Dominic Perotti, "The World." Grade 12, Age 17. Silver Medal, Digital Art.

May’s Writing of the Month, The Hardest Part of Marriage with Batman is Knowing What Present to Get, comes from High School Senior Katherine Carter. Katherine won a 2011 Silver Medal with Distinction for her Writing Portfolio.

He doesn’t need much in the way of clothes. Beyond pajamas, he’s content to wear the Batsuit around the house. I’ve tried getting him to switch into jeans and sweaters—the bulletproof body armor isn’t exactly comfortable to recline against—but he insists that it makes things simpler if he doesn’t have to bother changing on a moment’s notice. So over the years, he’s accrued ridiculous amounts of PJ bottoms, underwear, and undershirts. I consider tights, because he comes home most nights with runs, but I’m not sure where to buy fireproof nylons.

I think about other sorts of presents he’d use. I picture him in the PJs I bought him for Christmas, watching TV, and it hits me. Lately, Batman has developed a taste for western dramas and TV Land. He likes to lounge together on the couch and watch reruns of Bonanza and Hogan’s Heroes. So for his birthday that April, I buy a copy of The Man From Snowy River on DVD. He’s thrilled to have a new classic—he’s heard me rave about this movie often enough. He carries me over to the couch and pops in the movie before lying down behind me. As the opening fanfare for 20th Century Fox blares out of the speakers, he looks in me in the eyes. He’s smiling. We both are.

We share a thing for working on cars together. He unrolls a diagram for installing an updated RPG launcher. I stand beside him, glancing over the sheet. Then I nod to the Batmobile’s buckled front plate. “I don’t want that to be you next time.”

He smiles. He doesn’t worry about his safety nearly as much as he should. Still, he assures me that he’d planned to reinforce it anyway. I turn to the Bronco sitting beside the Batmobile and pop the hood. One of the radiator hoses has a leak. Again. It’s getting on in car years—a 1989 mid-sized Bronco II—but I’m too sentimental to junk it. It belonged to my dad. It was his first car. Dad and I worked on it together, reconstructing the front end and reassembling the engine after my uncle wrecked it.

I change out the hose and mop my face. The replacement is an easy enough task. While I’m under the hood, I check the oil and refill the radiator with antifreeze. I wipe my hands on a rag and pull up a stool beside the Batmobile. I like to watch Batman work on his car. He’s so meticulous. I feel so young and rough beside him sometimes. I jump into things with both feet while he sits back and ponders, but he says he likes that about me. Even still, I’m not allowed to tinker on the Batmobile. Just as well. I look at the complex, tiny parts, and it all looks foreign to me.

Some nights, Dad comes by the house for dinner. On his way into the house, he stops through the garage, where Batman’s putting a few more touches on the Batmobile before supper. I put a tray of yeast rolls in the oven and watch them work through the kitchen window. I wait until the last minute to call them in because I hate breaking their camaraderie. Dad comes through the garage door with Batman, the cuffs of his dress shirt rolled away from his grease-streaked forearms. He’s the only one Batman trusts inside the Batmobile. I chalk it up as a guy thing. Dad claps a hand on Batman’s shoulder, and steers them both out of the kitchen to clean up.

We eat, and after dinner, the men head onto the porch to smoke cigars. They leave the door ajar, and the smoke smells almost nutty as I wash the dishes. Their voices bubble back into the kitchen along with the soft sound of guitar music, and I lean my hip against the counter, hands hesitating over the suds. They’re quiet for a few moments, but the music keeps up, suspended in the air between us. I finish the dishes and carry my banjo onto the porch. Batman’s cigar glows from between his teeth as he picks at the guitar. I fall into the chord progression, and the dull strings under my fingers feel good. We haven’t played together in a long while. I start picking a song we both like, “Wildwood Flower.” The chords rise and fall like deep breaths, and we relax into the smoke and the chords and the night.

