I arrived late in the day at the strange makeshift alien outpost. The outpost, nestled in a large hotel ballroom, was only here for the weekend. It was one of the small regional comic conventions, the kind they have every few months in this part of the country. Alien, because it was peopled with the usual array of costumed characters. Crowds at these events consist of adorable face-painted kids in homemade costumes, teens too cool to get dressed up, and the hardcore fans. Often the later are clad in plastic storm trooper uniforms, ghost buster jumpsuits, or federation red and black. These folks don’t come out of character except maybe to pose for a picture.
I’d come there to talk about my latest sci-fi novel, hoping to find readers and generate interest in this world filled with fertile imaginations. It had been a long winter of editing and submitting my manuscript, hoping for attention, acknowledgment, or response, yet I’d received little. I craved positive feedback, and needed to practice my tag lines and pitch, maybe get a few laughs and reactions from fans of the genre.
I’d rehearsed some clever wordplay to grab people’s attention. So, I was looking for friendly groups to entertain among the fans and superheroes. In the middle of one of these pleasant exchanges, I looked up, and stopped. That’s when I saw her approaching.
She was a young woman with obvious health issues in a super girl costume. At once, her smile struck me, all my practiced words left my head. I froze, suddenly preoccupied with her smile. It was a huge smile, pushing the limits of what a face can express.
It wasn’t her outer beauty that had captivated me, her face betrayed a slight lack of symmetry something other might call a defect. Yet, her face shone a simple radiant happiness and inner bliss that transcended mere physical appearances. Her joy was the special contagious sort, the kind that bubbled up and spilled out for all to share. Immediately I could imagine her life, perhaps her childhood had been difficult, filled with operations and hard choices made by loving parents. Probably a miracle baby who’d survived the NICU and was now grown. With confidence, she walked this gathering of paper book heroes, exuding the pure essence of a true super girl. Perhaps on an ordinary day, people wouldn’t have paid attention, they would’ve avoided that honest smile, but today, today was different. Today, she was super girl.
Children flocked to her, drawn to her incandescent joy, contagious excitement, and honest wonder. They wanted to just be with her, to talk to her, to take a photo with her. She was super girl after all, every child knew it and immediately believed. As her procession passed, she returned each surprised look with a genuine super girl smile.
I received one of those smiles, and instantly I had one of my own. Before I knew it, she was gone. I tried to return to my earlier conversation, but all my clever words failed me. I had become a faceless outline in a comic book crowd, like a barely discernable watercolor person in the background of a superhero scene.
I suddenly realized that I had indeed just seen a real hero. A hero who’d endured years of frowns and dirty looks. Those cruel, unkind words some people say to special people like her, had left no permanent marks they had bounced off her impenetrable skin. Those evil words hadn’t dimmed that smile or made her doubt for a moment. She was not susceptible to the shallow minded insults or scorn others might cast at her for being different. None of their hurtful labels, mean names, or taunting remarks could ever penetrate her steely confidence. Because inside she knew who she was… she was super girl.