SHORT STORY
Middle-Age, Love, and Spandex
by Ambika Thompson

"Flash Point" © Flickr user JD Hancock 

"Flash Point" © Flickr user JD Hancock 

Because I was feeling lonely lately, I spent the night. I admit it, it was a bit desperate. I suppose it was just a longing for some intimacy. Preferably some intimacy that wouldn't make me feel bad about myself afterwards, which I really don't think is too much too ask for.

    He told me haphazardly after we had sex, as if telling someone that they dropped something in passing on the street; polite but matter of fact, that I could spend the night if I wanted. Then he rolled over onto his side, leaving me with only the heat emanating off of his body. I waited for him to fall asleep so I could spoon him, pretending that he was somebody else, somebody who I'd want to spoon and who would want to be spooned by me.

    This was not how I imagined it would be.

    I met Batman shortly after I had changed, and maybe I should have just been happy with that. Cashed in my chips. Called it quits. Had a story to tell that I'd want to tell, instead of one that if I did tell it would involve me omitting most of the details. That is until I can look back thinking the whole thing is wildly hilarious. I'm sure that day will come. Every dog has their day, right?

    When the change happened the kids were at their father's for the weekend, as they usually were. I decided to make the most of my Friday evening, and repair the washing machine myself, or at least give it the old college try. With only the aid of an online tutorial video, hosted by a standard issue, ball-capped, plumber-butted professional, and a bottle of cheap, corner store chardonnay, my task became thwarted, quite quickly, by the bumping of my head on the shelving unit above the machine. The very same shelving unit that my ex-husband had built in a frenzy in our final days together. The final days when he started ignoring me full-time by finally being useful.

    In surely a comedic scene that could not have possibly been enacted better by even Charlie Chaplin, all the shelves toppled on my head and knocked me out cold. This confirmed my suspicion that I had for some time that my ex-husband was trying to kill me. When I awoke surrounded by broken, and open bottles of various cleaning products I felt a sickening feeling in my stomach and a Herculean need to throw up, which I promptly did all over myself. I suspected a concussion and considered the possibility of getting myself to a hospital, but as that I finished off most of the bottle of chardonnay, a more compelling urge to go to bed overwhelmed me.

    I woke up about thirty-six hours later. I didn't realize until I jumped from bed smashing my foot through the floor that something was amiss. That didn't usually happen. I'm generally not that peppy and energetic.

    I checked the internet, and self-diagnosed, against my better judgement. Nonetheless it became clear, that I had become a superhero. Like Spider-Man with a radioactive spider bite, the Fantastic Four with their cosmic rays, or the Hulk with, well I don't remember what happened to him. A finger in a light socket or something like that.

    I concluded, because I'm quite astute, that a toxic mixing of cleaning products entered my gullet through my slack-jawed open mouth, while unconscious on the floor. The internet told me stories of this happening.

    The internet also told me that one has the ability to join a group online for just about anything, and at a loss for what to do, I joined one for superheroes.

    I didn't meet Batman through there though. I met him at a superhero gathering that I heard word of through the online group. Batman claims he's too cool for online groups. He's got over thirteen-million likes on Facebook.

    For comparison George W. Bush only has four-million.

    When I got to Batman's room he opened the door dressed in his usual superhero suit, but because he had all the lights on in his room I could see little white fuzzballs stuck all over it. I must admit, that I had imagined this night in lucid, lurid detail, with one hand down my pants and the other in a heavily buttered bowl of popcorn with the scene from the Batman series from the sixties, where Batman dances with Molly before he passes out. It's his moves that gets me in the mood.

    In my fantasy it was not meant to take place in a middle-of-the-road hotel near the red light district with unsettling stains on the ceiling, but rather a colonial Spanish mansion on a deserted island in the Devil's Triangle, because it still has to be a little bit dangerous, that he'd flown me to in his Batjet. He'd turn to me and say in his Adam West voice, “Strangely, you interest me.” We wouldn't even bother to get there first before we go at it on the hood. There would have been fisting involved. We'd take turns, while soaring through the air at a thousand million miles an hour.

