When I was a girl, I learned that when I grew up I could be a writer. Women can be writers, and writers can change the world. However, although I had read many stories by women writers, there were few stories about women writers. There was a story about a girl whose teacher loved her writing, but criticized her many italics, and there were others whose stories were written as diaries. I learned that women are the best writers.
When I was a teenager, I once again read the story of Lois Lane, the woman who won the love of Superman. I remembered the comics I had read as a child in my uncle’s house in northern BC, I remembered how much I had loved the story of how the reporter Lois pursued the Man of Steel, at first only looking for an interview, then seeking and winning his heart. I had once wanted to be a nurse, but I realized I couldn’t stand the sight of blood, and then I read about the writer, Lois Lane. I would have to grow up a writer and I would have to find a Superman.
The first time I saw him, I would think he was a bird. He would be so far away, so high in the sky. Then I would realize he was the wrong shape to be a bird, and I would think maybe he was an airplane. He would swoop lower and I would see him to be a man, a man flying. No wings, just flying. I would be a young reporter the day I saw my Superman fly away into the clouds. The critics would accuse me of repetition and no imagination, but I would write only about him. In my works I would beg him for a meeting, for an interview. Every time he appeared, I would be there with a camera and a notepad. We would settle into a comfortable routine of cat and mouse. My desire for an interview would quickly evolve into a desire to simply meet him. I would not care how long he dodged me—I would not give up. Suddenly one day, another writer—a man—would catch my Superman and interview him. I would be furious—at both of them.
My Superman, now exposed by my rival’s article—which I would grudgingly admit to be excellently written—would come to me and carry me away.
* * *
The earth fell away beneath us, and I gasped and gripped his shoulders tighter. I had been on an airplane, but this was nothing like that; here, the distance from the ground and the movement through the air were so much more immediate.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said.
“I’m not afraid,” I said out of pride.
(“But we’re so high,” I would have said in real life, angry with story heroines for lying so much. “I’m terrified. Do you have to fly so high? So fast?”)
“We’re almost there,” Superman said, seeing right through my lies. “Relax.”
We landed on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean with salt spray crashing on the shore. Superman steadied me on the wet, slippery rocks and helped me to sit down on a dry one. He sat beside me and draped his cape around my shoulders to keep the spray off. We gazed at the sea for a moment in silence.
“I’m sorry,” he finally said. “I’m sorry I gave the interview to Clark instead of you.”
“It’s okay,” I said, and it wasn’t really a lie. This was what I had dreamed of for so long—just being with him; the interview was secondary. Still, I resented his openness with another.
I wanted to lay my head on his shoulder—it would be so easy; we were sitting so close—but my pride was too strong. I had to prove something, although I wasn’t sure what it was.
After a few more minutes of silence, he took me home. The flight back was not as terrifying as the one out had been—maybe I was getting used to this. We landed on the balcony at my apartment.
“Thank-you,” I said, glad to have something solid under my feet again, glad to be in control again. Although, it had been an exhilarating experience.
“Good-night,” he said with a smile. Then he flew away.
I watched him become a dark slash against the evening sky, then a dot, then a speck, then disappear altogether.
He came often after that, appearing at my window to take me on an adventure through the night. As I lost my fear of flying, our flights became incredible getaways and I looked forward to them like a high-school girl waiting for her prom date. Sometimes, he would let me glide alone for short distances, always catching me long before I began to fall.
At this same time, my feelings toward my rival, Clark Kent, were changing. He never once boasted about how he had scooped me; in fact, he never even mentioned it. Most surprising, he complimented my writing and I could tell he was sincere. Although we still competed for the best stories, we became friends. Eventually we began to collaborate, sharing the work and the credit. Slowly, our friendship grew and, while he wasn’t as exciting as Superman, I found my feelings for Clark were deeper for having taken longer to develop. To my surprise, I realized I loved Clark. I had always thought I loved my Superman and no other. After much thought, I decided that Superman was not for me; he was an adolescent fantasy, and I needed to grow up and realize that he was never going to be the down-to-earth sort I needed. If Clark asked me to marry him, I decided to say yes.
That night, when Superman arrived at my window, I had a speech planned. I was going to tell him that I loved him, but it would never work between us. I was going to tell him that there was someone else. I was going to ask him to stop coming to my window. I never said any of it.
“There’s something I have to tell you,” Superman said, looking as nervous as I’d never seen him. “I live two lives: one as a regular human being. You know me in my other life; I am Clark Kent.”
I was stunned and angry and, at the same time, delighted. I didn’t have to give up my Superman! But he wouldn’t get off so easy. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I demanded. “Don’t you trust me?”
He smiled. “I do. That’s why I’m telling you now.” His smile broadened. “And I wanted you to love Clark Kent even if he wasn’t Superman. And you do. Don’t you?” His smile faltered for a moment. He wasn’t as sure of himself as he sounded.
I glared at him for a moment, letting him wonder. But I couldn’t face his sad hopeful eyes for long without smiling myself. I walked up close, put my arms around his neck, and looked up into his face. “Now I know how you got that ‘interview,’ Clark.” We laughed together.
* * *
My real life has been a disappointment. I have become a writer, but I haven’t found a Superman. I don’t know if I believe that he exists, and maybe that’s okay. I think I would rather find a Clark Kent, anyway.