By Julius Jaramillo

I’d be hard pressed to find someone who’d never had a bad period in their life. A time where confusion, desperation, and sorrow dragged themselves down to meet those demons, starving for a piece of cynicism. If I did meet this person, I would be impressed but at the same time… I might need to catch my breath. Because I have been through dark periods; lonely years where you don’t see things as black and white, but as a hot red. Those experiences take a lot of time and effort to come out the other end. And though I’m not perfect today by any means, the work I have done has led me to a realization that has now meant more than ever before… I am a Superman Fan.

I had my Batman periods, my Spider-Man marathons, my Doctor Strange vacations, but it would always come back to The Last Son of Krypton. As I think back on it, he’s been an inspiration throughout my upbringing. Looking for my first pair of glasses, I knew I wanted to be the only Middle Schooler resembling Clark Kent, brilliantly late for work at the Daily Planet. And when I’d hear the music from John Williams’ Superman Theme, I would go outside, and look up, shooting my arms as if the momentum would actually launch me. 

Of course, growing up a comic book nerd, it’s not unlikely that I would look to these characters for inspiration. Who else other than the man (or woman) strong enough to stand up against blatant wrong doers would I aspire to? Yes, my mom, but she happens to be a Superman fan as well. In fact, Christopher Reeve was treated like a relative we’d invite over every other year. So, I think I’m covered there…

As to why I’ve reestablished my love for the Man of Steel… I need Superman to exist. Not because of his powers, not because of his costume, but because this was a man who acted. Someone who would do whatever he could to be part of the solution rather than add to the problem. This is the man I aspire to be and have found it difficult to achieve in a world stricken down by pandemic.

We live in a very trapped, frightened, and angry time. Our lives are projected through Zoom calls and Facebook Posts. It’s the moment where people demand responsibility from our media outlets but don’t expect it. They want the brave and bold to speak, to act, and to remain consistent. They need heroes. Thankfully, their faith has (partly) been rewarded. For heroes do exist; they just don white coats and work in hospitals rather than wear tights and fly. 

Unfortunately, our men and women in masks aren’t the center of our conversation. Politics are louder, more so than ever before. An obnoxious, hideous system, standing directly in the way of humanity, and the road to empathy. A spotlight has been directed towards ignorance and the needless reduction of rational. However, those heroes I mentioned, they still save each day, slowly, but surely.

There is a reason why those brave, educated, and passionate doctors must be looked at as our champions. The passion and effort put forth to save as many lives as possible, at the risk of their own health can be described only as a superpower. Our physicians may as well wear red and yellow shields on their chests because their actions and effortless spirit justify the flamboyance. As a member of this pandemic who has questioned his role; conflicted and confused about what he can and should do during this complicated period… my anger has (at moments) taken the opportunity to resurface. 

It feels like a weakness in the heat of the moment when I burst with irrational and misplaced fire. And after these explosions, I look back and realize that these fits never helped anything or anyone. I understand that I’m angry because (like everyone else) I feel trapped, not only at home, but in a world where injustice has been the status quo. Where the obvious, moral solution has continuously been ignored to protect the interests of billionaires like Luthor rather than the values of those citizens who could have easily grown up in Smallville. What can I do to help? What would Superman do? 

Clark would stand and endure. He would remain tolerant and open with others. Not allowing a conversation or bias to permit society’s ill nature. He’d take responsibility for his own health (even though he couldn’t physically get sick) and wear a mask. Not for himself but for them. These are the actions of someone who’s as desperate as the people he saves for change. Because after all, Superman isn’t from Krypton… he’s from Kansas.

These are the ideals that I fight every day to live by. Because, yes, the world needs him. But at the same time, secretly, I believe Superman Lives. I think he will live beyond us all, and even though our world may go through harrowing experiences, there will still be people demanding for the hero. What if that’s the point? Why my moments of darkness aren’t as significant as the work I’ve put in after them. Maybe, that’s why we need these moments.

Maybe… that’s why we all stop… and look up in the sky.


Right Now.

Within the last 5 hours, my legs have ached, my brow has poured, and the guilt that should have vacated my shoulders immediately, has instead been plucked. Imagine, each memory, each experience of your past where you were in the wrong, as a feather. And your subconscious, a poultry farmer, plucking away, slowly. The only thought in your mind, “Why can’t you go faster?”

Ok, here’s some background.

5 years ago. Finally, the Doomsday Clock of public school has reached it’s 12th Graduation. Good bye, bitches. All you get, a panic attack and a middle finger. Oh, you’re offended? I have a bad attitude? Of course I do, I was only laughed at. Who in my own student body proved their humanity? Being cast out by an ignorant class says more than your offense.

Why would you even tempt me? You know how I can explode, and all you do is pick at me. I’m not a scab! I’m a human being, god damn it! I have the right to react to your humiliating tactics! This is a high school, not a zoo! I’m a person, not a lion!

