Time to Live

Visibility’s better than he thought it’d be, through the holes that he poked in a repurposed shirt sleeve that would become his mask. He’d thought about it for years, considered putting on a mask and doing things he’d only read about in comics, dreamed of doing in childhood days when he’d come home from school with a bloody nose and drip onto his Batman blanket, looking for tissue, eyes clouded.

First time he went out, he had no idea what to expect. He’d done his research, he’d signed up for and taken martial arts classes, and he’d prepared his equipment. But there was nothing like actually going out there in costume, mask on, and walking the streets looking for trouble.

This was everything and nothing like the comics. He had the same nerves and excitement he’d seen on the page, same green eagerness about him, but he hadn’t been bitten by a spider, wasn’t injected with a super serum or enhanced by radiation. He didn’t have riches to fund his crime-fighting. His super power was that he could take a hit and keep fighting.

He’d taken accidental punches and elbows in training, gone home bruised, sometimes bloody. Hot showers, ice on wounds after, caffeine and aspirin for the pain. Going into the laundry room of his rundown apartment building at night and punching one of the concrete walls to toughen up his knuckles, sometimes wrapping his hands first.

He vacillated between feeling like a hero and remembering that he was just a man in a costume, a costume that now put a clear target on his back.

Some people gave him shit as he passed, waiting till they thought he was out of earshot to mock him. Others stopped conversations mid-sentence and gawked, and others crossed the street to avoid him.

He passed quiet nights this way, walking alone, not speaking for so long that he almost forgot what his voice sounded like. What should it sound like under the mask? There were so many things to consider.

He found a place for himself. It was a park near where he liked to patrol, and it had a bench overlooking a wide and empty field. If Superman had a Fortress of Solitude, he could at least have a Field of Peace. He’d go there nights to put his suit on and take it off, but it was more than that. It was a place and a time to gather his thoughts. To recommit to this path.

On a nightly basis, he had to make peace with the fact that he might not make it another day. Things were slow at first, but the more he went out, the more close calls he had. Stupid drunk people, punks puffing out their chests–the freaks came out at night. Sometimes he wondered if he drew them out, if his presence necessitated theirs, but they were always there. He just wasn’t looking hard enough before.

That’s what it was–an opening of the eyes. All his life, he’d had his eyes closed. Now that he’d seen this city’s underbelly, intervened in fights and turned down prostitutes and administered first aid to bleeding people, his eyes were wide open. It’d be so easy to live life in a rut, moving from home to work to home again. He knew this, because he’d been doing that for years.

He’d spent weeknights staring out the high rise window of his office building, convincing himself that looking down on the city was better than being a part of it. He’d eat frozen meals and binge shows he didn’t really care about in a big, empty apartment.

One day, he left his job, left his apartment, and left town.

There was no going back after that, and there’s no going back now. The future’s uncertain. Every night could be his last, but that doesn’t matter. He was already dead once. Now it’s time to live.


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