    From the beginning of our real life evening though, it felt like we landed on the Great Pacific garbage Patch and he hadn't even bothered coming with me. He pecked me on the cheek like a chick would peck at a corn kernel, and guided me to a table at the foot of the bed set with a lone candle and a display of fare clearly from the Chinese restaurant across the street that I had noticed had dinner menus for 4.99.

    At least he had a candle.

    Without looking at me, he asked me if I found the hotel alright, and told me that he feared I wouldn't show up after all. He told me that I didn't strike him as the type.

 

    There is no definitive handbook on being a superhero, only comics and movies relaying the sagas of others and the irrefutable and obvious conclusion that you needed an alter-ego and a really flashy costume, usually made of spandex, or some sort of synthetic plastic that could repel anything except sexiness. The alter-ego was all sorted; working, single mom. What concerned me more initially was the need to have a costume, and the need to know my fight.

    I spent the two weeks before that first gathering, fretting over how to represent myself. The question always lingered in my mind as to what kind of superhero I was and what could I do. One is not born a superhero, but rather becomes, a superhero. But how? Other than realizing that my multi-tasking abilities had improved greatly, getting the kids up and ready for school, making their lunches and getting them there on time and myself to work, paying the bills, and cleaning the flat had vastly improved, I didn't know whether that was a result of my new powers or that I made a concerted effort to get more sleep since the accident.

    But really, more than anything, I saw this whole superhero business as an opportunity to meet new people, and get laid.

    I opted for viscose spandex because I figured my skin would breath better, since I tend to get quite sweaty and stinky in social situations. And black, because all the coolest superheroes wear black. I didn't have a sewing machine so I stitched together my costume by hand, with perhaps too large of gaps between the stitches, where my skin would poke through. It would be dark, no one would notice, I had assured myself. Then I just threw on a pair of black trainers since I have back problems from having been pregnant twice, and having never done my kegels.

* * * 

As I was on my hands and knees on the tangled hotel sheets that we'd strewn on the floor and he was inside me from behind calling out “Wonder Woman” I was thinking about that night at the first gathering when I saw him across the room with her, with Wonder Woman. A gold bangled wrist attached to a hand that was rested haphazardly on Batman's shoulder with a big perfect toothed smile on her face. She also had much larger breasts than I had ever imagined. I then remembered that he called out Wonder Woman, and wondered if I should push him away.

 

    Later that evening, at that first gathering, someone asked me what I did. I stumbled, before saying, “I fight global poverty.” Not an untruth, I do work for an NGO that does fight global poverty. This garnered polite “Oh really”s and a few insincere smiles. They all seemed to all have enemies with clear defined characteristics and fancy, catchy names. Superman has Lex Luther, a bald dapper gentleman, always in a freshly pressed suit. Spiderman has the Green Goblin, who seems like the kind of guy you'd want to spend a night out on the town partying with if he wasn't so completely off his tits. Dr. Doom, Dr. Dome, Professor Zoom or Egghead. And Wonder Woman had the Nazis. These are much better names than the IMF. Fighting a noun, a concept, an acronym with no clear head to chop off it just really isn't very glamourous. Unless it's the Mockingjay. She walked into the room just at that point, though I'm not sure who she fights in our time since her fight theoretically doesn't even exist yet, so I couldn't help but walk right up to her and point that out.

    “Time-machine” she had said before sauntering off to join a group of more established superheroes than myself, like Wolverine and Captain Marvel, commenting to Supergirl within earshot, that I was too old to be there.

    * * * 

I had two months before the next gathering to sort myself out, and figure out what I did and who my enemies were. The racist teachers at the kid's school? What was I going to do? Walk in in my hand-made outfit and start punching them while comic book “Bams” and “Zows” float up into the air, then lose custody of my kids?

    Should I take a holiday and go and beat the shit out of some disease ravaging a third world country? Could I even do that? Could I get the time off of work?

    Instead I just started hanging out in bars on the weekend, as myself, since the costume was just too much of a scare for most people. I tried it one evening, going out in the middle of the night, dressed up. I tried to help a drunken girl flag a cab and she started screaming for me to get away from her, and a group of men aggressively wrestled me to the ground, while I yelled out that I was a superhero. People just laughed at me, and if it's the role of a superhero just to be cheap fodder entertainment for the masses then I was more than apt to achieve that.

