If you haven't go back a couple entries to Chapter One.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Doogie, what’s wrong with you? Don’t you remember Spider-man, and how he tried to make money with his super-powers, and all that happened was his uncle got killed?” I’ll tell you right away that story was bull$h*t. How many random homicides happen a day? How many people have their primary care-giving male adult, who is law-abiding, killed in a random car-jacking? Not that many. All that was just Stan Lee (the comic writer) forcing Spider-man into a life of crime-fighting. I’m not worried about my dad. And if I bump into a criminal, I’ll smack him upside the head, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
Just cause I could beat people up didn’t mean I could stop a crime. You ever notice how every time Clark Kent goes to the bank it’s getting robbed? I don’t see many crimes. I’ve never seen a person abducted or killed. People get beat up sometimes, but usually they said something they shouldn’t have, or walked down the wrong block. I mean, when I tested my powers, when I went for these long jogs that were more like sprints, and punched holes in things (or dents, it’s not like I could punch a hole in everything) I would have loved to run across some thug trying to steal a woman’s purse. I’d beat him up, and she’d thank me. “How old are you, teenage hero? Let me thank you.” Kisses and eroticness ensues.
Miss Farr said that Hamlet is a chauvinist, that once Ophelia breaks up with him, he has no use for her, he becomes dishonest, and mean, and calls her a whore, and that was the way every man was back then, and still was. The men around Ophelia all sought to control her sexuality. She said anytime we made a woman a sex object, like in my little fantasy, we were chauvinists. I didn’t say it, but I was like, “You’re saying I’m not supposed to have sexual fantasies about women? Why does the internet exist then?” I didn’t like what she said, but I still thought about it. My fantasy did kind of suck for the woman. I mean, she was supposed to recover from the drama of being mugged by hooking up with a fourteen year old kid.
So anyway, superpowers. Yeah, there weren’t a lot of crimes. Maybe people started committing obvious crimes in broad daylight just so they could meet Spiderman or Superman. “Yo, the coolest thing happened. I pretended to take this old lady’s purse, I’d have given it back, and Spiderman showed up and kicked my ass. Don’t worry, I landed a good shot.” It’d be worth it, I think, the ass-kicking for the story.
Coach felt weird putting me in. I had only practiced for half a day, and the other kids had been working out for a month. We were playing against Northeast away and we’d been undefeated in the public league up to that game, and so was Northeast. Their team was bigger, and faster than us and we’d get a couple of good passes before one of their players would bump us off the ball, hit it down the field, and we’d scramble back. One of these times their forward, a lean Haitian kid got the ball and scored. Then he did it again. Everyone on our bench was relieved when the whistle blew for half time.
I knew Coach was thinking about putting me in up top in the second half. We hadn’t generated any chances of getting those two goals back, and pulling out a win, He was wrestling inside between his ideas of fair, because I’d only practiced for half a day while the other kids had been working for a month, and I’d be taking their playing time, and his desire to win. He looked at me, and I knew winning won in his small and coachy heart. “Doogie, go in for John.”
I went in like I did in every little league game I ever played in. Butterflies in the stomach, worried how’d I do. I ran around the field, worried my first touch on the ball would be crappy. It was. Aiden hit me a pass from the wing, and too eager, uncalm, I hit it too far from me and their goalie picked it up. If I didn’t do something soon Coach would pull me out of the game.
The next chance I got, I made a diagonal run, and the ball was slid through to me. My first touch was better, and in two strides I unleashed a shot that powered past the goalie.
The stopper pretty much rode my butt for the duration of the game. He was a senior and twice my size (but he had no super-powers). The second goal came off a through ball that a kid on our team just kicked up field, then I turned on the jets, and if I didn’t have superpowers, the goalie would have had it, but I got there first, took it around him as he dived at me, and passed it into the net. Tie game.
At that point they double marked me. Everywhere I went, these two big seniors were banging into me, throwing elbows, and grabbing my jersey. We set up for a corner, and they were basically both hugging me. I shook, bringing up my super-powered elbows and swinging them into one of their groins, and throwing my shoulder into the other’s gut (they were a lot taller than me). That gave me the space to run, and I took off in time to see the ball curling in. I leapt way up, heading the ball into the net.
I could hear the bench screaming. The parents rooting for Northeast shook their heads in disgust. After the game, Coach said, “Doogie, you played well.” Well? Coach that was better than you ever dreamed of playing. I was spectacular.
The other kids congratulated me on the hat trick, but they were half-hearted. They had hoped they’d become the kid who scored a hat trick against the best team in the league, then I showed up out of nowhere and took that job.
The next day in advisory I tried talking about the win, but nobody in my home room cared about soccer, so it didn’t matter. I was starting to regret the sport I picked, thinking football would be a better way to become cool, when I got to fourth period. Mike looked over at me and said, “Heard you turned into a soccer god.”
I said, “What do you know? Illumen remembers the weak.” It was a quote from the video game when Shyheem prayed to get his flames that helped him defend the little guys.
Mike said, “He forgot about me.”
I said, “You’re more like Burt.” That’s the sidekick character.
