He didn’t look that weird when he walked into the room. Actually, he had a nice face with a pleasant smile, and it was clear that he worked out regularly. But there was no getting past the blue spandex suit, the red cape and, of course, the big S on his chest.
For at least the tenth time I silently cursed my editor for assigning me to write a story about a nut.
She’d called me into her office a couple of days ago. “Have you heard about the guy who’s running around the city in a Superman suit?” she asked me.
“Nope,” I replied. “Sounds like a nut job to me.”
“Could well be,” she admitted, “but the geniuses in the City section think there might be a story in it and they want us to get it. We’ve tracked him down and he’s agreed to an interview. Guess who gets to do it,” she said pointedly.
“Why do I always get the weirdos?” I asked, lifting my eyes to the heavens, but I got the assignment anyway. Whoopee.
All that flashed through my mind as I rose to meet him. I could only hope it wouldn’t be too bad. “I’m Elle Finn,” I said, rising to shake his hand.
“Alex Stevenson,” he said, returning my handshake. “Pleased to meet you.”
We sat down and I pulled out my recorder. “I’ll be recording today’s interview,” I said. “Is that okay?”
“Sure,” he said easily, “no problem.”
I double-checked the microphone to be sure it was on. “Okay, this is Elle Finn, reporter for The New York Times, interviewing Alex Stevenson, a.k.a. Superman. Mr. Stevenson, let’s cut to the chase here: do you really believe you’re the Man of Steel?”
“I wish you’d call me Alex,” he replied. “It would make this a lot friendlier.” He gave me that easy smile, and I nodded my agreement. “Anyway, in answer to your question, no, I’m the farthest thing from a superhero.”
“So why do you wear the suit?” I prodded.
His face took on a serious aspect. “I guess because I didn’t want to be vulnerable any more.”
I tried not to react, but that wasn’t what I was expecting. “It sounds like someone must have hurt you pretty badly,” I said carefully. “Want to tell me about it?”
He gave a little sigh. “Okay,” he said, and began to tell his story.
The F train had that peculiar dank smell it gets some times in the summer, and I was glad when I finally reached my stop on Queen’s Boulevard. But once I climbed the stairs into the merciless sun at street level, I almost wished I was back under ground. By the time I had walked to our apartment, I was dying to get inside and into the air conditioning.
Usually, Glenda beat me home, but the apartment was dark and quiet when I unlocked the door. After I’d cooled off and changed into shorts and a t-shirt, I went out into the kitchen and began preparing dinner. When I heard the front door open, I called out, “Hey, babe, I’m in the kitchen. It’s so hot that I thought a salad might be nice for dinner. Is that okay with you?”
She stuck her head around the doorframe. “Before you do that, could you come out here and talk with me?”
“Sure,” I said, and washed my hands before walking into the combination living/dining room. Glenda was sitting on the couch with her arms folded and her legs pressed together as though it was freezing. When I saw the expression on her face, I asked, “Is everything okay, babe?”
She raised her head but she didn’t look me in the eye as I plopped down in the arm chair. “God,” she said, “this is harder than I thought.”
Now I was concerned. “What is it, Glenda? What’s happened?”
She took a deep breath and then let it all out abruptly. “I don’t know any other way to do this, Alex, so I’ll just say it straight out: I want a divorce.”
“What?” I asked stupidly. “Is this a joke or something?”
“No,” she said quietly, “I’m not joking. I’m going to file for divorce.”
I felt as though I had fallen into one of the bad novels I have to edit at work, except that the characters usually have witty comebacks. I had nothing. “But why? We have a good marriage. I don’t want a divorce — I love you.”
She shook her head impatiently, like I was a child slow to learn his lessons. “No, it hasn’t been good for a long time. I’ve felt it, even if you haven’t.” She shifted her position on the sofa and leaned forward as though she were trying to sell me something. “It’s nothing you did, Alex, it’s just that we’ve grown apart. It’s nobody’s fault – these things just happen sometimes.”
I tried to protest but she held up her hand. “Please don’t,” she said. “There’s nothing you can say to make me change my mind. I’m just going to pack a bag and then I’m leaving,” she went on.
I was still in a state of disbelief. “Leaving? Where are you going? Can’t we talk about this?”
She shook her head sadly. “I’m going to stay with a friend until we can get everything finalized here. Please just accept it. Neither one of us wants to say anything that will make this harder than it already is.”
With that she disappeared into our bedroom, and as I stood there in shock, she reappeared in a remarkably brief time, rolling her suitcase behind her. It was as if she already had it packed and waiting.
“Please, Glenda, what about counseling? Can’t we find somebody . . .”
She brushed by me and opened the door. “I’m sorry, Alex, there’s nothing to talk about. It has to be this way.” With that she rolled the bag over the threshold and pulled the door shut behind her, leaving me standing there in stunned silence.
I slowly walked back to the sofa and collapsed on it. In the kind of novels I edit, the main character goes into a towering rage, or heads off to the nearest bar to get drunk, or leaves to try to get laid. I did none of those things. Instead I sat there in the growing darkness and tried to find answers to the questions swirling through my head. I simply could not comprehend what had happened, much less why.
My relationship with Glenda had not been remarkable. We’d gone to the same college and had been part of a group that hung out with each other all four years we’d been there. Most of the time none of us actually dated each other; it had been easier to do things as a group rather than pairing off. But during our senior year, Glenda began going with a guy who wasn’t part of our group, so we didn’t see her as much as in the past. I think she was hoping he’d pop the question, but he opted for grad school in California and they broke up at graduation.
I’d been an English major and, like so many others, wanted to get into the publishing business after graduation. Therefore, like so many others, I moved to New York City and started job hunting. Five hundred resumes and forty interviews later, I was working as a waiter and living with five other friends in a two-bedroom apartment in a bad section of Brooklyn.
Then I caught a break. It turned out my grandfather actually knew someone in the publishing industry, and when he found out about my dreams he called in a favor. The upshot was that I managed to land an internship at a real publishing company. The bad news was that the internship paid only the minimum wage, so I still had to wait tables at night after I got off from my day job. The good news was that I was now actually working in the industry to which I aspired and had the chance to learn what publishing was all about from the inside.Spread the love