Comic Book Hero by Kate Jonez
“In comics, the hero's story always has a happy ending,” Joe said aloud, or perhaps the words appeared over his head in a bubble. In a flash, the speed at which Joe’s life unfurled increased so much that space lost it grip on him and time stopped. But time didn't really stand still. Joe knew this because the squiggly lines all around him told him so. They emphasized his monumental descent.
Before time and space got all turned around, Joe was the good guy – a hero even. Like all heroes, he had one true love. Joe loved Kelly the moment he saw her big blue eyes at the bank. Kelly waited patiently when Joe talked. She didn’t glance sideways at her co-workers. She didn't complete his sentences when he took too long to get them out. Joe’s heart stuttered in his chest whenever he saw her.
A hero has one true love. Joe told Kelly it was his duty to protect her. Kelly didn’t understand. She told him never to come to her apartment again.
Kelly read the letter Joe slipped under her door. The letter explained how much he loved her. It explained how a hero must watch over his one true love wherever she goes.
Kelly didn’t like the note Joe left on her car. Her hands trembled when she held the paper. Joe tried to explain, but this time Kelly didn’t wait patiently while he sputtered out the words. Kelly’s blue eyes grew wide with fear when he held her in his arms. She struggled to get away. Joe held her tighter because she was his one true love. Kelly screamed when Joe didn't let go.
The police came to Joe’s room. They snatched the comic out of his hands and tore it because he didn't move fast enough. The cops told Joe he could never see Kelly again or he'd go to jail. Joe told the police that Kelly was his one true love. He tried to gather up the torn pages and show them how things were. He tried to explain how the hero protected his one true love. The cops laughed. Joe knew they didn’t understand things like love. They didn't understand about heroes and love.
Joe pushed open the doors and stepped into the lobby of the bank. He wore his best clothes so Kelly would think he was handsome. He smiled at Kelly as he stepped into her line. She didn’t smile back. Her face became pale and her big blue eyes grew bigger. She fumbled under the counter. Joe hurried up to her window. He wanted to explain that everything was okay. He wanted to tell her that he still loved her even though she'd called the cops on him. Kelly backed away. The other customers in the bank moved away from him too. Kelly didn’t understand. Joe couldn’t make her understand no matter how hard he tried. The words came out of his mouth like hiccups. Kelly said she'd called the cops – again. Joe was going to go to jail this time. Joe forgave her, because that's what heroes do. Kelly was his one true love and he would never have another.
Joe stared into Kelly’s beautiful blue eyes. The idea came to him in a flash. “I have to prove myself.” The words flowed from Joe's lips with clarity and precision. Joe ran for the stairs. He ran as fast as he could up flight after flight. He used all of his superhuman strength as he ran. Without hesitation, he flew through the door and onto the roof. He didn't stop running. He didn't stop even when he got to the edge. He jumped. Like a hero he flew into the great big blue sky.
In the comics, heroes land on their feet. In the comics, Kelly would throw herself into the hero's arms, Joe said, or perhaps the words only appeared over his head in a bubble. In the comics, Kelly would cover Joe with kisses because she's his one true love and Joe would do anything for her – anything. Kelly would be Joe's one true love – if real life were more like it should ...