    Instead I decided to hang out in bars till they closed dressed normally and I'd watch for drunken people who needed help. Usually this resulted in me walking a lot of really drunk young women home, much to the dismay of the young men who were trying to pick them up. Sometimes I'd go home and have sex with one of the young men. I admit it, I am an opportunist.

* * * 

By the next gathering I got myself sorted. I added some sparkles to my costume, made up a good fight story of some dreadful, ultimate showdown with Putin, where just as I pierced his heart with a knife pulled from the sole of my trainer, he blew gluten at me, immobilizing me. (They could all relate to the immobilizing effects of gluten.) And Putin is now a robot, which they also believed through the way he just simply is. Most importantly this gathered me a crowd.

 

    This clearly peaked Batman's interest. He contacted me after through email. Said he liked the cut of my jib. He talked about projects we could do together, bad guys we could fight, and I thought, maybe we could get it on.

    * * * 

When the time came for us to go at it he wasn't interested in fisting and just wanted me to go down on him. My ex-husband used to want me to go down on him a lot. He was a big porn connoisseur. Taught him everything he knows. The traditional strangle the woman move he was big into. Then there was the ferocious fellatio, as I liked to call it. “Time for ferocious felatio,” I'd gargle out between mouth filling thrusts. He'd grab the hair on the top of my head, bunch it into a ponytail then jam himself into my mouth as far as he could. I tried to tell him several times that being gagged repeatedly didn't really do it for me, even if he was enjoying himself. He told me that I was just being prudish, and wasn't really concerned with his needs. So one time when we were making out I sat on his face, pulled on his hair, and put my whole weight down on him, suffocating him, and said, “You like that?!” He did not like that.

    I tried to make the best of it with Batman. After a while I just wanted it over, so I thought about the fisting on the hood of the Batjet, but since Batman kind of lost his shine for me by this point, I started thinking about Batgirl on the Batjet, and she was very very much into the fisting.

    After we didn't say much. That's when he said I could spend the night and then he told me he'd never slept with a woman who didn't shave her armpits before.

    I told him that I'd never managed to sleep with a man before who could breath in while simultaneously shitting out of his mouth. But I didn't really say that because I'm not that kind of person.

    Empathy got the better of me though. I couldn't help but to think back on the evening and that maybe we're not that different. That's who I spoon, the scared inner child inside Batman who's screaming for attention by talking too much, by wanting Wonder Woman (because c'mon, everybody wants Wonder Woman), by being cliché and boring in the sack. There I was laying on my back staring at the ceiling in some hotel in the city I lived in with some stranger who probably wasn't even really Batman, but I still wanted to squeeze him hard into my arms to let him know that he'd make it through it, that we'd both make it through, this thing called life, but he seemed so peaceful when he slept, so I didn't because I didn't want to wake him.

* * * 

I woke up at about 8 the next morning. He was gone. Everything of his was gone. I was alone in the room with only my costume hurled on the floor in a stinky, sweaty ball and a mask, that smelled like Chinese food, caked to my face with mascara, and sweet and sour chicken ball bits.

 

    I stretched out, rolled over to the place where Batman had been. There on his pillow were two twenties and a ten.

    I was still laughing as I stepped out of the hotel in the early morning light, leaving the empathy behind. The sun shone down on my face and I felt happier than I had since my ex had left. Who knew a humiliating sexual experience and being paid for it could really lift one's spirits? I felt so good that the inner child in me turned around and punched the first man in the face that I saw. Then I ran off home to the only life I actually really have. 


Ambika Thompson lived her past life in an alternative universe that had everything sorted out. In this universe she can't recall what happened in her past-life so she's resorted to living in Berlin where she is a parent, writer, and musician. She has contributed short stories to NPR Berlin, Fanzine, and a whole whack of other places. Recently she was The Missing Slate's writer of the month, which made her quite happy. She is the founder and short story editor of Leopardskin & Limes, and is also one half of a cello riot grrl band Razor Cunts.