“You seen her yet, Luci?”
“Fresh meat. Office pool.”
“No. Not yet.”
Fresh meat. That’s genuinely how the lads describe a new woman starting at work. Call me a coward but I’m not about to start correcting them, telling them she isn’t just meat, telling them that she’s a human being. I wouldn’t do it now and I certainly wouldn’t have done it back then, when I was eighteen. What would be the point? They are beasts. They won’t change, their opinions are formed. They work in a factory for a reason, because they can’t work anywhere else. It’s like Care in the Community for bigots, racists and borderline psychopaths. They have to go somewhere, so why not a place as grim as their point of view? Lock them in for eight or ten or twelve hours a day and give the sane people a bit of peace and quiet.
Bad Meat. Old Meat.
I’d been there two years and I’d got the idea, I’d learned fast. Factories are ugly places full of ugly people. If you don’t start out ugly you’ll eventually become ugly. The place changes you, the work changes you, the beasts change you.
I could feel myself changing.
The greyness was depressing, the only bright colours being those on the paper at the end of the presses and as soon as that colour appeared it was shoved on the back of a wagon and shipped out, precious as gold, not for the likes of us.
I kept working. Back then it was all film work, cutting negatives and building up images on sheets of acetate; rubylith, sellotape, scalpels and cigarette smoke. Red film filtered blood glow from light tables. A silent room of desks and nicotine-tinted strip lighting, cutting and slicing, measuring, splicing, waiting for the shift bell to ring and tell us to go to the pub.
Yes, I’d learned fast.
I was crouched over my work when the door opened and a blast of factory blew in, galloping machinery mixed with wolf whistles.
I looked up.
She walked like she was walking to a movie soundtrack, head held high and a half smile twitching at the corners of her mouth. She had a stack of papers tucked under her arm. She had a pen behind her ear. She wore knee high socks and a mini skirt that exposed six inches of naked, muscular thigh. She wore a high polish Dr Martin’s shoe. Her hair was cut in a high bob that revealed her long neck. She wore a small red mask around her hazel eyes and her short cape was bright red.
She walked with long strides that made her pert breasts bounce and I died with each step, completely overwhelmed by her. Something was happening in my chest that felt like a fistful of bubble wrap being steadily crushed.
I stopped breathing. Who needs air when she is there?
She delivered the papers to Soulless Boss’s grubby office, turned on her heel and walked to the door.
And turned to me and smiled.
And said, “Hi.”
And I said, “…”
And she said, “I just started this week. My name is Supergirl.”
And I said, “I’m Luci. Good to meet you, Supergirl.”
And she said, “Good to meet you too, Luci. See you around.”
And she smiled again and then she was gone.
And so was I.
I leant against my desk and tried to figure out what had just happened to me. I wasn’t a confident lad back then and I hadn’t had an awful lot of experience with women, but I knew the basics.
Saying ‘hi’ wasn’t a big deal. It was the basics. Why had I turned into a gibbering wreck?
Fuck me, did it only take, what, eleven seconds to fall in love?
I turned around. The other lads were staring, open mouthed. Supergirl had left quite an impact on the studio.
I carried on working, pretending to work, thinking about her.
After an interminable age the bell sounded at four and the day shift sloped off. I headed to the bus stop.
“Here, Luci! A few of us are going to the pub. You coming?”
“Nah. I’m off home.”
“Aye, to wank off over Supergirl!”
I got the bus into Leeds, wandered for a bit, then I went for a pint in Whitelock’s. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. She was the same age as me I’d discovered, only eighteen, but she was so cool and confident, so… strong.
I reckoned she’d spoken to me because I was young too. Everyone else in the factory were old men, or seemed that way. A grim hardness covered them like a callous, aged them, turned them grey like dead skin. I hadn’t gone grey yet, hadn’t developed a tough outer shell. I was still vulnerable. Maybe she could see that.
I sat huddled and anonymous amongst the other drinkers and smokers, unseen in the late afternoon light that turned to darkness amongst the damp coats and copper tables and age speckled mirrors, thinking about her, clutching my pint like flotsam.
