- This isn’t at all how I expected my trip to New York to go—I thought I’d spend a few hours craning my neck from a Broadway balcony, gaze trailing Simba as he pranced across the stage, and be done with it.
- Admittedly though, I can appreciate the profundity this experience lends to my I Survived NYC street vendor tee.
- I like your Spandex, by the way. Even if the empty eyes of your mask make me want to step back in a way they never have in the comics.
- (No offense.)
- Speaking of identity-concealing accoutrements, I should probably come clean and say that I know who you are. The other you. But please don’t worry about it; I’d never give you away.
- While we’re on the subject though, I want to thank you. That is, the real you. A lot of people believe Spider-Man is loved by so many because he’s Spider-Man, but these people are wrong. Spider-Man is loved because he’s Peter Parker—that nerdy, awkward kid from Queens who spends his days fretting over a barren wallet, and getting tossed into lockers by high school foes. Who frowns at the inadequacy he sees reflected in mirrors. Who knows loss. Who knows what it’s like to want to give up, to the point that your marrow aches with it, but who keeps crawling up walls regardless. Anyway. Thank you for being that person. For showing me that even when life has chucked me headfirst into yet another locker, and I’m too sapped of strength to walk another inch, I can still find it in me to crawl.
- Do you mind if I ask, now that I’m thinking of it: In 1962, when you were nothing more than a chip of graphite trapped inside a spare pencil lying on Steve Ditko’s desk, did you know? As you whispered affirmations of your existence, hoping he might hear you—might release you from your No. 2 prison, so that you could roam free on glossy paper—did you ever imagine what you would one day become? The number of people whose stomachs would one day swoop in delighted anticipation as they lifted the cover of your newest volume, breaths catching in their throats as they watched you punch your way through a menagerie of gaudily costumed villains, gleeful at the KAPOWs and FRABOOMs and WHAMs splattered in medias res across that first page? Or were you as shocked as the rest of us when you managed to bind the world in your web, and swung us with you on all your amazing adventures?
- Sorry, just one more thing about Peter, and then I’ll drop it. When I was little and alone and helpless, I read one of your special issue comics. It’s the one where Peter remembers being twelve, and feeling little and alone and helpless, too, when he spent an afternoon with Skip Westcott. The older boy was cool, and popular, and suave, and Peter trusted him, because Skip had always treated him like a friend—paid attention to him, encouraged him, called him “Einstein” with an affectionate nudge. Peter had no reason not to trust him. So it wasn’t Peter’s fault, that day when they were alone in Skip’s apartment, huddled close together on the couch. It wasn’t Peter’s fault when Skip took out an adult magazine, grabbing Peter and tugging him back when he tried to flee. It wasn’t Peter’s fault when Skip began to touch him and didn’t stop. It was never anything Peter did wrong.
- Sorry. I’m rambling. It’s just, I didn’t realize something like that could happen to superheroes up until then. I didn’t understand that the wrongness was never in me, same as it was never in you. But you taught me, and I learned.
- The thing is, I pretended to be Spider-Man a lot as a kid, during my post-snack playtimes. Maybe it was the anonymity of my imagined mask, which made me so fearless—fearless enough to rip a metallic arm off my octopoid enemy, sassing him all the while. Maybe it was the charade of becoming you, who could heft buildings onto your shoulders, that made me feel invincible, if only for a fleeting moment. Then again, maybe it was the sugar.
- But I think it was pretending to be you—pretending to possess the magnitude of your endurance, the enormity of your strength, the depth of your kindness—that gave me the armor I needed to keep fighting.
- I just wanted you to know that.
- Tell MJ I said hi.
Alternatively, I might stop after “Thanks.” Somehow, I suspect he’d still understand.
STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Davide Genco