She buys Moxie in a seedy fight club and snorts the pale green powder in the unisex bathroom while a couple goes at it in the one stall with a door. The powder burns her sinuses as a strident florescent green halos the grimy bathroom lights and each sound – the couple’s groans, knuckles striking flesh from the fight in the main room – intensifies. Electricity races through her veins; even her skin hums. She hadn’t believed her source when he’d told her the drug could give her superhuman powers, but she tests it out, jumping to a fourth story balcony, bending wrought iron gates. The second night, she saves a cat high in a fruitless mulberry, catches a baby falling from a tenement window. She flushes with adrenaline. Is this how the superhero she’s in love with, the one with the two daishō swords, feels all the time? She’s practicing now, waiting for the time that he will trust her enough to hand her a mask, welcome her to his world.
She returns to the fight club, waits until someone hisses, Moxie, Hulk, Super-X, Spidey. The dealer’s unbuttoned shirt exposes silver piercings through his nipples. What’s a nice girl like you doing here? He rotates the imitation Tiffany bangle on her wrist. She just hands him wrinkled bills from her emergency stash. He presses a baggie into her palm. See you next time, he says.
There won’t be a next time, she thinks.
That night, she chases a purse-snatcher, incapacitates him with a kick to the kidneys, returns the Birkin bag. The kind of purse she’d want if she weren’t living on a journalist’s salary. In a dark alley smelling of urine and something rotting – flesh or fruit, she’s not sure – she pulls a man off a girl so drunk she can’t move, throws him again the brick wall. His pants fall to his ankles.
She builds up a tolerance, needs to snort two doses now. When she sees the bright green aura, she knows it’s working. Moxie doesn’t always make her strong, though. Once, her body fades, and then becomes visible again. She can’t control it and her clothes don’t go invisible with her anyway. Another time, a jolt of adrenaline causes spines to stab through her skin. She ruins her only cashmere sweater, the one she bought at Nordstrom Rack.
Mostly, though, strength surges through her, warmth runs up her veins. She punches a man following a child to school then climbs up a fire escape and knocks a gun from a husband’s hand; his pregnant wife says, why’d you have to hurt him?
She plans to write an article about her experiences with Moxie one day, when she’s finished taking it, she’s not addicted, you know. She types detailed notes in her tablet, dates, her Moxie dosage, who she hit. She writes, I wish he could see me now. She imagines that he will take her hand, say, Come with me.
She’s late to her job at the City Ledger, misses deadlines to file stories, leaves early, sick to her stomach from the Moxie she took the night before.
She’s got only one small dosage now, holding the baggie up to the light to gauge how much she has, so it’s back to the fight club. The soles of her boots suction the sticky floor. Her source told her that heating water mixed with Moxie and injecting it gives a greater rush.
In the fight club, the crowd yells at grappling fighters. A bald man with bulging muscles, hands wrapped with duct tape. The other is so nondescript that her eyes slide off of him, but he’s so fast it’s not a fair fight. In the far corner, the dealer leans against the wall. His tight tee shows the outlines of his nipple rings. When he sees her, he shakes his head. He said he’ll kill me if I sell Moxie to you again.
Who? she asks.
The guy with the swords.
She’s shaking. Why’d he need to get involved? It’s not like he owns her. She places a hand on the dealer’s chest. Feels the hardness of his muscles, the piercings. Please.
Nah, you don’t want that. Get outta here.
Behind her, the faster fighter has won. Blood streams from a cut over his eyes.
Outside the fight club, she snorts the last of her Moxie. The aura around the streetlights gleams pale green. Walks back to the subway, down dark avenues, and under scaffolding. The City is always rebuilding from the latest superhero-villain fight.
Hey girl, give me a smile, a guy calls.
What did you say?
Fuck, what’s wrong with you, all I wanted was a smile.
She throws a left hook, hits his jaw.
And then he hits her back. Crazy bitch. He runs.
The aura is gone now. She’s weak, shaking.
In her apartment, she kneels on the pink tufted bathroom rug, vomits into the toilet. She touches her swollen cheek, winces. She’ll try another fight club; he couldn’t have threatened all the dealers. Opens the door of the bathroom to find the superhero sitting on her bed, reading her tablet. Superhero powers must include cracking her password.
His swords lay on the floor; his mask covers half his face. Maybe next time, just report events, not experience them, he says. A cut on his forehead oozes pale red.
She says, I’ll get the Neosporin, because that’s what she does, takes care of him.
He catches her hand, pulls her to him. I’m OK, he says. You won’t be. Withdrawal’s a bitch. But I’ll be here.
Her legs won’t hold her. He’ll never hand a mask to her, never ask her to join him. She shivers bone-wracking tremors. She says, All I wanted was to be you.
Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California. Her short fiction has been published in Smokelong Quarterly, Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, Little Fiction, Necessary Fiction, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere. One of her flash stories will appear in Best Short Fictions 2018. She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and her website is lorisambolbrody.wordpress.com.