I’m sitting at the kitchen table swiveling my butt in the desk chair I dragged out of my brother’s room. My tongue is a delicious shade of grape Popsicle and the sweat has just begun to pool up at my hairline again. Another 100 degree day in July.
I’ve been looking up job opportunities online for an hour now, with my only noteworthy accomplishment being the Nevada shaped pit stain I’ve sweat into my T-shirt.
“What is your superhero name?” my brother asks bluntly as he walks by to me to the refrigerator.
I shrug at him nonchalantly.
An ad for an Administrative Assistant position catches my eye on the screen. I click its hyperlinked blue lettering, opening up a new window that describes the job at length. I skim the page, skipping down to the qualifications, ready to find a reason why they wouldn’t hire me.
“Come on, think about it, if you were a superhero, what would your name be?” he asks with a mouth full of Goldfish.
I look away from the screen, having convinced myself not to apply for the job, and I look at my brother, 6’2”, slouched in one of the wooden chairs I hate. His green eyes look back at me, waiting for me to take the bait of his question and discuss the possibilities.
When he was in preschool, his teachers went around the room asking all of the kids what they wanted to be when they grew up.
When the time came for my brother to speak, he answered with a very confident, “Superhero.” The teachers smiled sympathetically, wondering how long it would take him to realize that it wasn’t possible, and my brother smiled back, sure that it was.
When my brother started playing sports in grade school, I could still see the desire for greatness in his eyes.
First it was soccer. My brother had seen my cousins play for years, so when the time came for him to suit up, he immediately began to strive for the high caliber level at which they played. After one season, he decided that he would train to become good enough to receive a scholarship to college and eventually continue on to the MLS. His coach smiled sympathetically in response, all too aware that my brother spent more time talking to other players than he did chasing the ball. He began placing my brother on the guard of specific players, hoping he would distract them with his banter and imagination, which he did, flawlessly. And eventually my brother came to realize that he didn’t want the dream he had created, he knew it wasn’t right, it wasn’t him, so he moved on.
Karate was something I never expected to attract my brother. Docile and sweet by nature, my brother is not a physical fighter. Any concerns he has are expressed with eloquent arguments and eye rolls. One day however, my mom found herself in line at the rec center, waiting to write his name on the sign-up sheet. Like all new students, my brother started at the bottom of the ladder with a white belt and was initially discouraged by his lack of skill. But upon receiving his first advanced belt, he immediately decided that he would become a black belt. We smiled, just like those teachers and just like that coach, wondering if he knew how much time and commitment it would take to get there. He smiled back, as confident in this decision as he was in all of them.
“So…what would it be?” he asks me again, now accessorized with a milk moustache.
“I just…I don’t know,” I reply, slightly annoyed by his pestering, but more so with my lack of a creative response.
“Well if you had one superpower, what would it be?”
I shut my laptop, officially conceding to his questions, and think for a few minutes.
“Why?” His eyes spark with curiosity.
“Because then I could always go new places and meet new people and do new things”
He thought for a second.
“We all already have that power in a way. We just tend to collect kryptonites to keep us from using it.”
I sit, speechless. At first unable to grasp the depth of what he has so casually stated. I look back up at him, the same little boy I’ve always known, though he now stands almost a foot taller than me. He smiles, unaware of what he’s done for me, as he begins to tie his karate belt around his waist. It is now two tone, half brown, half black, the last one received before a first degree black belt.
I reopen my computer and clear the search history of all of the jobs I had previously been looking at, realizing I had become one of the other kids on the rug. I start to think of what I really want, avoiding the answer I can sense on my tongue, afraid to speak it aloud.
I turn my chair towards him once more, curious.
“What do you want to be when you grow up, Troy?”
“Physical therapist,” he replies with ease.
“Because I want to help people.”
I turn back to my computer screen, completely aware of what I want to do, unafraid of what it will take to get there, a single tear rolling down my left cheek. For after all these years of growing up in a cynical world, full of doubters and limitations, he still wanted to be a superhero.