I saw Supergirl every day. I made sure of that. She was a candle in a jail cell at midnight, a torch in an endless forest. Sometimes she walked in slow motion, it was one of her super powers. It let me see the flex in her muscular thighs, the flick of her hair, her bright even teeth as she laughed. I drank her. I breathed her. I took in every last detail of her.
She came into the studio every day and she was fresh flowers by a long neglected grave stone, bright amongst forgotten withered stems.
And she spoke to me. She spoke to me every day.
“Hey, Luci! How you doing?”
“I’m doing good, Supergirl. I like… I like your hair today. It’s… different.”
“Nah, I just washed it, that’s all. Thanks though!”
She didn’t have to talk to me every day but she did.
After a while Supergirl would hop onto my desk and sit, watching me work, talking to me. I learned to relax, pretend to relax, so I could actually hold proper conversations without dissolving completely. That was another of her super powers. She could make men dissolve by laughing. She was so beautiful when she laughed that men would turn into a fizzing, fluid mess, spreading slowly across the floor until she left, and then they would reconstruct over an hour or so. It played havoc with the work schedule but the men didn’t seem to mind.
When she sat on my desk, laughing and talking, I could see Soulless Boss from the corner of my eye, peeping through the buckled and dusty venetian blinds that covered the windows of his shitty little office. He hated Supergirl talking to me. He hated her youth, her good looks, her super powers. But Soulless Boss was powerless against Supergirl. He couldn’t compete. How could a grey old man fight a bright, powerful young woman? It was no contest. So she’d sit on my desk and laugh and I’d laugh too and Soulless Boss would crouch in the corner and frown like a spider and it was all just too good.
Sometimes, when Supergirl laughed, she would rock back slightly and close her eyes.
And she would open her legs.
I don’t think she knew she did it, but she did it all the same.
Laugh. Rock back. Eyes closed. Legs open.
Each time she did that, for a brief moment I could see more than just six inches of naked, muscular thigh.
Bare, strong legs running all the way up to her white cotton panties, always white cotton, bright and white and wonderful.
The first time Supergirl did it I died. Luckily the power of the panties could resuscitate a dead man almost immediately but the side effect was that his mouth would be temporarily useless, like someone had crammed a handful of cat litter in there.
She didn’t seem to mind that I’d become a croaking, red faced mess. I think she knew her super powers sometimes affected people in different ways so she was used to seeing men tongue tied and flushed. She just laughed, hopped off my desk and continued her rounds while I tried to pour coffee into my narcoleptic mouth.
I kept it secret how strongly I felt about her.
I didn’t tell another living soul.
The beasts I worked with wouldn’t have understood, they were too far gone. She was Meat to them, something to be devoured, but how could they possibly devour something so bright and wonderful, something so powerful, so… super?
They didn’t know.
They didn’t understand.
So I watched her.
Listened to her voice, understood her bone structure, saw how a certain tilt of the jaw transformed her into sculpture, heard how her laughter was rain on the seashore, a sound only heard by those who might listen.
She changed me.
Made me bolder.
I’d never asked a girl out in my life, but wait, that’s a lie. I’d asked out a girl that I’d fancied from afar at school, a girl that a so-called mate had said fancied me too, so I asked her out and she’d told me to piss off and I’d died a bit to the laughter of that cunt of a so-called mate and his actual friends.
But it was different now.
All that was behind me. I was someone new, someone who made Supergirl laugh, someone who had conversations with a beautiful young woman with super powers, someone who got a glimpse of her crisp cotton panties on a regular basis.
I was Someone now. I had become Somebody.
I waited until she came for a chat. She sat and talked about her day, what her plans were for the weekend, how she’d finally managed to jump over a house with a single leap. That sort of thing. I got a really good look at her panties that day and I noticed her eyes were only half closed and that, perhaps, she actually knew I was looking.
This emboldened me.
She left the studio with a wave.
I said to the lads, “I’m off for a coffee. Who wants one?”
