It was only on our third date that Lois Lane brought me back to her apartment. “Come on,” she said, squeezing my hands as we stood on her doorstep, “don’t go anywhere.” But it seemed impulsive to me, as though she had thought about the idea all day and only now in the soft lens of alcohol and autumn did she decide, and commit.
Her house was an L-shaped living room nestled against a bed- and bathroom. A sofa sat in the L’s bottom near the stairwell into the basement. Across from us was a kitchenette tucked against the opposite wall. We collapsed on the sofa, nervous energy and all.
“I feel like a thirteen-year old again,” Lois said, her crown of hair against my heartbeat, after a long silence of neither of us knowing what to say.
I studied her face for a second, considering the possibility. “Nah, I can’t picture you as a thirteen-year old at all.”
Lois laughed, then pretended to pout. “No no,” I said, looking at her eyes or the beginnings of grin lines on her forehead, “I mean it’s just that I can’t picture someone … thirteen years old … as beautiful—”
“Shut up,” she said, kissing me. Lois kissed like silk. “I bet,” she said with her eyes dancing, “your mind would be blown if you saw high school photos of me.”
“I say I wouldn’t.”
“Well, then.” Lois stood up, leaving behind only the imprint of a warm body on what was now my favorite sofa in the world. She opened a door, pulled a light cord, and went down to the basement. I felt the tide of silence return to the living room until I heard her curse.
She walked back up, faster than she had gone down, her face set in storm. Our eyes met and she looked away, making an exasperated noise and balling her hands into a fist.
“What is it?” I said, hurt.
“It’s just … some stuff in the basement that I can’t move that I thought I got rid of,” Lois said, walking to her faux-fireplace mantle and fidgeting with it.
“Wha—well, don’t worry about it.”
“It’s not supposed to be there,” she snapped.
I stoop up and made a move to the basement. Before I had taken two steps, she interceded.
“What?” I said, laughing at all of this.
“Shut up,” she said. “It’s not funny. It’s not my stuff.”
“So whose is it?”
I looked at her, wide-eyed and then suspicious. “Who?, you mean your—”
“Superman’s you idiot—oh god not again—”
A warm breeze of red and blue swept through the apartment, depositing between us the man of steel himself and knocking me back onto the sofa. Lois’ face, framed by hair askew, was alternately furious and haunted. Superman on the other hand glowed with raw power and grace, with a face of a man not a day over thirty—each of those days spent in a gym, on Hawaii, in a pool of skin moisturizer.
“Couldn’t resist my name, Lois?” Superman flashed her a shit-eating grin and alternatively flexed each pectoral. “I’ve got supersonic hearing, you know.”
“That’s an oxymoron,” I muttered, trying to keep up with my worst nightmare.
“Nobody asked you, Hao,” Superman said without turning around. “Now back to us,” he said as he swung his arms around Lois and pulled her close to him.
For a beat, she didn’t seem to know what to do. But she recovered and she slapped Superman wide across the face. Superman grinned, gave her a sad puppy-dog look, and grinned again.
“You know,” he said as he steered the unwilling pair to a mirror, “we make quite the couple, you and I. I’ve got looks, you’ve got smarts. I’ve got super hands, you’ve got cooking ones. I’ve got a massive erection, you’ve got the wettest vagina X-ray vision can afford to see.”
Lois broke free. “You don’t seem to change, do you? You think you’ll win me back by being an even more obnoxious idiot?”
Superman put one hand over his heart and the other on his forehead; he pretend to swoon. “Look at us,” he said, “bickering like a crippled elderly couple.”
He clapped those sky-blue eyes at me for the first time with a half-smile playing on his firm, fervently beautiful lips. “Ah, maybe the way to your heart is to being an overweight acne-ridden jackass?” he said to Lois, jabbing a thumb at me.
Lois turned to me and looked at her shoes. “Sorry,” she muttered with clenched teeth. She turned back to Superman and poked his chest.
“Go away! Get out of my life! Go fuck up somebody else’s!”
“Stop saying my name, Lois! Stop moaning it in ecstasy. Stop screaming it out loud by accident during your stupid orgasms!”
Lois was so enraged she could only sputter for a second. “That—that happened once! I can’t believe I missed you, you creep. Not that you would know, you started dating the night on the day we broke up. You—you have no right bringing that up. Stop eavesdropping on me with your fucking superhearing and get out of my life, you overgrown insincere piece of shit. Go and drop out of college again because ‘you don’t belong’!”
Superman seemed, finally, as shocked as I was. He muttered something about a learning disability and ESL.
Lois punched him in the chest. “And get all your trophies out of the basement. I told you to do it last month, I told you again two weeks ago, and I told you again last week. Now do it.” She looked at him defiantly. “There’s nothing extraordinary in a person blessed with superpowers, Superman. You’re just a bastard with more luck than you deserve.”
Superman just stared at her, genuinely angry for the first time since he broke into Lois’ apartment. Then he gave a tremendous superhero laugh. He grabbed Lois by the waist and affectionately kissed her hair. “Always the kidder, this one,” he said, winking at me. “Now how about we fly to the nearest skyscraper’s roof and do it like we did in Paris … and Marseille … and Toulouse …”
Superman looked wistful as Lois tried to wriggle free without any luck. Breaking his reverie, he noticed her and let go.
“Get out! GET OUT!” Lois screamed, furious, grabbing her jacket around her.
Superman shrugged and flew out the door in a blur.
Lois and I looked at each other and then looked away.
“And Nantes!” Superman yelled through the window as he flew past the house.
The house was a mess of paper, dust, and overturned garbage cans. Lois looked small and sad in the middle of it all. I sat there, watching her, for too long. And as I stood and pulled her close to me until she stopped shaking, I felt nothing I could say or do would be appropriate, as if there was no configuration of limbs and words that would make me belong to this space and time.
Lois sniffled and pushed me away.
“Hao,” she said, “I have to clean this up. Can—can we just say good night?” She stared at me. “And end tonight on normal?”
She pulled me by my shirt and kissed me. She pulled my head closer with her hand. We broke away quickly anyway, thinking the same thing. I think. I thought of how dates with Lois tended be small talk and snuggling. I thought of how dates with Lois were enjoyable evenings, but nothing special. I thought of how Lois’ eyes lit up when she talked to Superman. I thought of how Lois kept a necklace with an S on the fireplace mantle. I thought of how they fought, which had its own language and rhythm. I thought of how every relationship is different with its own diction and syntax, but how some relationships form prettier, more interesting, longer sentences than other. I thought of Lois before tonight and after. I thought of how little I knew about this girl I loved, how little I’d ever know. I thought of the difference between “alone” and “lonely”.
Her eyes, dim once more, searched my face.
“Good night,” I said, staring. I turned and walked out the door, creating hardly any breeze at all.