I Wanna Be a Punk Rock Superhero

by Christopher S. Bell

Punk rock brings you to this country. It happens like a punch in the gut. You hold Gino’s hand in a San Salvador alleyway as he breathes his last. On the funeral day, your acceptance letter comes in the mail. Madre makes a fuss, before sitting you down, saying everything you need to hear. Stay there as long as you can, Elisa. Only make your life with the right someone.

You listen to the Meager Meat CD on the plane. Gino swiped it from some tourist a year earlier, wrapping the case in tinfoil for your birthday. He said he didn’t really like the sound, while you learned every word in the linear notes. Brent St. Charles became the unofficial spokesman of your waking emotions. So cut me loose, because these dreams of mine are bulletproof. Your first tattoo after freshman year; black ink on the back of your lower thigh as a reminder of inner strength and stability.

It isn’t until junior year, after you transfer to State, when you first see them. A good two hours standing up front, trying not to drink too much. Your roommate, Sally, saves your spot and lifts you up when Brent grabs your arms, handing over the mic. You sing “Crack My Back” so hard and loud that your throat strains making each note yours. Sally takes a Polaroid of that moment, hides it in the spine of a book she never finishes and eventually lends to some dumb boy. 

Senior year, you meet Chet. He loves Meager Meat almost as much, but it’s not until after he posts your nudes on the Internet that you realize just how little their message resonated. Chet never sought revolution or equality. He just wanted to call others boys like him “posers.” You fell for the look, but lessons were learned from his fauxhawk, how he sang just like Brent St. Charles, but that frequency eventually gave you a headache. What were these men all whining about anyway? They really had no idea what it meant to be alive with a clenched fist held high.

“Can you believe this shit?” Sally turns her laptop at the kitchen table so you can read the article.

Each word punctures your heart before denial sets in. “It’s no big deal.”

“You don’t think so?” Sally glares disapprovingly.

“I mean, maybe it’s a culture thing, I don’t know. Girls in my country get taken away at twelve, sold into sex trafficking or killed. So many other things. Things I don’t like to talk about.”

“Look, I used to love Meager Meat as much as you, Elisa. I mean, I guess I kind of grew out of it a few years ago, but either way, it’s not right that Brent St. Charles has been soliciting underage girls on the Internet.”

“Well what do you want me to do about it? I have no control over him or what he does. I just like the music. That’s all. That’s what I mean by saying no big deal. I didn’t do anything wrong here.” Your head swells dead-center. “I need to go to work, but I’ll be home same as usual.”

“Okay,” Sally sighs. “Sorry about this. I mean, I know it sucks, but there are plenty of other bands out there.” 

You want to cry, exiting the apartment, plugging your ears in on the walk to the bus stop. His voice doesn’t sound the same, so desperate and pathetic now. Who was this skinny spec of a man howling like he knew you? The only good he did was helping you realize how much better you could be without him. Who needed his anger and frustration, his false loneliness and apparent greed? You were always this strong…No, stronger. These words on your leg aren’t his anymore.

Focusing on the ink, tears in your eyes, ears stuffed with screams so loud you don’t hear the beeping horn, and barely remember the chemical tanker tipping into the street, electro sludge covering your body before waking in that hospital bed. Sally says the doctors gave you forty-eight hours, but you’re breathing, pulling the IV out, watching the wound glow green before closing. You want your clothes and something to eat, but can’t believe what happens outside, how the wind hits every molecule. You glide through each gust, above clouds, watching a world move underneath, and there through all of it is some stupid song you still can’t get out of your head after all of these years.

You vow to never again let words by bad men infect those with big dreams. But soon enough, people are wondering what you have to say, how your message will make the world a better place. It’s your face on the tabloid next to cheating celebrities. Why is being unfaithful to the one you love suddenly so acceptable? You should mention that next interview, but your publicist thinks it’s a bad move. He may be the one behind all of these recent robberies, although you’re uncertain.

“Whoa, issue twenty-two, that’s a great one,” some boy in the library looks over your shoulder, right down your blouse. He’s got skull earrings and tight jeans, a little younger, maybe still in high school. You like his smile, but quickly remember your oath.

“If you don’t leave me alone, I’m going to take you outside and fly you to the very top of the sky then let go and not even wait around for the mess.”

He shoots you the finger and walks to another section. Damn right girl. Still got it.

Christopher S. Bell is a writer and musician. His work has recently appeared in Virtual Zine, Humble Pie, Solar Journal and The Evening Street Review. His latest collection of short fiction Double Feature is out now. He currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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