This is Part 11 of the story of How I Met Superman. To get caught up, you can find the preceding chapters here.
I balanced the box on top of the aluminum rail by the art building, peering inside to make sure everything was intact – it was. My “ceramics” project, a 7-inch-tall lion sitting on his haunches – was fine. He was a bit cartoonish, in the mode of my art back then, but his color was all wrong. He was … well, blue. I’d thought he’d be a nice caramel color when I painted it on, but I failed to read the side of the bottle that explained he would turn blue when fired in the kiln.
“Are you going to be okay?” Dawn asked, eyeing my awkwardly sized box, as well as my large stack of books held balanced on the rail.
I nodded. I wasn’t sure, exactly, how I was going to get all of this home, but I figured I’d work something out. She needed to get to a club meeting after school, and I didn’t want to keep her. “I’m fine. Go ahead.”
She looked at the box dubiously. “How are you going to carry all that?”
“I’ll think of something. I might just leave a few of these books here.”
She nodded slowly, but then something over my shoulder caught her eye. “Or maybe something else will come up.”
She smirked. “See ya.”
I watched her scamper away, then looked over my shoulder at what had made her leave so quickly.
Coming across the blacktop – without his usual entourage of Orly*, Tommy*, Keith* or Wade* – was Superman. All alone. Coming right toward me. He had his hands shoved in his pockets and he stepped up onto the 800 Building ramp where I was standing in front of my locker, carefully balancing my blue ceramic lion.
“Hi,” he said shyly.
I just nodded. I hadn’t talked to him at all since the party. Which, admittedly, had only been two days, but two days seems like a lifetime when you’re in high school and you dance intimately with someone and wonder what on God’s earth they thought about that.
“What’s all this?” He peered inside my box.
“It’s a … lion.” I felt silly. Suddenly my lion looked ridiculous.
“It’s blue.” He frowned.
“Yes, it’s … ” I tried to think of a way of explaining that I’d misread the color, but I couldn’t think of an intelligent-sounding explanation. “Yes, it’s blue.”
“That’s a good name.”
“Yeah, a lion named Blue. Do you need help with all this?” He eyed my stack of books, which were balanced precariously.
In the ‘80s, we never used backpacks. I’m not sure they even came into vogue for school until the following decade. We simply carried all our books in high stacks in our arms, or pressed them into our chests as we made our way around the campus, and then pushed them into our lockers between classes. This gave certain boys a ready opening, and gave girls a chance to look for a little chivalry.
Superman was one of the smart ones — he stepped up and slipped my stack of books from beneath my hand and tucked them under his arm.
“Are you walking home?”
I nodded dumbly. My heart was pounding, and words were eluding me.
“I’ll carry them for you.” He stepped off the ramp, looking over his shoulder to make sure I was following, and – as I came back into consciousness – I secured my box with Blue in it. I wrapped my arms around the cardboard and fell into stride, down the ramp, beside Superman.
He was walking me home.
I couldn’t believe it. It was at least a 20-minute walk. I’d have 20 minutes of pure, uninterrupted conversation with this boy who hadn’t shared more than a handful of phrases with me. … Although, instead, he’d shared 20 minutes of holding me, wrapping his hands around my body and discreetly touching my hair. …
My face flushed at the memory and I turned slightly away from him, so he couldn’t see me blush, and suddenly wasn’t sure what to say, or how we were going to get through this conversation. I shifted the box in my arms.
“Want me to carry that?” he asked.
“No – it’s light.”
We meandered across the quiet southwest front of the campus, which was an area hardly anyone walked, unless they were in art class. A breeze was picking up – it felt dry, like the Santa Ana winds – and I concentrated on watching my step through the grass as we wove our way through the palm trees in front of the school auditorium. He kept stealing glances at me. I think he felt as uncomfortable as I did, or as unsure about where to start.
“So tell me about your lion.”
Relieved at the neutral topic, I told him the whole story – how I’d designed him, sculpted him, spent days rolling individual pieces of hair for his mane, and then mistakenly put him in the kiln with blue paint.
He simply smiled. He didn’t make fun of me. Instead, he told me about a woodcraft project he’d made once that didn’t come out quite right. And then he asked me about my art class and what else I’d learned.
I talked about pencil drawings, pen-and-ink designs, the charcoals I loved. I enjoyed doing portraits. He nodded and said he drew portraits, too. He told me about one he’d just done once of Jim Croce.
We talked about art about half the way home, and the other half we talked about our families. I told him about my two brothers, and he told me about his four. He said he knew my youngest brother.
“He was on my brother’s soccer team,” he said.
“Really? What year?”
“Last year. I, uh … ” He shook his head, as if he’d decided not to finish that sentence.
“You what?” We’d come to my house, and I turned on the driveway.
“I remember you. You were at the bowling party.”
I tried to remember. Yes, I did sort of recall my brother’s bowling party for the end of the season. My parents always wanted us kids to go to each other’s events, and I remembered sitting quietly at one of the scoring tables. I probably didn’t want to be there.
“Did I look like I was having fun?” I winced.
“No.” He laughed. “But I remember you anyway. Do you want me to bring these in?” He lifted the books.
I shook my head. I knew my mom would scrutinize if I walked in with any boy at all, and I wasn’t up for trying to explain this particular boy — this one who made my heart pound when he smiled at me like that. This one who liked art, and drew like I did. This one who had those strong arms. This one who remembered me from a bowling party nearly a year ago. Instead, I took the stack from him, and he balanced my art-project box on top so I could make it up the driveway.
“Thanks,” I said.
“See you tomorrow?”
I nodded, and my heart skipped at the idea.
“Put Blue in a safe spot,” he said.
I tried to keep my breathing under control as I ascended our driveway, but all I could think of was that he’d remembered me … and I couldn’t believe he’d just walked me home … and that I didn’t know crushes could actually like you back.
Suddenly, I couldn’t wait until tomorrow.
Click here for Part 12: Different Cultures. …
* Names changed to protect the Don’t-Want-to-be-Googled