a word gathers up flowers. We don’t come here that often, but the whole city knows who we are, and the flowers we need are of a simple nature. She hands us the bouquet and tells us, “Don’t you dare think of paying. Just take these, and take care. You’ve done so much for all of us. Flowers free of charge is the least I can do” We bow our heads and quietly exit. Slowly we walk to the edge of town, and salute the War Memorial. Horace has started crying, and I feel my eyes flooding with tears.
“So much pain, so much suffering, why is it us who are forced to carry the burden?” I ask Horace.
“With great powers comes great responsibility a wise man once said. And great responsibility means pain.” He responds.
“They promised us glory and all I have left is this terrible weight I’m forced to carry. The dead visit me in my dreams. I still feel responsible for all their deaths, for Charlotte’s death” I say. Charlotte was my best friend, my one true love. I doubt I will ever get over her death.
“They visit me too. But remember, we’re together. You don’t carry anything alone, except for Charlotte. And she died loving you, you made her happy. It was not your fault”
We fall silent as we gaze back at The War Memorial. There is no glory in war, only great pain. Horace lays a single asphodel on the memorial, as I place a sprig of rosemary, our signs of grief and remembrance. Horace turns to me and we hug, in the most meaningful of ways. Coming here never gets easier. We walk beyond the memorial to the graveyard beyond. On every grave we place a single forget-me-not flower, vowing to remember them until we join them. The city officials promised us the right to be buried here, next to the seemingly countless dead in our war. I skip one grave, and leave it until after I finish the other graves. Charlotte, my dear Charlotte, my brave, extraordinary Charlotte. On her grave I place the rest of my flowers, a beautiful variety. The florist picked out magnificent ones this time. Charlotte would know the meaning of all of them, she loved hidden metaphors. I can only hope that these flowers speak of love, regret, and grief. I sit down in front of Charlotte’s grave and cry for what seems like a lifetime. I cry for not just her, but everyone involved in that foolish war, and any war. I cry for futures destroyed, and the endless pain inflicted. After the tears stopped, and my heart a little less heavy, Horace comes over to me, and we head home together, knowing that the burden may not be just mine after all.
The next morning I wake up in the Super HeadQ, head to the kitchen, and take a tangerine from the bowl. I peel it and discover the peel looks like a rose. With a rose, the memories rush back. The memories bring the familiar pain but today it hurts less. I am not alone. I have Horace, and Charlotte is always in my heart. The weight of the world on my shoulders is less, and I am strong, superhero strong.