I heard his footsteps all the way down the stairs. He took them two at a time and then stopped in front of my apartment door, sweeping his hand through his pocket, searching for his key. I was still in the shower, and I was accidentally holding my breath. When I exhaled, the sound of air blocked the click of the open, the slam of the close. Something to remember. He paused to look through my mail. I took my time.
“Hey,” he called through the bathroom door.
“What?” I said.
He couldn’t tell if I meant, what, I can’t hear you, or, what, what is it? So he just continued down the hallway to the kitchen, oh. He wanted to make me dinner. The cutting board slammed on the counter, the soup pot rang out. I brushed my teeth to the rhythm of him, chopping onions. Together we sounded like wild applause.
I didn’t get dressed because I didn’t need to do things like that in my own home. In flip-flops and a stupid bathrobe, I walked to the kitchen and tapped my fingers on the doorframe.
“What?” I said.
“Hey,” he said, and he kissed me with the knife still in his hand.
“You didn’t call,” I said.
“Do you have plans?” he said.
“Just because you have a key doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call,” I said. “How was your day?”
He shrugged, and I thought, oh, you have got to be kidding me! as he turned to the stove and hunched a bit, squinting to match dials to burners. The gas went tick-tick-tick and I flinched. He noticed. I smiled. The fire sprung up and he turned full to face me, I mean, I could tell he was really looking this time, and he put down the knife.
“Something’s wrong,” he said.
“What are you making?” I said.
“Something’s wrong,” he said, but differently.
“Yeah,” I said.
“I got a superpower, you idiot,” I said.
I probably should have held back longer because of how this was going to change everything, but probably he would have figured it out anyway, at least by the end of dinner, and even though this soup thing was a little presumptuous, I was hungry. Also my ears were really starting to hurt because of how hard it was to concentrate while he was just standing there not knowing. I had to keep concentrating. Already I had figured out that much.
“Turn off the gas,” I said, and I showed him my wrists, which were red where they’d been tied behind me. Fast, before I could protest, he had me cradled in his arms with his head down weeping into my neck. He was going, why me, why me, why me, why me, why me why did I do this to you, and I wanted to be like, jesus christ, first of all please keep it down and second of all you didn’t, it was that fuckwad with the black hat and black car and the three henchmen of different body weights. Except, it made me feel a little better now that he was taking the blame. I guess if you knew how little he opens up about the reality of things, you would agree that sometimes the most awful things are necessary if only because otherwise we’d just get fat staring at the prettiest lies.
He cupped his hands over my ears. His hands were wonderful, large and thick and never cold. Superhero circulation is just one of those things.
“Does that make it better?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “I mean, yes, sure. Your skin is basically lead, right? But you can’t go round with your hands over my ears all the time.”
He was quiet for a moment and so rather than make him formulate the question himself I reached into the pocket of my bathrobe and pulled out the note they had earlier pinned to my t-shirt. The intent had obviously been for him to find me, tied and crying and newly sonic, but I’d sawed myself free with a steak knife from the dishwasher. He read the note in a glance–I always forgot about the speed reading–then crumpled it with the angriest exhale. I unraveled myself from his arms.
“I’m coming with you,” I said, in the defiant voice of all who had come before me.
“It’s too dangerous,” of course he said.
“You have to take me seriously, now,” I said.
“What?” he said. “I mean, I do. But–”
I walked past him to the kitchen and concentrated as I turned on the gas. The onions went in first, and then the carrots, then the potatoes and the celery and the beans and the broth, and I stirred. Everything roared and roared if I let it, and I let it. He stood behind me with his hands on my hips and he told me things I didn’t quite catch.