Oh, look at this. They’ve kicked me out of Math Class. But, it’s not my fault! I didn’t do anything to warrant this extradition… well, that’s not exactly true… But that’s beside the point! Who hasn’t thrown a chair? Yelled at people? Taken things too seriously? Been so angry… and angry… and angry…

5 months ago. Maybe I was too angry as a teen. Here’s the secret… these feelings can be tucked in. Anger is a child that hates bed time. And, to my own credit, I’m a pretty good parent. But, nowadays, it’s harder to coral my behavior. “How so?” you ask.

Heartbreak. Five years ago, a girlfriend wasn’t an option, but eight months ago? I found myself swept away with a beautiful, broken, and scared woman. Someone who’d suffered unimaginable pain, ringers that I hadn’t trained for.

Though, she was unique, she also reflected too much of my past. A sentence of my immaturity. Those complications led to our relationship turning into, “8 Months Ago.” Now, I’m left with the regret of that time but also, the question, “How do I stop feeling this way?”

5 weeks ago. Well, the world is chained. Restricted. Quarantined. A world that’s decided to be beaten by disease and injustice. And, here I am. Stuck. One good thing to take away, my anger has been asleep ever since I last put it to bed. Good night.

But the world is a kin to the neighbors of an apartment with thin walls. And in feeling stuck, it’s hard not to feel powerless. Disturbed. Angered. And look what’s happened, everyone else’s madness has draped the streets, the media, and their lives. Why can’t I cut loose?

My world, my sick, my loneliness… Wow, has it really been almost a year since I’ve seen her?

5 days ago. Enough is enough! As the wise and manipulated said before I, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” I’m stuck and stuck and stuck. Not only in place but in mind. I could be trapped under a collapsed building, with glass impeding into my left shoulder, but with true optimism, I’d be ok. I might even be bulletproof.

I have pretended to be an optimist for months, weeks. But it feels as real as a plastic gun. I’m losing it, and with each deep breath, each prayer, each hope, I’ve only gotten angrier! Why doesn’t this work? Why don’t I work!?

5 hours ago. Right now, I’m atop a hill. I see other hills with houses, people, families. They’re smiling and laughing. Above, clouds fluttering in a sky that’s been blue since before I was ever angry. Soon, it’ll turn orange, after that, dark with stars. The stars themselves take millions of years to reach us. And our planet has been spinning for longer than that.

My point? A view like this has met people like me. The scared and frustrated. In history, we’ve either kept being mad, or somehow we had moved past these regrets. These painful memories. Hilltops like these help decide which path to choose. I’d better make up my mind quick because I see someone else coming up, ready to decide for themselves.

January: The Jewel, The Week, The Hill.

My January lasted a week. A week that if were to be described, to be physically seen, it would be a hill. These days started at the bottom of the paths leading to the top of this mount. These grass surrounded, dusty alleys were elongated, twisted, and curved like trunks on an elephant. I didn’t know that I would be traveling up the dune, but my future didn’t take this into account while setting itself before me. 

When I was at the bottom, preparing for this unexpected hike, I was hoping that my companion was beside me. My lucky Jewel… a treasure that rivaled the natural eloquence of Jupiter in my eyes. The ornament lasted me through heavy storms and crippled nights. The adventures we featured in were the Toast of the Milky Way.

Before going any further, I looked in my hand, where the rock usually lay and it wasn’t there. My pockets were empty and the ground around me was clear. Jewel… was gone the first day. 

The morning after, I looked and looked and looked… Finally, the sun helped my search. The gem was in the grass, hiding, but eventually shined at me. I picked it up, catching my breath. We stared at each other in the usual, other worldly way we would. At that moment, I felt… nostalgic. 

We moved on with our week, our hill. Climbing and smiling. We reached the hump. 

Breathing became simpler than it naturally was at the top. The wind pushed us and pushed us. I laughed while the Jewel took cover. I was young then, unaware that the air currents could knock us off the hilltop. My stone was aged more than me and knew better. 

Coming down the hill, ending the week, I was stopped by my Jewel. Beside the path we sat, taking a break from trotting down some more. I was so used to moving at that point, stillness was alien to me. Suddenly, breathing wasn’t as easy, and the winds disappeared. 

My stone told me that it was meant for more than being in my pocket, and I… more than holding them. I fought the idea, but I made sure to listen. At the time, I felt powerless and disfigured. The idea of an unnoticed flaw leads to guilt, embarrassment, and hopelessness. Later, I had to realize it wasn’t any of that, but much simpler… My week was ending, and I had to let it. 

Our adventure, at that moment… had ended.

When the change started to set in when I reached the end, I noticed the sun going down. My future without my Jewel was hard to accept. What was harder excepting, was that I had a future at all.