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“Hero.” He said nodding his head and grinning. May-sun pointed at the picture. “This,” he said, tapping his fingernail on the picture of the man with lots of...muscle. “Is a hero.”
May-Sun flipped through through more pictures on the screen. One man was in a tight...blue suit. The next one was a woman in red in the blue water.
“Swimming.” I said, and pointed.
May-Sun laughed. “No, no. Flying. Sky.” he pointed his finger outside the...window. “Clouds.”
“Clouds.” I repeated. I remembered clouds. I looked out the white fluff around the red girl, and looked outside at the white fluff in the sky. “Pillow.”
May-sun laughed again. His laugh was so friendly, and he laughed a lot. Most of the time I didn’t know why he was laughing, but when he smiled it made me happy. He began flipping through the pictures again.
All of the people in the pictures had masks and capes and muscles, lots and lots of muscles.
“What do they do?” I asked, wondering why they needed cloth around their shoulders and lots of muscle. “Do they lift big things?”
May-Sun shrugged. “Sometimes.” He said. “They save people.”
“Well,” May-Sun began. He started a lot of his sentences with “well.” “A hero might save someone from danger, or… a bad guy, or an alien.”
Bad...guys? “What bad guys, May-Sun?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” he continued. “People who do bad things. They might lie, or take over something, or steal something…” He turned off the pictures. “We’ll learn more about it tomorrow, with the rest of the class.”
“Who is your hero?”
The class started unanimously talking. To one another, to May-Sun, and Michael, the quiet kid, to himself. How did they know what to say so quickly? How many ideas were scrunched up into their heads?
“No, Wonder Woman’s the best.” Stacy Jordan said so that everyone could hear her. “Everyone knows that girls go to college to get more knowledge, and boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider.”
The boys yelled and shook fists. Stacy high-fived her friends. “Everyone, lets just settle down, okay? Inside voices.” They looked back at May-Sun and the superhero on the board. I recognized her from yesterday. “Let’s go in a circle and say who are heroes are! Jonathan, how about you start?”
We went around the circle, my heart beating faster after each new answer. Superman seemed to be a very popular superhero. He was most of the answers. The boys booed whenever someone said Wonder Woman, and May-Sun shushed them.
“What about you, Michael?” He asked to the quiet boy next to me. “Who’s your hero?”
The rest of the class quieted to hear his answer. His knees were pulled to his chest and he was wringing his hands around them, like he always did when he was nervous. “Um, my...my mom?” He said, barely audible, looking down at his Sketcher light up shoes.
It was quiet in the room for a moment, and then a laugh came from a boy. Then, everyone started laughing. Jonathan Miller and Stacy Jordan’s groups. Something had seemed to have cracked them up. I sat quiet, distracted for a moment from the fact that I was next. What was so funny?
May-Sun seemed annoyed. “That’s a perfect answer, Michael!” He said cheerfully, glaring at the still laughing groups. “My mom is my hero, too.” After he had said that, everyone quieted down. They weren’t so loud about it, but a few snickers still lingered in the air. May-Sun cleared his throat. “And last but not least, Raza! Who’s your hero?”
The world seemed to pause. There wasn’t a laugh or a snicker to be heard, and my face felt hot. I didn’t think about it hard enough! I never came up with an answer! What was I supposed to say now?
I looked over at Jonathan Miller. “Su...Superman…?” I said, looking back at my shoes. They were Sketcher’s too, but they didn’t light up.
May-Sun nodded. “Alright, thank you for sharing, Raza.” He said and smiled gently. It was a nice smile, but not like normal. There was something else in his eyes, something that said, it’s okay.
That night I dreamed of bad guys.
I was sitting in class, and everyone was asking me about my hero. Jonathan Miller was laughing and kept asking me, even though I didn’t answer. Stacy Jordan kept chanting girls go to college to get more knowledge, and boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider! Even though I never said anything. Everyone in the class was laughing, and I didn’t know why.
Through all the people, I could see Michael sitting on the other side of the class, by the...window. There was a lady next to him, and she was hugging him. I couldn’t see his face, but I knew he was happy.
Girls go to college to get more knowledge, and boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider!
Three men burst into the classroom. They were snarling, like an animal, and shouting my name. They were dressed in all black and they had guns. Their faces were covered and their muddy black shoes stained the rainbow carpet we had been sitting on before. I screamed. I screamed at the kids to move, and I screamed at the men to go away and I screamed that I didn't know who my hero was.
Most of all, I screamed at Michael’s mom to hide.
“There are crayons and markers on the tables for you to color with.” May-Sun said as he passed out papers. ¨Your job is to color a picture and write about your hero.”
I watched May-Sun pass out the papers. His face was gentle and kind, and it lit up every time someone said “thank you”. As I watched him smile and pass out papers, The Word ran through my head again.
That's what they told me when May-Sun came. They tried to explain it, but I didn't know English back then and I had never gone to school. I was only four. It was such a big word, and even though I knew words now like “hero” and “Jupiter”I still didn't get it. Why would someone want to take a child when you could just have one yourself? And why were there stores for children?
Why did May-Sun pick me?
May-Sun gave me a paper, and I said ¨thank you¨ and he smiled. When he walked away, I turned around to look at him. He was standing in front of the board, and the picture of the blue superhero was right behind him. It almost looked like the superheros cape was on May-Sun. I pictured May-Sun flying through the sky and the clouds with a blue suit and lots of muscle. I pictured that that was how he looked on the day they told me ad-op-shun.
I picked up a blue crayon, and that's what I colored. I don't think I had ever seen him smile so much in my life.
I dreamt about the bad guys a lot, but now, when I did, May-Sun would always show up in his blue suit and his muscles and he would fight them. He always did what he said heroes would do; save people from the bad guys.