I took the order and ran after Supergirl.
I didn’t have to run fast.
She was walking in slow motion.
Those long, strong legs striding out, the roll of her round, powerful buttocks under the short, black, wool skirt, her cape waving gracefully in the imagined breeze. I tried my damnedest to avoid Cat Litter Mouth, survived potential death. I kept it together.
She turned like she knew I’d been following her, grinned wolfishly and raised an eyebrow.
The Laserbeam Raised Eyebrow burned a hole in the wall next to me. A close shave. I cleared my throat.
“Listen… erm… you said you were busy at the… you know… weekend… but are you free Thursday? I mean… you know… tomorrow? Because if you were, I was kind of wondering, you know… if you might…”
“I’d love to go for a drink with you, Luci. What time?”
She smiled. It caught me right on the chin. I staggered back but recovered well.
I said, “Eight o’clock? Meet you outside the bus station? I don’t drive, you see, sorry, but…”
She smiled. “Eight is good. I’ll be there. You want my number?”
Yes, I wanted it more than anything else.
I said, “Ok.”
She took the pen from behind her ear and wrote her number on a yellow Post It.
She handed it to me and I realised the Post It had become gold leaf.
I said, “Impressive!”
She winked. “No. Just Super.”
The wink got me.
I dissolved immediately and it took me a good hour to reconstruct myself and fetch the coffees. The lads were not best pleased but I couldn’t give a shit.
I was going on a date.
She was there.
Of course she was.
Wide legged stance, hands on hips, looking upwards to middle distance in a heroic kind of way.
I was huddled in my black Cromby.
It was quite nippy.
I can’t remember much about the date, if I’m honest. It was a fairly tame affair. I took her for drinks in a nice little bar beside Leeds City Varieties. You get a good mix there and we fitted in amongst people who don’t really fit in. She drank halves of lager and lime. I don’t know what other super heroes drink but I suppose it’s as good a drink as any.
I know we talked a lot. I was really trying and she was easy to talk to, but looking back now I wondered if the date might have been a little, well, dull. It just wasn’t very imaginative. But where do you take Supergirl for a first date? A blazing building? An impending train crash? Jesus, I was only eighteen. I couldn’t take her to flash restaurant, not on my wage. I did my best.
At eleven I walked her to the bus station and saw her onto her bus and we exchanged a small kiss. It felt great, I won’t lie, but there was slight air of disappointment. I saw her bus pull out and she cleared the condensation from the glass with the edge of her cape and she gave a small wave as the bus shuddered away in a cloud of blue diesel.
I waved back until the bus had gone.
I’d missed my own bus, but I didn’t mind.
I set off walking.
I planned a second date, something that would wow her.
An evening showing at the art gallery, maybe, followed by an early bird menu at that Italian on The Headrow. Maybe the cinema, nothing mainstream. I wanted her to think I was cool, sensitive, not like the beasts at the factory. I wanted her to realise I was there by mistake, I wasn’t just another grey lump grinding out the years in the darkness. I wanted her to be as impressed by me as I was impressed by her.
But the next day at work I didn’t see Supergirl.
I didn’t want to say anything, let anyone know that we’d been on a date. The questions and insinuations would have been awful.
I kept my eyes open, my mouth shut.
The day lasted for two years, three months and five days.
I thought this might have been Supergirl’s work, stretching out time to an agonizing length, but I realised that it was my own doing. I seemed to have powers of my own.
After all that time the four o’clock bell finally rang. I felt like an old man.
It was Friday so the lads were off to the pub, just like they went on all the other days of the week.
I joined them for a pint, not really wanting to go but wanting to know.
I listened in on their conversation.
There was the usual bullshit, griping about bosses and how they would have done things differently if they’d been in charge.
Dogsbody took a big pull on his pint and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “Here, what about Supergirl then? Bit of a shock.”
I felt sick. What the fuck had happened?
I said, “What the fuck has happened?”
Dogsbody looked at me. “Didn’t you hear? She got binned. Sacked. She came in this morning, they gave her her cards and told her to go.”
