Maya Jewell Zeller
University Hero pauses in Chicago. He sits in a funk, looking at all the buildings. There’s so much concrete, he thinks. And so few plants!
University Hero calls Office Girl. “I am in despair!” he cries. “Looking at all these buildings! Thinking of all I have to do! Help me!”
“Oh,” says Office Girl, who is in the tub, shaving her legs. She had thought about not taking the call, but she knows she’s his only real friend. “Well,” she says, “you could go to the museum?”
“But there are people at the museum,” says University Hero.
“Yes,” says Office Girl, “but I am a person too.”
“I forget that,” says University Hero.
Office Girl nods but doesn’t say anything. She has begun to understand how easily heroes take humans for granted, how little they can really conceptualize the human psyche. At first these things hurt her, but she learned, over time, to lower her expectations. Office Girl lathers her thigh with lavender soap while she considers how she keeps up her kindness for his sake now—he seems to need the kindness. She loves him, but it’s not an in-love sort of love—it’s more like the pity of a lover grown weary.
“What are you doing?” asks University Hero.
“Oh, guess!” says Office Girl. She knows he’ll find this entertaining. She pulls the razor up, over her ankle bone, up the shin, careful. It feels good to make a tidy stripe. She looks forward to the feel of her own skin against her own skin, later, in bed, alone.
“Am I, a) in a field?,” she asks, smiling, “the hawks dipping above me, petrichor in the air?” She can feel him lean into the phone, his cute rabbitty breaths, anticipating. “b) on a mountain?” She has come around the leg now, finishes her Achilles, where he likes to wrap his fingers around and pull her toward him when she sits on the end of the bed. “c) in a field on a mountain?,” she pauses. “or d), in a mountain, on a field?”
University Hero is shivering on the other side of the line, but she can’t see this. She knows he finds her amusing; she doesn’t know how much he wrestles with his desire to own her. It’s unlike his way with other humans—her qualities so much more supernatural than other humans—her ability to make him feel things in his marrow, the glitter of that. He wants to tell her but he’s not sure she wants to know.
Office Girl laughs. “Or e),” she says, “What would Jesus do?” Her laugh to him is like a river, how she is like a river, one he recognizes but knows will shift each time he puts his hand inside.
“You are not Jesus,” says University Hero. “And thank God for that. You are something else entirely,” he says. This is all he says.
Office Girl has nicked the shin of her other leg, and blood runs down, blooming in the tub. “Oops,” she says quietly. “I just cut my leg on a grass blade. That’ll certainly leave a mark.” The blood fills the tub at an alarming rate. She grows a bit faint and leans her head back, letting her leg bleed.
University Hero is gazing off at the skyscrapers, imagining her in her field, the sun going down over the basalt cliffs beyond. The skyscrapers’ windows fill with orange, reflecting light.