The numbers won't move – is the clock frozen?
As I pace, these clothes are tight enough to move like a second skin. I brush them, pinch the creases. My closet wasn't kind, and this [[uniform->Costume]] is littered with evidence of its recent hibernation. Lint. Dust. A tiny rope of yarn, but I don't own anything with that colour. This night is already filled with [[mystery->Cold Night]].
Wait – the hour of twelve finally arrives. My legs itch. My brain, too. The door closes behind me, but [[Boston->Dying Popularity]] opens itself up.
As much as it can. This city is naturally narrow, extending before me into a receding angle. It makes everything look sharp and square. The lights are soft, though, and these patches of windows are like a [[grin->Angela's Romance]] of greeting, missing teeth. Or eyes.
These buildings are so tall, their architecture stands as rigid walls on either side of me. Staring at their opaque faces is unsettling. I turn my gaze to the [[sky->First Flight]].
I'm thirty-seven years old and still playing the part of a boy. But this is an act of remembrance. All reason is telling me that it's twenty below zero, and the night is sharp, bitter with a wind that teases the tyranny of winter. These clothes are insufficient, but necessary. A coat would be better, [[warmer->Dunkin' Donuts]], and follow something along the lines of common sense. But this is never meant to be a night of reason.
This chill is not enough to make me abandon the costume. It is surprisingly familiar, though I rarely wear it, and even the most uncomfortable of sensations – the tightness, the itchy fabric, the insistent wedgie – carry the smallest reward of memory.
My cape is caught in a bicycle rack as I pass it. Damn.
Boston continues to stare back at me, and in the distance I spot the Christ Church erect from the ground. There is something strict about it, and it still bothers me. I twitch.
I collect accusing stares from each face I pass by. Their reactions vary, amused smiles met with frowns of [[confusion->Two O'Clock]]. But their eyes are all the same, and I try to ignore the holes they drill in my back.
I enter the nearest all-night Dunkin' Donuts, where their snickers mingle with the squeak of my green shoes as I drag them across the recently mopped floor. The barrista's face is blank as she takes my order. No sugar, no cream. Black. Just the caffeine. It was all these nights ever demanded.
It takes me a minute to resist the powdered sugar doughnut calling me. But I've mastered wasting no time with people like one young man, in particular, who removes his suckling lips from the brim of his own cup long enough to bring out his phone.
“Smile, Boy Wonder! Let's get a good look at that underwear,” He jeers and captures his tongue between his teeth, like he can taste my embarrassment.
I leave that room of eyes, pretending that I can't hear him through the thick aroma of my coffee.
Nobody cleans up anymore, and I notice this as I watch my now empty Styrofoam cup smack the bottom of a trash bin.
This place is not the Gotham of funny books, but it nonetheless spreads before me like a full-page splash. I [[stop->Funeral]] one its characters as he passes me by.
“Do you have the time?” I ask and point at my wrist while he tugs at his ear buds. I can hear a deep beat pumping from those tiny things.
He seems to have seen me for the first time, and his eyebrows draw together. “Do you need some sort of help?"
“No, just the time.”
“Oh. Um, two o'clock?” He manages and shows me his phone.
It's best to end the conversation there, and I feel a soggy issue of the [[Boston Globe->The Boston Globe Part II]] stick to my soles as I leave the man [[staring->Crosswalk]] after me.
I'm standing now. The crosswalk finally changes, and the little glowing pedestrian looks crooked. Drunk.
As I make my way across the road, people's minds stop along with their cars. I greet their gaped mouths with a jerky wave, trying to keep my eyes forward. I cannot help but [[stop->Wrong Turn]] to watch them drive off once I reach the other side. The strangeness of my attire is not nearly enough to keep them from what life is left, and these lights slowly disappear ahead of me.
This is wrong. A wrong turn. I did not mean to double-back here, where the Christ Church greets me again. I choose a random direction, and my yellow [[cloak->Shivers]] trails behind me.
I suddenly feel very lonely.
I feel sick now. Sick with the cold. Sick with my [[life->It's Getting Late]]. Sick with my friend's absence.
I shiver with the confrontation of each rapid breeze that cuts through my clothes and across my skin. My teeth can't stop chattering.
A skilled brooder I am not. Dwelling upon the state of the human condition, its unpredictable cyclonic shifts from cumbersome to terrifying to spontaneously redeemable, does not come easily to me. Probably because [[the state of the world->The Boston Globe]] seems to very far away in comparison to my rent or empty stomach.
