Chapter 3: Embarrassed by Batman?
I got home about a quarter to three and walked back into the kitchen where I knew my mother would be cleaning up the lunch mess. She was washing dishes in the soap filled sink yellow gloves pulled up to her elbows, the hot foamy water almost pouring out the front of the basin. I walked over to her and kissed her on the cheek like I that this morning, and every other morning before that.
“Hi Henry, how was your tutoring session?” She asked me in a “how was your day?” kind of voice.
“Well I got the kid to read like half of his book.” I replied, not giving her any of the emotional details about the boy, if there were any.
“Was he like you stereotyped him to be?” She asked getting down to the point, to the things she really wanted to know.
“No.” I said shortly. I wanted to tell her how the kid dressed like Batman and how awful his father was to him and how much I actually did care about the little boy; but I couldn’t, she would have to work it out of my.
“See. I told you not to judge him. So tell him, what was he like?”
“He was… well… he was dressed up in a Batman costume and he was an ok kid.” I only gave her surface details but I knew she would love them. A smile broke over her face and she seemed pleased that the boy was maybe a bit like me and maybe we would be able to relate and maybe he could get me out of this hole I seemed to be stuck in, but I doubted that.
“Well now that’s very nice. Maybe you boys will get along after all.” She said smiling widely.
“Yah, maybe,” I said dryly.
“Well, you like Batman, and apparently so does this little boy. And maybe if he doesn’t want to work you could use some of your Batman knowledge to help him work.” She tried to make the statement as inoffensive as possible and I wanted to thank her for that, but didn’t.
“But Mom, you don’t get it. Batman’s not like the coolest thing around.”
“So what? He’s a nine-year-old boy, he won’t mind if you’re not the coolest kid on the block.”
“Yeah but… just… no. I can’t Batman’s like my secret thing and it’s just too embarrassing.” I was ashamed of having to admit how embarrassed I was of Batman and I knew he’d be very disappointed in me if he had ever heard that. My mother rolled her eyes, not understanding where I was coming from at all. I just walked out of the kitchen and back up to my room the only place where I could really just shut the door and think for myself.
The next day was Monday. Monday mornings are probably the worst thing in the whole entire world and I hate them so much. I woke up just on time and got slowly out of bed grumbling and groaning as I went not looking forward to my second period English class that I also hated. I got slowly dressed in blue jeans, a tee shirt, and sneakers the same outfit as most days. I looked at myself in the mirror in the bathroom and rumpled my hair that was sticking up in some places and lying too flat in others. I brushed my teeth with the blue minty tooth paste I always used and walked down to the kitchen where my mother was serving my sister a bowl of cereal. I could hear my brother Tony yelling from the front hall and hear the jangle of his keys as he swung them around his fingers.
“You’d better get going, he’s already yelling about your sister being too slow and having a math test first period.” My mother said to me when I entered the kitchen. I nodded in acknowledgement of her and grabbed a cereal bar and quickly told Leslie that, “Tony would leave her here and then she would have a problem”.
Tony and I got in the car and waited for my sister who climbed in quickly after me grumbling about getting the back seat. We sped off in Tony’s jeep towards the school. Leslie leaned over the seat and asked Tony in a winy voice if she could drive home which he quickly turned down saying that she could drive next year when he was gone. I barely listened to their conversation lost in my own mind about English class and how much I didn’t want to see Mrs. Cobalt.
First period went by quickly. It was an ok class, History. I didn’t mind history too much. One of the boys I call my friend is in that class. We mostly sit in the back and just talk and write on each other’s papers. It’s a very uneventful class. But then I had dreaded English. And if I wanted to actually pass that class I would have to work hard and pay attention. We were reading a book called Fallen Angels. It was about Viet Nam and I didn’t find it very interesting. I’d already finished the book just to get it over with when she’d first handed it out. But then I just didn’t do any of the work for it. The class rolled by pretty fast. I even raised my hand to answer a few questions which seemed to please Mrs. Cobalt. I walked up to her desk after class to tell her about the tutoring session with Kevin, the little kid in the Batman costume.
“Hello Henry.” She said sounding surprised when I walked up to her desk. “What can I do for you?” She asked. I almost raised my eyebrows and asked if she’d even remembered giving me the tutoring assignment, but resisted the urge.
“Well, I thought you might want to ask me about the extra credit assignment.” I said prompting her to ask me so that I could leave.
“Oh, yes. How’d it go?” She asked, her high voice ringing in my ears.
“Good actually, umm… I got him to read the first half of his book.” I tried not to sound too much like a suck up because I realized I suddenly almost was. She smiled and I could tell she was proud of me. Proud, eww. Proud was the last thing I wanted Mrs. Cobalt to be of me.
“Good job Henry. Your next tutoring session will be on Wednesday, every Wednesday and Sunday for the next five weeks.” She said ending the conversation as if she too wanted to get away from me. I didn’t answer just followed her lead and walked out of the room, kind of raising my eyebrows as I went.
As I was walking out of the room a girl was walking in for her next class. She was the most beautiful girl in the world. Her name was Natalie Vegea and she was perfect. She was in the drama program. She got all the lead roles in the plays and every girl wanted to be her. I stumbled over my feet as I walked by her and almost fell, bumping into her. She grabbed me by the arm with hands that were stronger then it seemed they should be and put me back on my feet.
“Careful,” She said to me, and for a second I thought she had noticed me. We had four classes together and she never noticed me.
“Thanks,” I stammered. But she was already gone talking with her friends. For a second she had noticed me, for a second I was a living, breathing, human being to her. How could I make that second come back?
“Batman would know what to do. Batman wouldn’t have to worry about not getting a girl to notice him. Everyone noticed him, and everyone loved him. I mean he was like The Batman! He was big, and strong, and tough, and all the girls probably loved him. He was looked up to. No one looked up to me. I barely had any friends. I was the loser who read Batman comics and was failing English. So how could Batman make her notice me? He probably couldn’t. She wouldn’t like Batman. How could she? If she ever knew that I liked Batman I would be even more invisible to her then ever. Or would I? If she thought I was a loser at least she would notice me. If she thought I was completely weird; at least I would be there to her. No that was a crazy idea. Why would I want to make the girl I loved think I was a freak?” I was confused. I didn’t understand how I could get her to see me. I wanted to be her friend, I wanted to know her, if only just to know her and not be invisible to her. But how?