My Superman

By
Biology class is waiting.

Adam's waiting to get his phone back. Waiting for the expression on my face, which had been one of nervous fear only minutes before. But I have nothing for him.

I slide slowly to the bathroom floor, oblivious to God knows what is covering it: the toilet paper draped across the stall and the red plunger tipped over on it's side. Oblivious to the two girls who had been in here when I entered--skipping class and laughing about something "hilarious" her boyfriend had said. Oblivious to the world going on around me--why wasn't the world ending? It should be ending--and the fact that Jake continued to speak through the phone I now clutched in my shaking hands, his concerned voice but an insignificant whisper in the back of my mind.

"Brandt has cancer," that last word echoing through my mind like a lone voice in a deep, forbidding cave. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer.

I sink to the floor, feeling the tears that have been threatening to escape my eyes since leaving Biology--after recieving the text message that led me to this moment. But I can't cry. I can't. It's one of my rules. I hate those girls who cry at school, silently begging for the fake pity showered on them by those who couldn't care less--the people who stare at you like they'd stare at a bloody car accident, a wreck that you can't or won't tear your eyes away from. I can't cry. I can't. I won't lose control over myself--it's all I have left.

At that moment, Katherine walks in and kneels by the graffti ridden stall I'm leaning against. She's silent, seeming to prepare herself for whatever might come.

"Are you okay?"

I freeze, still fighting to gain control over my emotions--still fighting to replace the thoughts of my best friend hooked up to dozens of machines; pale and lying motionless. I slowly rise from the floor. As I unlock the stall door, I paste a smile on my face--prepared to lie through my teeth. She's still kneeling but quickly rises. God, don't let her touch me, please God, if she tries to touch me, I'll never be able to hold back the tears. Please...

She places a hand on my arm, then rushes to catch me as the dam breaks loose. Through the tears comes a frustrated sob.

I broke my rule.


********

I hold his hand, and finish singing his favorite song--"The Heart of Life" by John Mayer. I'm crying, but I fight to finish because the nurses say he can hear me. My voice is shaking; I hope he can't hear that part--I don't want him to be scared. Please God don't let him be scared. This is the second time I've been here. In this alternate reality where my Superman, the one who helped me through my broken heart, who protected me from threatening outside forces, as well
as from myself. Who taught me to play football and didn't laugh when I scored for the other team. Who held my hand when I told him my secrets and taught me that it's okay to cry. Who taught me to play Monopoly, numerous video games, and the guitar. He's been my Superman
ince I was nine. Since he protected me at his brother's birthday party, shielding me from the sophmoric teasing mandatory for a nine year old birthday party. Mandatory for the day after I was forced to start wearing glasses--the day I became "four eyes."This alternate reality where the strongest person I know can't even open his eyes. Can't talk to me, or promise me everything is going to be alright, or hold my hand. I'd give anything for the hand I'm continuously holding to squeeze back. For a laugh. For the quick flash of his blue eyes opening. Anything that lets me know he's still in there somewhere.

Beep. Beep. beepbeepbeepbeepbeep.... the heart monitor by his bed erupts in a series of
sounds that to this day chill me to the bone. Nurses and doctors rush by me, pushing me aside. This alternate reality where I can't do anything for the person who did everything for me. I shove myself against a wall, hoping to fade into the generic flowery wallpaper that's somehow supposed to inspire calm in you. I don't feel calm--every "beep" of the heart monitor runs through my entire body, an insistent reminder that every "beep" could be the last. My Superman. I sink farther into the wall.

I pray.


*********

I hold his hand, and finish singing his favorite song. Jake plays the guitar, while Brandt and I sing. Loud. And off key.

He sits in bed, weak from the bone marrow and heart transplants. Too weak to run or go out or even stand for very long. Strong enough to dominate me in every video game he owns. His blue eyes shine, and he keeps a continuous, tight hold on my hand. His laugh is the mostbeautiful thing I've heard in a long time, and as I ramble on, I say things only to hear him laugh. I sound ridiculously like those girls who play dumb for attention, maybe because that's exactly what I'm doing. If he wants me to play Red Hot Chili Pepper songs at 3 AM, cool. If my nervous rambling makes him laugh, then I'll ramble. I'll never take a smile for granted again.

The world's Superman has a red cape and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Mine has shaggy brown hair, an obsession with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a huge scar on his chest that reminds me to pray everyday. A scar that reminds me that I can't take my best friends or my life for granted. I know I'll always remember that morning I finally saw his eyes open: the day I learned to let everything go and simply be. Now I wake up knowing each day is a new start. I learned not to stress on the senseless parts of life (my hair, the oblivious boy I have a crush on, why that dumb girl's spreading rumors) and learned to focus on the parts that count. My never-failing family. The friends I've had since elementary--the ones who knew me before I had the chance to be anyone but myself. The important things.

Brandt doesn't have a red cape, and he doesn't fight crime or anything. But he did beat cancer. And he's my best friend. That's a superhuman strength in itself.





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