But what of Kenny, I wonder? In between patrols, sequestered in the apartment that had been vacated by the only two people who'd claimed to love him, did he sit and tell himself that relinquishing litter and greeting strangers on the street were the triumphs needed to "save" the world?
I'm alone. The scarce figures on [[the streets->The Jaywalker]] no longer appear. Nobody to speak to, or share in a joke about [[tights->Robin's Mask]].
While I'm out here, where does everyone go?
I don't [[see->Walk On]] anything if I use my mask to shield my ears from the cold. It shifts the whole thing, so I use my hands instead. Now it's hard to hear.
Without sound, the city adopts an unfocused quality, like a vintage film. Or like comic book. Voiceless characters lacking the necessary speech bubbles to communicate their motivations.
I briefly lift my hands from my ears so that I can rub my palms together. Boston simmers back to life, but I can't make out any of their conversations.
I nearly slip when another daily issue adheres to my shoes. I shake it off and [[leave->Conflict]] it on the street.
Another in a series of stumbles. That's my real archenemy, the assuredness with which I recongize that I will fail again. For every moment of triumph there is a collection of mistakes that will follow.
With a hopefulness as ancient as my elementary teachings, I try to understand each one and move forward. But Boston's Batman perplexes me.
Where did I screw up?
Perhaps I am a brooder, after all.
I mutter an apology under my breath when I hear a woman call from her window, before her bulky shape [[disappears->The Bridge]].
“Put some fucking pants on! Do you want me to call the police?"
I remember the Longfellow Bridge where [[they->Ending]] found him and, upon reaching it, peer over the side into the waters below. They are opaque, with a thickness like fluid textile.
I can imagine them acting as an oblivion, a gateway to nothing. Swallowing up my best friend as casually as I would my next cup of Joe. But it's just water. There is nothing fantastical here. Evil scientists did not perpetrate Kenny's demise.
It is now 3 AM. Once I get home, it will be a very long time before I get to honour my late friend [[again->The Walk Begins]].
There will be no daily reports of a comfortably round Batman performing acts of goodwill throughout the streets of Boston. Nor will there be pervasive rumours of a maniac that wanders neighbourhoods, volunteering his mental handicaps upon others.
Nobody remembers the Boston Batman. Nobody remembers Kenny Morgan.
It is a long time before I leave the bridge.
There had always been something to stare at when I was younger, but Kenny's attention was fickle. He would throw things for sport and catch them again with an expertise harnessed from years of boredom.
I had clumsy hands, and could only ever watch them fall. And yell. One summer Kenny made a teddy bear touch the sky, watching its decent with a grin.
“Catch him! Save him!” I called.
There was something [[knowing->Quotes]] in that smile. I was only eight, and Kenny had a whole four years ahead of me.
Kenny's wife had never been a fan of cycling. And yet, Angela had eventually learned to love a man for it. Her choice to abandon Kenny for a stylish cyclist up in Maine took from him an inherent energy and zeal that had made him the terror of any toss-able object in our years prior to facial hair. I noticed he was wilting and, with no clear goal of my own at age twenty-six, decided to move in with him.
His [[somber mood->Depression]] had seemed irreversible, and I despaired for several months in the hopes that my company alone could dispel it from him. My offerings, from chili fries to derisive remarks about Angela's sexual tastes, were only met with a lacklustre shrug.
The slightest progress eventually came one night, seated in mutual silence on the balcony. The chill demanded sweaters, but we chose blankets. I suddenly found there was something hilarious in Kenny's posture, the way he had kept his head lowered in a brooding manner, that puckered lower lip, cloaked by gingham patterns and Spongebob's stretched-out face.
“You'll need a mask."
“A what?” I saw him twitch his head in my direction.
“A mask,” I answered, and lifted the billowing length of my own cloak. “We've already got the capes.”
Kenny didn't answer, but he also didn't let his shoulders do the talking this time. His eyes were nearly shrouded behind a reflection of the city strewn over his lenses, and I could only stare at both of them.
As I began this for the first time, there also came the realization that I was gambling something fierce. It was all dependent on a hunch I was quickly losing faith in. That is, until a couple of blocks down when [[Batman->Quotes]] appeared at my side, face ruddy from his short jog.
Despite the foam muscle padding on the chest and shoulders, Kenny was still cursed by his eternal roundness. His gut protruded the more he slouched his back, and it melded with the fake muscles like grotesque lumping. He'd jabbed his thick glasses through the eye holes of his cowl, and thin wisps of light brown hair could be seen glued to his forehead.
