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  • Kiley Woods

Love and Late Nights in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Two months into my first relationship, we started watching a Marvel movie every night. He lived with seven other people, and we had access to Disney+ so we decided to make our way through the Marvel Cinematic Universe. My boyfriend and I were able to find 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour alone, but no more. This time was foundational, but our time never belonged to us. That’s where the silence started. We both loved movies and more importantly, we loved watching movies together, but we never spoke during the movie. Soon, that was all we did together. Lay in a bed side by side and watch movies. Sit in the living room of his apartment with his roommates and watch movies. But I got to be close to him and I felt more at home than I ever have before when my head was on his chest, and he’d kiss me.

The first movie was Captain America the First Avenger. This is Cap’s origin story.

I’ll never forget when you kissed me on the side of my head that first day. I met you in Wilmington, at Wrightsville Beach access ten. The sun was beginning to set; the waves moved as if they wanted to engulf us in our own world, but the water didn’t need to because we were already in a world we would never come to understand. Two weeks later, you asked me to be your girlfriend. A year and a half later we’ve slipped away from each other and become parts of our own oceans. The way we should’ve been all along.

Steve Rogers was rejected from military service because his frame didn’t match that of other warriors. He volunteered for a project that was testing the success of super-soldier serum which could help him get the muscle he needed to serve, creating Captain America. His strength was almost intoxicating. His evolution was against all laws of nature.

My first boyfriend loved movies. He loved the way films worked, including the composition of the pictures, sound, editing, and directing. He loved fear so much that he became it, the total embodiment of a man terrified to take the wrong step. He loved stories almost as much as I do, but film was his passion. He was curious and invested in us, at least at the beginning, and in his friendships, but never in himself. His bedroom walls were covered with movie posters of Spider-Man, Star Wars, Marvel, and a black and white poster of The Shining that I bought him for our first Christmas together. The walls surrounding him were unbreakable. His mind wrangled in art. His internal battle was silent. The worst kind of battle to fight alone. You were never alone, my love. Not intentionally. That’s the first thing I would’ve done differently.

A week ago, a girl lost her love. A girl who has never lost a love before. Not like this. One night. One moment and she was silenced by fear. This silence she was used to. A year and a half long relationship ends in three minutes and forty-two seconds. A boy and a girl, in love. A boy. And. A girl, still in love but desperate to let go of each other.

There was a girl; she was made of the ocean. She attracted the tides, the moon’s control, the colors at sunset, the storms, the depth, and the unknown. Her soul was a secret even to her. Many could find her down by the water asking the ocean for more. More knowledge. More safety. More love. Until, one day the ocean gave her what she asked for. A love made of water with a boy made of fear. Soon they would be mirror images of each other which would cause their love to run so deeply because they knew and for them knowing was enough. Even a love that deep couldn’t last.

She loved to create, and the boy loved movies, so their minds were similar pieces of art that either brought creativity or destruction with them.

Captain America fights the Red Scull and Hydra. The main point of the film is that Captain America is worth paying attention to. This film focuses on the origin story of a scrawny kid who lacks the power and means to make the personal impact he wants to make.

The boy was no different. He loved the girl on a level he wasn’t sure he could maintain. She wanted more. Z’s love came inconsistently and only stayed when they were together making it nearly impossible for the girl to be alone.

There was a boy made of movies who thought in graphic novels of Marvel superheroes and Spider-Man. Who loved laughing and pretending. Who loved dogs and lived for many days at a time with a mind ready to kill. A mind much like mine. Except his mind was silent or on a loop of indescribable doubt that makes silence hurt so much worse because he couldn’t give it a name.

If you saw me a week and a half ago, I was in love. If you see me today, I am on the run. A week goes by and Chronos, the Greek God of Time, checks his watch, nothing. To Chronos, time was just a name, and power lived inside him. He didn’t need to seek it; he was a titan, the king of the titans. That was his power. Z was a twenty-year-old boy whose life had not belonged to him for a day, and he was still searching for his power. Two weeks go by and Chronos checks his watch again. Z wants to talk.

This story is set in Charlotte, NC, and Wilmington, NC. The opening scene takes place in Charlotte. His childhood home is small, warm, and quiet, too quiet. I walked in for the first time as a quiet girl who was welcomed, but there were so many more walls in that house than I could even see. He went to Porter Ridge High School. She went to Davidson Day School. One hour away from each other, their lives would never meet unless they needed to.

He was skinny, quiet, and awkward. He made friends. That was easy for him his authenticity, his love, and the fact that he needed more from himself, and his family attracted people to him. Especially people who were the same as he was. The simplicity of his energy drew people closer to him. She made friends too, but there was nothing simple about her. Her complexity drew people close and turned people away all at once.

Captain America became a warrior overnight. A fighter, but his heart gets in his way. He has one goal, but his heart wants something else. Once he joins the Avengers, his goal is written for him. There’s a disconnect here that would split any soul in half. The person he wants to be and the person he feels like he needs to be for someone he loves.