My glass nearly fell from my hand. I nearly went over backwards on my barstool. I held it together, but only just.
I said, “Why? Why did they sack her? What did she do?”
Dogsbody laughed. “It’s what she didn’t do that were the problem, Luci! She was SHIT at her job. She just spent all day wandering around the place, talking to the lads, right under the gaffers noses! Nowt were getting done while she were around! Enough were enough. Soulless Boss got together with Cardboard Supervisor and they put in a formal complaint to her boss. She didn’t stand a chance. Shame though. She were a lovely lass.”
The grey old men had won then. I stared into my glass. “Yeah. She was. Lovely.”
Jock took a drink. “Yeah. She were a bonny thing. Brightened up the place.”
Disco Stu shook his head. “Yeah, it’s rotten, sacking a nice girl like that. Set of bastards.”
Malkie the Driver agreed. “There were way worse than her. It’s cos she were young, that’s all.”
Smiffy said, “She had nice hair. I liked her hair. She’d alway got time to chat an’ I liked her hair.”
I said, “I liked her hair too.”
Stan the Warehouse man said, “Great legs on the lass. Can’t go without sayin’.”
There was a loud agreement. She did have great legs. Legs I wouldn’t see at work every day anymore. I felt a dull pain in my chest.
I said, “Yeah, great legs…”
Smiffy said, “I’m really gonna miss the handjobs most.”
Dogsbody said, “That’s true enough! She really knew how to wank a cock, that lass.”
I said, “Yeah, lovely hands… wait, what??”
“Handjobs,” repeated Smiffy. “She were bloody awesome at handjobs. All the lads say the same. I’ve never been wanked off by better!”
“Me neither,” said Malkie the Driver. “Best tug I’ve ever had and I usually get wanked off by full time professionals.”
Disco Stu said, “My ex-wife could really yank a cock but she pales into insignificance next to that young lass’s wrist action. Beautiful work. A proper gift!”
The lads all agreed and supped their beer.
I was stunned.
I whispered, “Has she wanked everyone off then?”
Yes, they replied. She’d wanked everyone off.
Dogsbody said, “She once wanked me and Stan off at the same time, in the back of his Ford Sierra. It were like Ski Sunday.”
“Ski Sunday?” I mumbled. “I… I don’t understand…”
“You know!” Dogsbody mimed someone holding two ski poles, pushing and pulling back and forth on either side.
Everyone laughed. Hurr Hurr Hurr.
Stan said, “You still got her knickers, Dogsbody?”
Dogsbody nodded. He produced a sandwich bag from his pocket. Inside was a pair of crisp, white, cotton panties. He opened the bag and gently inhaled.
Everyone laughed. Hurr Hurr Hurr.
I didn’t laugh.
Jock said, “You look a bit green, lad. You alright?”
I said, “I’m fine. Got to go.”
I left, walked out into the grey drizzle and the grey dusk, the grey traffic of the grey North.
I found a telephone box and shut myself in with the stink of men’s piss. I found the Post It note folded in my wallet and took it out, but it was no longer gold and the numbers had run together where I dropped wet beer change in there.
I screwed it up and threw it on the floor.
The girl I had idolised had wanked off an entire factory.
Only a super hero could manage that but I was not impressed.
Pretty far from it, to be honest.
Why did she do it? Why would a girl like that do something like that? Shit, I know I shouldn’t judge, but even after all these years it still bemuses me.
Why wank off absolutely everyone?
Everyone except me.
Did that make me special?
Was it her way of showing real affection, not wanking me off?
I’ve still no idea.
I stood in the telephone box a while longer and let the grey wash over me, felt the extra layer of tough, numb skin gradually cover my body. I felt a sudden rush of jealousy that I’d not been wanked off, that I’d spent fifteen quid on lager and fucking lime and walked seven miles home without getting tugged off behind the bus station.
Fuck it, I thought.
Fuck her, fuck them, fuck everyone.
I don’t need anyone.
I went home and wanked myself off.