Miss Farr had us opening up Hamlet. It was a little later, when we got put in pairs, and were discussing the text that my achievement on the soccer field started to pay off. My pair was pretty much done, and Alexandra leaned over and said, “Hey, Doogie, Aiden told me you had a great game.”
“Yeah,” I said. I tried to think of anything to add to that, but I couldn’t, so I said it again, “Yeah.” Fortunately she was ready to talk for the two of us.
“That’s great. Aiden said the team really needed a good striker and you just came out of nowhere.” I was mad at myself that Alexandra talking to me and even complimenting me, made me this happy, but it did. I had to duck a little to hide the grin.
I said, “Yeah. I’ve been training.”
She said, “Keep doing whatever you’re doing.” There it was. A hot girl, approving of me, complimenting my performance.
At lunch that day, Mike was like, “You were talking a lot with Alexandra.”
“Yeah, she heard about my game. She was impressed.”
Mike said, “Did you tell her about my impressive record of completing “Illumen’s Children” without dying once? I bet that would impress her.”
Kyana, who had her Bio textbook open and was preparing for the test next period looked up and said, “I don’t know why you like her, Mike.” I knew why, I just didn’t know what the point was. I didn’t even dream about myself having a chance, and I had superpowers.
Mike said, “How’d you get so much better so fast? Maybe if you show me how I can become a star too.”
I mumbled some stuff about soccer being a life-long pursuit, and how the skills are hard to pick up. I didn’t want to tell him, because he wouldn’t believe me, and also because he’d tell me I needed to go stop crime. I couldn’t believe he would consider playing sports to get her attention. This is a kid who told the gym teacher that he is allergic to spherical objects. It bothered me because I’d had a similar crush in eighth grade. I lost a lot of sleep over Sara Mills.
Sara was the prettiest girl in Mayfair Elementary. She didn’t talk to any of us boys except Max, and the rumor was that she and Max cut school some days and had sex at his house. Sara wore a lot of make-up, but the thing that really was amazing was that she had the breasts of a full grown woman. Somehow they showed up over the summer between sixth and seventh. Now, all the guys were amazed by this, and found our heads swiveling away from math problems to try and take in this bigger problem--where did these grapefruits (they seemed that momentous) come from? Why were they so powerful to us, inspiring our imagination, drawing our attention like the tractor beam pulling in the Millennium Falcon?
Over the next year, the other guys developed a strain of realism I couldn’t understand. They made out with the girls that would make out with them, and who were developing their own lower powered tractor beams. Maybe I didn’t think any of them would make out with me. Maybe I was just stupid, but I stayed in love with Sara Mills. I’d stumble out the door after her, walking behind her, hoping she’d drop something so I could pick it up. After a few weeks she said, “Doogie, stop following me,” and I said, “Sara, I need to follow you.”
“What a loser,” she pronounced. You can imagine how I felt at that moment. Until she said that, I believed that the strength of my feeling about her would convince her, that she’d turn around and say, “Doogie, you keep following me and I can tell you must love me more than anything. I’m so overwhelmed by your passion. I want to see what it feels like to be with a crazy in love person.”
At that moment, I knew she was right, and more importantly, that she wasn’t going to change her opinion. I’m not going to say that I cried that night, just in case my dad reads this book. The summer after eighth grade I considered my passion for Sara. I decided that the other boys had it right. “If you can’t be with the one you want, love the one you’re with.” It pained me to see my friend make the same mistake I had made, following his desire, with no respect to reason, or his own feelings.
Usually Mike and I would hang out and play Illumen’s Children at my house after school. I was scared to go to his house, and he was kind of scared to take me. He explained that he didn’t have a lot of respect as it was, and showing up with a loser white kid would just make him a bigger target. I had practice, so I told Mike maybe we could hang on Saturday but he frowned, because our transpasses only works on weekdays.
After practice I got home, and found another big surprise. Alexandra had friended me, so had three other girls, and about half the guys on the soccer team. I accepted all the requests, and then clicked through Alexandra’s photos. For the first time I thought about what it would be like to be with Alexandra. Sorry, Aiden, sorry, Mike.
Miss Farr asked us when we were through Act III and Claudius had just given it all away by losing his cool in response to Hamlet’s play, what Hamlet should do. The kids from the tough neighborhoods are like, “Kill Claudius.” The rest of the class kind of agreed, though they were not used to saying characters ought to kill other characters in English class. It’s usually more about peace and stuff.
Miss Farr started to point out how complicated it all is. “It’s not easy to fix bad situations. The king is guarded. The king is his step-dad uncle.” She went on and explained how English people at the time of Shakespeare, after a bunch of civil wars, wanted clear lines of succession. They didn’t want kingship called in question because that meant civil war, which is basically a shit show for everyone.
She said to us, “But the real point here is, Hamlet never says, ‘I should be King. He never even brings that problem up.’ You really have to see that Hamlet doesn’t view himself quite as an adult in this situation. He thinks he’s a kid, and he’s waiting for someone to show up and take responsibility. That’s part of the challenge here. At what point do Ophelia and Hamlet move beyond trying to sort through all the expectations, and be themselves, and live for themselves and choose what they will be responsible for? When do they be?”
I hear you, Miss Farr. I’m taking responsibility for who I am. I’m about to go score four goals today, and have all the girls scream my name.