When I moved into my freshman dorm on the fourth floor of Pelican Hall, he lived on the first floor. We met on September 1, two weeks into college. Days were spent in his room; nights were spent on the pier. By September 12, I was hooked, and he asked me to be his girlfriend on the beach where we met. He’d hold my hand or kiss my cheek, and I knew this was something more than past pain that molded me into a person who thought love could only be one way.

There was something missing. Even in the early days, I could feel a space between us that I desperately tried to fill by simply being around him. Which worked for a while, until I felt like I was becoming too much, but this feeling didn’t keep me away. I was pushed away by him and by myself. Months later, I’d push myself away from him, and a little more and a little more before even to me we were just existing in each other’s lives and that may have been the first step.

Four months into our relationship, his roommate started flirting with me over Snapchat. It got to the point that his roommate was talking to me more than my boyfriend ever had. I mentioned it to him, but he didn’t take it seriously. And I was back to believing based on actions that I loved him more than he ever loved me. One night in late February, his roommate’s confidence in pursuing me became something I was afraid of, and he knew that. But it was the perfect situation for him. Scared girl, been through this before, silenced by insecurity that the boy’s roommate wasn’t the cause of. His roommate prayed on me the way you stalk something you want to kill. And he killed me in every way I could’ve been killed without letting myself become a memory too. That was my breaking point. The girl he met on the beach was consumed by the need to escape from the body of a girl touched by a monster. Once I realized the truth about the way I was feeling, the guilt I had for no longer feeling like the girl he fell in love with was a loneliness I didn’t know how to talk about.

Captain America was far away at this point. Memories of Marvel nights were just memories of sitting next to a guy who took my body and a guy, my love, who didn’t know how to get it back. Memories of the beach the night I met him were the only things that allowed me to breathe in that apartment. I needed to act like myself just to hold onto myself. My warrior, my love, was cut down by a betrayal from a roommate he called a friend.

My body ached sitting next to Z’s roommate day after day, but my heart ached sitting next to someone lost to inaction and guilt all his own. We’d lost each other that day because we made the decision to survive on our own instead of surviving on our own and together. That was the conversation that needed to be had, not the conversation of why. I felt safe in that apartment because you were close by. Your fingers were entangled with mine, my head on your chest my greatest connection to our love that stuck until the last night. All the while someone else was watching me.

The summer after I lost my body in your apartment, we went to Pawley’s Island. A chance to remember the love we created. We never lost love. I lost myself and therefore forgot who I was in relation to our love. I needed a reminder. To reconnect with our love that originated in the ocean’s eyes and the force of water pushing us closer together. But it was easier to pretend I was okay to pretend my heart was okay. I knew you’d never ask questions if I pretended my heart had healed. Our hearts belonged on the beach because that’s where we were connected and that’s where my heart connected with yours. I fell in love with you repeatedly on that beach. I fell in love with your touch, your heart, your anxiety, the beauty in your eyes when you looked at me. The way it felt lying in bed with you your arms wrapped around me as my only source of safety and relief from the water inside me that was ready to drown me.

I thought I’d have a new Avenger, but you were never able to understand the pain and I wasn’t in a place that I could help you understand the way the pain moved inside me. It was just beneath the skin running deeper every day taking another piece of my body every day. I believed it needed to run its course, so I was letting it while convincing myself that because you were unable to act one time that you would never be able to protect me. There was one impossible situation that neither of us knew how to handle or come back from, but we should’ve worked together to find a path through.

I needed you to show me you loved me.

I needed you to be present over the summer to help me work through.

I needed to be able to be around someone who felt more like home than being back home ever could. And you did, but it was only you.

Everything I said afterwards was to try to reconnect with you after that summer. I didn’t realize it until much later. That losing myself had the chance of me losing you too even if you weren’t gone. I willed a separation and that was what happened with us. I fought because I was fighting for a past version of myself more so than fighting with you. Most of the fights we had were about the past, not about our personalities.

I’d say we became a movie, but that would be a lie. We became a mystery in a relationship that was in every way full of love, yet broken down by impossibilities. In the last few months, we stopped talking. In the last few days, you stopped touching me. And in the final day, the morning before we ended, you told me you loved me, and it felt like you never did. We got used to being around each other, but never with each other and maybe that was our relationship. Presence in each other’s lives, loving as deeply as I thought I could, but we were silent and I couldn’t be, not with you, my love.

Cap got his shield back from Tony Stark and their friendship was rebuilt in minutes, but time is another thing we have no control over. Time will eat you up inside if you let it. It will tear you apart waiting for your life to start or for this love to fall away, in time. I guess time is helpful, but I never gave you yours. Two weeks, two months, four months, a year, I love you. Chronos and I will be checking the time every day. 5 o’clock I’d walk over to your apartment. 8 o’clock dinner. 5 o’clock I’m alone in my apartment 8 o’clock sorry I’m not hungry anymore. This love belongs to time now in ways it never belonged to us, and I will ask Captain America to avenge us as we fall away once again. After the Endgame (2019), Captain America is also one of the fallen.

We never got our Endgame (2019).


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