The minute I twirled the cape around my shoulders, I knew I wanted to be a superhero. Okay, my cape was a rag of a towel with orange and pink stripes, destined for the garbage. I used a pink hair clip to hold it around my neck. To be fair, I was seven years old.
I put on my cape, closed my eyes, and vaulted off my bed. My stomach fluttered, and the air pushed my hair back. I was flying. No one could convince me otherwise. I got braver. I was flying off everything—until Mom caught me. She stopped me before I launched off the shed roof. Mom saved me from a broken bone or two that day.
“Samantha Marie, you will break your neck,” Mom said in a disapproving voice, shaking her finger at me, “stop being such a tom-boy.”
“Ah, Mom, I’m not a tom-boy, I’m a superhero. And my name is SAM!” I said, slinging my cape around and spinning in a circle.
“You’re about to be a superhero in timeout if you don’t listen,” Mom said, pointing to a chair in the corner. “And I’ll take your cape.”
She didn’t take my cape, and I didn’t get a timeout. Mom threatened a lot but didn’t follow through much. I wore my cape that entire summer.
Joey, my best friend since kindergarten, lived next door. I flew over to show him my new ability. Joey and I played together every day, we were inseparable. He was the only boy that wasn’t stupid.
“Joey! Joey!” I yelled, running as fast as I could, my cape dancing behind me. “Come see what I can do.”
“I’m in here,” Joey yelled back, poking his head out of our homemade fort, “I’m busy!”
Joey loved our fort. We had made it from an old refrigerator box, a torn-up sheet, and duct tape. It was a thing of beauty—until it rained for three days straight.
“Get out of there and come here,” I said, slapping the old sheet hanging in the entrance of our cardboard bunker.
“I told you, I’m busy!” Joey snapped.
“Fine, I didn’t want to show you anyhow.” I threw a stick at the fort and stomped my foot.
“Oh, all right, what can you do?” Joey huffed and rolled out of the box.
“You're gonna be jealous.”
“Just show me already,” Joey threw his hands up and let out a sigh.
“Okay, watch,” I said. I took a deep breath, steadied myself, and launched off the bench by the picnic table. I stuck the fifteen-inch landing like it was nothing.
“So what, you jumped off a bench,” Joey said, rolling his eyes.
“I did not jump, I flew,” I said, crossing my arms and sticking out my bottom lip. “I can fly, I’m a superhero!”
“You can’t be a superhero,” Joey said, “girls can’t be superheroes.”
“Really? Wonder Woman is a girl, and she’s a superhero,” I said, sticking my tongue out at him.
“Yeah, but you're not Wonder Woman, you're just a silly girl,” Joey said laughing.
“I don’t want to be your friend anymore.” I kicked the dirt and tromped away.
I didn’t talk to Joey for an entire month, not until summer vacation was over. I don’t remember ever being mad at him again. We stayed best friends throughout school. We helped each other through the trials and tribulations of our teenage years.
After graduation, I went out of state to college. Joey and I kept in touch; I talked to him every day for a while. I saw him on holiday breaks, and he visited me a few times at school. Eventually, we both had our separate lives and drifted apart.
I graduated from college, went on to medical school, and spent another four years in residency for emergency medicine. The hours were long and grueling, but I loved caring for people. I had long given up my dream of being a superhero.
I moved back to my hometown after fifteen years. I took a job at the local hospital as an emergency room doctor. It delighted my mother that I was close to home.
“Sam, call Joey and invite him over for dinner,” Mom said, pouring another cup of tea.
“You know I’m busy getting the apartment set up,” I said, “besides I haven’t talked to him in over three years. He may have a girlfriend or a wife for all I know.”
“Well, he doesn’t. I talked to him last month at the grocery store and he asked about you,” she said giving me one of her over the glasses looks.
“Oh, for the love of…” I mumbled, throwing a spoon towards the sink. “I’ll call him.”
I didn’t give any more thought to call Joey. I was working the night shift at the hospital. By the time I got home, I barely had the energy to shower, eat, and go to bed. A month had passed, and I still hadn’t called Joey. I meant to; I was just busy with life.
Summer hit hard and hot. Temperatures soared, and so did the injuries coming into the ER. We were shorthanded, so I volunteered to work a double. It was the last hour of my shift when paramedics wheeled in a motorcyclist hit by a drunk driver. The man, in his mid-thirties, had sustained massive trauma and lost a lot of blood. I knew the man on the table was Joey; I couldn’t let that stop me from doing my job. We hurried to stabilize him, but he went into cardiac arrest. A code team rushed in to resuscitate him. They revived him and expedited him to the trauma surgeon.
My shift ended, but I stayed at the hospital all night, I couldn’t leave with Joey still at risk. Minutes crawled by like hours, hours like days. The wait was agonizing. I felt like a caged animal pacing back and forth in the doctor’s lounge.
If I had called Joey when Mom told me to, this might not have happened. I should have kept in touch with him. I should have told him how much his friendship meant to me. Please God, don’t let him die. I promise… My pager went off—it was the ICU. I sprinted to the elevator.
The ICU nurse showed me Joey's charts. He was in serious but stable condition. There was nothing I could do but wait. I wasn’t going home until I saw Joey. I went to the surgeon’s locker room, took a shower, and change my clothes.
I went back to the ICU and sat by Joey’s bed. Exhausted to the point of collapse, the methodical beeps of the machines lulled me to sleep. Dreams evaded me, and for that I was thankful.
“Sam, Sam, is that you?” I heard a faint voice coming from the bed next to me.
I bolted out of the chair. “Joey,” I said, tears streaming down my face, “it’s me, Sam.”
“Sam, where am I? What happened?” Joey mumbled, disoriented from his ordeal.
“You were in an accident, you’re in the ICU.”
“I don’t remember, were you there?”
“No, not until you got to the hospital,” I said, “I treated you in the ER.”
“Sam, you remember when we were little?”
“Sure I do. How could I forget?”
“Remember when you wore that stupid cape?” Joey said.
“Yeah, and you made fun of me,” I quipped back.
“Well, superheroes don’t wear capes, but they can be girls,” he said, squeezing my hand.
“You're still groggy, you need to rest,” I said, “doctor’s orders.”
“Sam, some superheroes wear masks,” he said, “and you are my superhero.”