Despite my stunning good looks, sharp mind, and irresistible charm, I’m not quite a superhero: I’ve only saved one life. Pretty lame, considering Superman’s list of accomplishments stretches longer than my Uncle David’s beard (a length at which not even Dumbledore can scoff). Still, I suppose my little dance with Death deserves a mention, especially considering I did it for someone I barely knew. What can I say? I’m not a superhero, but I’m a total wannabe. I couldn’t resist.
The story begins just after track practice, with a girl named Sarah asking if anyone could offer a ride home. Sarah was a fine runner, but let’s say that her social skills were… less than optimal. At best, people found her energetic peppiness tolerable- at worst, they outright disliked her for it. Needless to say, the silence following her question was long and awkward. Eventually, I spoke up. “I gotchu, Sarah.” As a bit of an odd duck myself, I can’t fault anyone for missing the elusive social standards that determine high school coolness. A ride was no big deal.
On the way to her house, the initial conversation fizzled out after a minute or two, and silence slowly filled the car. I can appreciate peace and quiet, but considering Sarah was normally a hyperactive energizer bunny, this silence felt more like the uncomfortable stench of fart than a pleasant ambiance. For the second time that day, I decided to break the silence. “What’s up, Sarah? You seem a little… quiet.” I glanced at her, and saw a pale, tear-streaked face looking right back. This wasn’t the goofy, flamboyant, occasionally irritating Sarah from AP English class. This was a Sarah possessed by Death. She asked me, in a brittle, snuffly whisper:
“Have you ever thought about killing yourself?”
The day’s third silence was the kind that follows the shattering of glass. Time slowed down, the air thickened, and surreality became reality. My first thought was “Oh,” followed by a very choice expletive. My second, was that the next 30 seconds to her house would be like walking on shards of silence-shattered-glass. My third thought: SAY SOMETHING. But it was too late- we were in her driveway, and she was already muttering her thanks, exiting the car. Escaping from the embarrassment of a rejected cry for help. I couldn’t do that to her. “Hold up, Sarah.” I reached forward and turned the key in the ignition. Off.
Sarah sat back in the passenger seat with a watery glint of hope in her eyes. The three hour conversation that followed was a nonstop, fast-tempo tango with Death; I struggled to find a verbal panacea for Sarah’s depression, now all too aware that she’d recently counted a potentially lethal number of medical pills in her bathroom cabinet. But I knew, somehow, that an instant fix wasn’t possible; I knew Sarah’s troubles were real; I knew healing them would take time. And that didn’t bother me.
Because life isn’t about instant fixes. It’s how you deal with the long-term problems, and what you learn from them, that determines who you are. Persistence is the only Superman, and with Sarah that’s all I have shown- persistence. I’ve become her friend, helped her make others, and defended her from people who lacked even a meager supply of empathy. I sacrificed time, grades, and social life to help this girl find herself; to teach her a little persistence in the face of life. And all the while, I never realized I was changing my own. Because I learned there’s a power that comes from knowing your true self, some energy of confidence and genuine self-worth that flows from those who have discovered it- and it’s these people that change the world. If I can use this power- my power- to help others find it in themselves… who knows? Maybe superheroism is about more than just saving lives.