“Might as well keep your head down,” I whispered. “You're supposed to be the mysterious one, anyway.”
I then saw in him that slightest recognition, a retreat to [[boyhood->Boyhood]]. The comics, the television shows, the relics of our youth.
Of course, people had begun to stare, watching with mixed emotions as Kenny stooped benignly to pick up some litter.
We were lavished with [[attention->The Boston Globe Part II]] for doing absolutely nothing. [[Strangers->Two O'Clock]] had greeted us left and right, playing along with smiles that dripped with either amusement or sarcasm. My growing unease told me it might have been both.
They called to us about small tasks, complaints of litter and defaced property. Streetlights going out, and teenagers making a racket next door. And we played along, probably with more seriousness than we should have.
But Kenny was happy.
Aaron Stothers had appeared before us without warning. A villain that Kenny came to name The Jaywalker.
He hadn't been much of an [[evil genius->Reunion]], but rather a scruffy punk of a kid who had decided that day to test our merit as [[“heroes”->Comic Books]] only three months into that gig. One afternoon on patrol, in an effort to tease us, Aaron Stothers stood at the edge of the sidewalk and yelled he was going to run across the road. It was a red light.
This was a blatant [[publicity stunt->Walk On]], and like many I shared a good laugh. Until Kenny's black-cloaked form galloped across the road and at Stothers.
There had not been enough chatter between Kenny and I to distract us from the [[silence->It's Getting Late]] that settled over our apartment.
I avoided speaking. There was only [[one thing->The Jaywalker]] I wanted to talk about.
I rarely accompanied him anymore, declined each [[invitation->Batman and Robin]] with some excuse. We tried to smile, but there was always something sad to see when he came home alone.
Kenny had to follow me home the day of the incident. His cape, though so much larger than mine, did not catch as much wind. He didn't have my [[haste->Two O'Clock]].
I went to bed shortly after. [[“I don't feel well,”->Funeral]] I told him. I continued to not feel well for several weeks.
I had kept hearing about Kenny's [[escapades->Publicity]], but it soon began to die out when there was nothing left to say in the papers.
One of Kenny's phone calls to me had been about the police, after they threatened to have him charged for carrying mace in his [[utility belt->The Boston Globe]]. The next time he called me, I could almost smell the whiskey on his breath from the receiver.
“Robin,” He mumbled with clumsy lips.
“It's Lewis,” I answered [[tiredly->It's Getting Late]]. “Remember?” He did, but forgot again later. I forgot to call him once or twice, and eventually his number receded to old stationary attached to the fridge. I forgot to write down his new number. I forgot for seven years until I received one particular call.
I crossed the street to greet Kenny once, when I spotted him one day pulling leaves off of his cape.
“Kenny,” I started. “[[My identity->The Boston Globe Part III]],” he finished. I caught the honest distress on what could be seen of his face. “Right. Sorry, Batman."
I had thought his body would have been floating there, in the Charles River. “Really, we're surprised that the his cape was strong enough to hold him up while he [[hung there,”->The Bridge]] and the officer had to clear his throat on the other line when I didn't answer.
“Sorry.” I checked the calendar. It was November 15th and I was thirty-three years old.
"This will be a new start," my mother had promised. But she always seemed the same to me even after we left Toronto. She still religiously drank green tea and hummed Guns N' Roses songs to every plant we owned. They died under her care when she forgot about them, and I wiped dry puddles of wrinkled leaves, petals and broken stems off the counter every time I made my own lunch.
"Things are a lot more exciting here in Boston." A claim my father repeated when he was mugged five years later. He looked bored every other time I saw him.
Kenny smiled and waved when I first saw him, sitting on the lawn across the street. Everything had always been [[simple->The Accident]] with Kenny. He was constantly caught, it seems, in the uncomplicated states of childhood.
Fall had only just settled, and the day was brisk, clear, brilliant with colour. But the roads might as well have been caked with ice from the way these drivers swerved to avoid the sudden appearance of a pudgy man covered in latex and foam.
Through a series of honks and swearing and flailing fists, there also eventually came the screech of tires and impact of metal upon itself. Then the ambulances.
We had stood there, for God knows how long. My face was as red as my uniform. My costume. The police took down statements with white hands. People's eyes, the fans, changed.
Kenny had insisted on apprehending [[The Jaywalker->The Jaywalker]]. Stothers. Aaron. Whatever. He believed in upholding what was right. It had become the foundation from which he drew [[breath->Suicide]].