Batman insists on fixing things himself, even though he doesn’t always know what he’s doing. He doesn’t believe in repairmen. Now, our toilet is barely holding it together. As soon as we fix one thing on it, something else goes south. This time, water keeps running into the bowl after it’s flushed. He plays with it for a while, flushing it over and over again, as he stares at the inner workings of the tank. I watch him for a while. I point at the flapper and ask if it should be closing all the way.

He studies the rubber mechanism, attached to the wall of the tank by a small chain. It slaps around the tank as he pushes down on the flush lever, but doesn’t close. Chain’s loose, he murmurs. Reaching into the utility belt, he pulls out a Batarang and tightens a screw with the tip. He looks at it a second longer, then grunts. He’s satisfied. I’m just happy that it’s fixed.

Batman hates breakfast. Before I came along, he rarely bothered with conventional mealtimes. Now, I try to keep a regular schedule, starting with low-fat yogurt with granola and dry toast for him and a toad-in-the-hole for me. I got the toad-in-the-hole recipe off one of the Western movies and can’t seem to eat enough of them now. When he complains that he should be eating the toad-in-the-hole, also his favorite, in case he doesn’t make it home alive the next night, I smack his knee and pretend to turn the other way, so he can sneak food off my plate.

Breakfast is followed by a trip to the track. We run together to warm up, and I have to jog a few lanes over—if I get too close, his cape snaps at me as it blows behind him. Two miles and I’m finished, wheezing from exertion, so I stretch while I wait for him to do five more.

Batman insists that he feels better if I’m armed with basic self-defense, just in case. He’s taken it on himself to train me. So first we spar hand-to-hand. I hope to get good enough that sparring with me will be more of a challenge for him. He reminds me that I’m learning, but I find it hard to believe when I wind up flat on my back in under a minute. When I pick myself up, I head over to the pole vault. I’ve vaulted since high school, and unlike the sparring, I’m actually good at it.

I grab my pole and line up on the runway. It feels good to have the pole twisting in my hands, the grip tape tugging at my calluses. My muscles flex when I rock on my heels, and I breath in deep to get a rhythm. Then I take off down the runway, feeling the push in my hips that brings me upside-down, watching Batman stand on the ceiling, the few morning clouds under my feet. One twist, and the sky is above, the bar beneath, the pole dropping down on the runway. For these few, precious seconds, I’m flying. The blue mat hisses under my shoulders when I land.

I walk over to where Batman watches me, nodding. He kisses my forehead, and I tell him to just go with it and to land on his feet. He finds his mark on the synthetic turf, rolling his shoulders. His posture is impeccable, the way he flattens his back when he crouches, his head, arms, and legs all clean angles. The cape billows out behind him as he sprints. He flies over the bar, the full length of his body piercing up before rolling over. Like a fan, the scalloped edges of the cape fan around him when he sticks the landing. He’s got it. I watch him do several more runs before we head home to walk the dogs.

Batman and I have decided not to have kids—not yet. I’m enough of a liability, considering all the men who want him dead. It puts enough stress on his shoulders worrying about my safety as it is, let alone if it were over the safety of our children. We have time for a family in the future, he tells me. I’ve always been a dog person, so now we own two Great Danes, Bruno and Rex.

There’s a nice dog park downtown. On Sundays when the weather turns nice, we take the dogs into the city. As soon as they see the grass, they whine and drag us closer. Nearby, a couple with a dachshund and a family look alarmed by the sight of two huge dogs galloping through the park, but Bruno and Rex are harmless. Batman and I walk over to a bench to wait for the dogs to return, and I lean my head against his shoulder. His hand smoothes my hair.

This particular Sunday, the wind carries a chilly hint of winter on it. Batman can’t feel it through his Kevlar, but it cuts right through my jacket. To keep me warm, he tucks me inside his cape. It’s huge and surprisingly soft. I remind him how handy he is and he chuckles, and we follow the dogs with our eyes. We know that we’re happy, here in the park together, and we don’t need to say anything else.

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