The Architects


The cashier at Darling Coffee, way uptown, offered me a frequent flyer card and then stamped it three times, even though I only bought one coffee. I followed him down the counter to the espresso machine while he told me about his day.

My Americano, iced, two shots, my second coffee of the day, was his last order. He planned a brief siesta in the park, then to volunteer at the yoga studio. At night he was watching his friend, a concert pianist, play someplace impressive.

“What does your day look like,” he then asked.

“I’m here, and then I’m working,” I said. “I work nights.”

“Are you a super hero?”

I had been talking about super-heroes and super-villains the night before to a friend who knows a lot about both. I told her that super-villains seemed to have a much better gig than super-heroes. First, super-villains are community builders. They always have good and loyal friends around. They inspire the members of their community to develop their unique abilities and use them towards a common goal, and encourage team work and creative and critical thinking. They are honest about their feelings. If someone’s silly enough to fall in love with a super-villain, at least they’ll know up front that they’re in love with an asshole.

Super-heroes hide their real selves from the world. They are committed to their misery. their dark secrets, their loneliness.

Super-villains let it all hang out, while super-heroes negotiate a world of half-truths and lies.

In short, super-villains are super-heroes who are tired of going it alone. They are no longer ashamed of their special talents, and they teach us, in a tough love sort of way, how much we care for our lives and the lives of others.

“I’m no super-hero” I told the coffee guy, “I’ve been thinking about becoming a super-villain. There are a lot more perks.”

“- the sinister laugh -” he prompted as the espresso machine pushed the last bits of hot water through the grind.

“Yes. Very satisfying.”


Super-heroes promote desperation, longing, and dependence on outside forces to save the day. Acting as the dues ex machina of disastrous proportions, they teach us to trust in a mysterious force we do not understand and to romanticize the throbbing helplessness of being a small part in a big story, teetering on the edge of a bridge, hysterical and afraid to move in any direction. They promote paralysis.

They keep their cards close to their chest. They wear a suit of emotional armor that’s impenetrable, but underneath it, they are walking, or swimming, running, flying wounds. They lead you on, then push you away. “It’s not you it’s me,” is what they tell their girlfriends during the break-up.


This is hypothetical, of course. I don’t know for certain how super-heroes or super-villains live or love. I don’t see many super-hero movies, or read many super-hero books. I don’t have much personal experience with super-heroes or super-villains. I’m not a “damsel in distress” type. But, I do know the world is upside down, backwards, and inside out and that the people with the strongest moral convictions tend to be bigger criminals, liars, and cheats than those of us who show up as we are and consistently question our flimsy grasp of reality.

My friend seemed to think that I was onto something. The coffee guy agreed.

It’s funny when a conversations starts in Midtown and ends the next morning  in Inwood.

This afternoon, I was explaining to Sean how my date on Thursday thought the raw oysters we ordered were too salty. He called them inedible and sent them back to the kitchen. Since raw oysters are relatively new in my life and I squeeze lemon on them, anyway, I didn’t really mind the saltiness so much. I was not as passionate about the brine issue. But, I didn’t want to stand between an irate date and an irate French waiter. Faced with an awkward situation, I deferred to the date. He is, after all, in the food business. And he was paying.

A look of consternation crossed Sean’s face, which caused a look of consternation on my face.

“I don’t understand,” he said.

“It was a little uncomfortable.”

“Oysters live in salt water.”

“That occurred to me.”

“And they transport them in brine.”

“I see what you’re saying.”

When I got home from that date, around 1:30 a.m., tired, tipsy, and slightly bewildered, I knelt down to pet my dog. A mouse ran into my open palm. I screamed. The mouse bolted into the kitchen and behind the oven to its lair. Sadie ran into the living room to “look” for the mouse – a diversionary tactic, for sure. I stood up, walked to the bathroom and brushed my teeth.

Clearly, if we were super-heroes, we would’ve had an epic fight on our hands.

If we were super-villains, we would’ve recognized each other as potential partners, made a pact, and, before the sun rose, we would have a cohesive, step-by-step plan to take over the world, and find love along the way.

Some days I wonder what I’m really doing with my life, when showing up to work seems like the cross between a strange hobby and an even stranger dream. The morning after the oysters and the mouse, my head throbbing from red wine and lack of sleep, hot weather, and early morning, I suspected that I was going to have one of those days.

And I was right.

Maybe anti-hero is the way to go.


2 thoughts on “The Architects

  1. For someone who was not going to post at all this week, this was a fantastic post!!! I chuckled at all of the villain talk and yet, have to kind of agree with you on several points. Still doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good hero, but…

    Wishing you cooperation from your next date 😉

    • Thanks, Mary!

      I think, on the whole, what I’m getting at is that super-villains are a lot more stylish (though sometimes they definitely have fashion misfires) than super-heroes. They seem to put a lot more thought into their presentation.

      Per the my next date – we’re going out for sushi. Hopefully he won’t think it too fishy, or under-cooked.

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