I read about clinical depression, once. It was for a course in college. I returned to that old textbook a month or two after moving in with Kenny, before my desperation gave way to [[impossible->Costume]]. The symptoms drifted in and out of my mind:
"Feelings of hopelessness"
"Decreased interest in activities"
"Thoughts of [[suicide->Funeral]]"
I did not speak Kenny's newfound language of despair.
Switching to another tab, a more basic blue and gray Batman costume promised to make a Caped Crusader out of any wearer. The model featuring the costume looked uncomfortable, as if his rigid human limbs could not physically yield themselves to whatever alien material had been comissioned to form this outfit.
I took his salute, though, as not that of a man who knew nothing about the Dark Knight's posturing. Rather, he was wishing luck to whoever next took up the mantle of CostumeCarnival.com's Batman.
"DELUXE! DELUXE! DELUXE!" The ad screamed. "This complete costume set includes: A slimming muscle jumpsuit, removable [[cape->Aftermath]], detailed plastic utility belt, and a full Batman cowl!"
At $49.99, this was the cheapest costume I'd managed to find, and quite possibly the only one that would be able to accomadate Kenny's formidable paunch.
I dragged it to my online shopping cart. My own Robin costume was already there.
Kenny had been many things: A good friend, a good man, one with unresolved mental perplexities, a husband, [[an enemy->An Old Friend]], a rambunctious child, a forgotten son. And, of course, [[Batman->Rumination]].
But now - Burial or cremation? These were the two states that would define his physical matter. His new secret identity would either be a casket or an urn. I was loathe to accept either.
I struggled with this [[disservice->Wrong Turn]] to his character, ignoring suggestions made by the staff merely because they would not be informed ones. They didn't know him.
I must have drunk too much coffee on one particular summer afternoon, because I proposed something to Kenny that only the high-strung sensation of caffeine could have justified.
When I had first put on the Robin outfit, my crotch was the first thing to suffer from the uncomfortableness of it. Despite being for adults, it was just shy of being one size too small, and with each step I was reminded of that with a vengeance.
Not even the Discovery Channel's most riveting narration about praying mantises could keep Kenny from staring at me. “Good God.”
“I'm beginning to understand why people see a homoerotic undertone to their “[[partnership->Breaking Up]],” I said and tugged at the bright green briefs. “This feels like a strip tease.”
My commentary had brought the slightest smile to his lips, and he slowly rose from the couch.
“What is this?”
“An upgrade from those blankets.”
I strode awkwardly over to the door and called, “C'mon. We're going out.”
“Out?” Kenny formed those words like they were an alien concept, “Like that?”
“Shit, I almost forgot.” I picked a plastic package off of the floor and tossed it his way. “You'll need this.”
“You're kidding,” [[Kenny->Phone Call]] muttered when he recognized the yellow and black emblem. But before he could have said more, I was already gone. The sun greeted my bare legs, and tiny beads of sweat had already begun to form under my arms. My body was wracked with heat and nerves.
It was three weeks after The Jaywalker incident when, for the first time, I allowed myself to lash out at Kenny.
After two work days of being forced to stock cereal at Star Market, it seemed some strange and malicious act of fate that I'd forgotten to pick up more for that morning's breakfast.
When Kenny entered the kitchen, I was hungry and stuck in a perennial frustration. "We're out of cereal," I muttered.
Kenny chuckled nervously, "Well, Robin-"
“Jesus Christ,” I rubbed my face to keep the ugly tone as low as possible. “Just shut the Hell up, Kenny. Okay? Just stop talking, please.”
“Are you okay?” His eyes looked tiny beneath the large lenses of his spectacles.
“Okay?” I was livid. I was suddenly sick of the costume stuff, sick of taking care of him, sick of his sentimentality, sick of these childish sensibilities that I had suggested to him in a very adult world. I was sick of his [[simplicity->Meeting Kenny]]. “Yeah, sure. I'm fine."
"It's over. You won't be ruining any freshly painted benches while we're around," Kenny said. He emphasized his point with a well-timed crossing of his arms over his chest.
"That's what you think, Batman!" Obliteration Man yelled, shaking his fist with such vigor that he had to pause his villainy to readjust the belt that had come loose.
We waited patiently for him to finish, and I added, "we're counting on it."
When the crowd had finished applauding and dispersed, Jack Hill removed his Domino Mask of Evil and said, "do you guys have any change? I need to catch a bus home tonight. My bike's gone flat."
We obliged and watched him run to the nearest stop. "Coffee?" I asked Kenny.
He nodded and grinned, "A Bat-Brew."
I [[pretended->Drifting Apart]] I knew what the Hell he was talking about.
A few months after the Boston Batman was finished, [[Jack->The Boston Globe Part II]] spotted me replenishing the milk supply at work.
"Lewis, hey, Lewis." I think he had planned on saying more. I think we both did. But instead a silence settled over the both of us. "I'm so sorry," he finally said.
I'd had worse [[conversations->Phone Call]].
<center>Kenny had many ways of saying the same thing.</center>
<center>"[[I'm Batman->Dying Popularity]]."</center>
<center>"I am Batman."</center>
<center>"I am the night."</center>
<center>"Batman, that's me."</center>
<center>"[[I don't feel well, Lewis->The Boston Globe Part II]]."</center>
I watched from my bedroom window as Kenny's mother left.
She was dragging a suitcase behind her and getting ready to climb into a taxi cab. But not before she turned to face the house one last time and scream a series of obscenities that made my nine year-old self gasp. At the time, I did not know the exact context in which terms such as "bastard," "motherfucker," "cocksucker," or "son of a bitch" were used. But I understood their forbidden nature, the discreteness that my parents used them with when I was present.
I spotted Kenny's face pressed against his own window. It was creased by the pressure and his own roundness, making him look older. It was as if he wasn't a child anymore, but rather the premonition of [[the man->The Jaywalker]] he would turn into.
He didn't appear as shocked as I. Just sad.
I could see that Kenny was daring, for the first time in months, to [[indulge->Boyhood]] himself. These walks had eventually grown into a daily routine for us, and he decided to call them 'patrols.' Kenny became the first one out of that door, ready to feed the rumours and talk. Dutifully, I followed him. Wasn't I Robin, after all? Boy Wonder?
When people had asked for photos, Kenny would stay in character, head lowered into a noble nod. Beneath his cowl, however, was the creeping of a smile that did not suit an icon whose primary facial expression was a scowl. I usually placed my hands on my hips, chest thrust with a confidence that was actually waning, and stood there.
[[I always out of place->The End of Robin]].
Kenny framed the first article written about us in [[the Boston Globe->Walk On]].
"Two men are out to inspire [[justice->The Accident]], it seems. What social media have dubbed "Boston's Batman and Robin" have been frequently spotted engaging in supposed patrols.
Children are excited. Some adults are unsure what to make of this publicity stunt, but many applaud their enthusiasm. . ."
It was hung next to the TV, and so I was subject to its neat blocks of text every morning. Back then, I didn't know how I [[felt->A Sudden Confrontation]].
A few months later, the thin newpaper print was yellowing. The once bold title had begun to bleed: "Who are Batman and Robin?"
Good question, I thought.
In hindhsight, I was acutely aware of Kenny's decline. But I chose to [[ignore->Wrong Turn]] it.
I was nonetheless shocked when I read the Boston Globe's latest report: "Boston's Batman terrorizing local villain."
It was a surreal experience, and I didn't quite register the words on the page. The article was nothing but sporadic syntax, random words emerging from some nether on the page. I felt sick when the name "Jack Hill" was mentioned.
I didn't call Kenny. I called our neighbour instead, [[Obliteration Man]]. "Are you okay, Jack?"
"It was just a shove," Jack tried to laugh. "My wrist was sprained when I fell. The papers are making [[the whole thing->Batman and Robin]] look worse than it actually was."
Against better judgement, I believed him.
I cleared my throat but my thoughts were murky. “I need to take a break from . . . All of this. [[The costume stuff->Reunion]].” I waved a hand at nothing.
“Oh.” Kenny tried to hand me back my mask from where I'd tossed it on the couch. There was a very long pause before I finally took it. “For how long?” He asked.
“I don't know. Just for a while.”
I couldn't bring myself to throw out the article reporting Kenny's death. He had been adamant about collecting every single news item chronicling our adventures. I was sure that, if by some macabre miracle, he'd been able to continue his patrols from beyond the grave, he would have cherished public recognition of his demise as much as he did his life.
"Boston's Batman found [[dead->The Bridge]], identity revealed," the title proclaimed.
I placed the Boston Globe's article in a scrapebook, next to the first article that had reported our actions. The title was barely visible now, and it only asked "Who."
I moved out a few months after Aaron Stothers had come into our lives. “Our schedules are too different now. I've got a new shift at work,” I explained. “But I'll visit.” And I did. But [[Batman->The Boston Globe]] was usually there instead, and I didn't get to see as much of Kenny.
<center><font size="10">[[THE DC ANNUAL->The Walk Begins]]</font></center>