the greatest american hero

Rita Maria Martinez
Content Warnings
"Life was a comedy of errors the year after surgery..."
Dec 28, 2020 9:51 PM

Life was a comedy of errors the year after surgery.

Maintaining a charged neurostimulator implant a magic trick

I often bungled. The black belt with a built-in pouch

for housing the disc-shaped charger was clumsy

and originally designed for the waist, a sort of fanny pack

for spinal surgery patients who also use stims for pain.

My programmer instructed I insert the charging disc

in the pouch and slide the belt over my shoulder

to charge the stim battery, but that stubborn sling rarely

stayed put and the inevitable wailing beep-beep-beep

occurred, the charger an inconsolable robotic baby

undergoing separation anxiety when contact with my skin

was severed. The beloved adhesive pads that secure the whole

shebang didn’t exist yet. This pre-sticky pad phase reminds me

of sanitary napkins from the prehistoric days of feminine hygiene.

As a kid I’d read about the belt, latches, and maneuvers

needed to secure maxi-pads as described in Judy Blume’s novel

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret? and thought the entire

process as ludicrous as the fanny pack rigmarole. Evenings

I positioned the disc near my shoulder sans sling and slept face up.

Certain mornings that damn disc appeared on the floor or hidden

in sheets like an Easter egg. Other days it was miraculously in place,

but I’d fallen asleep before hitting the magic button

and woken with zero bars and a whopper of a headache

that had formed during sleep. Then I’d either laugh, curse, or sigh.

These tech failures reminded me of episodes of The Greatest American Hero

and to be honest, I always kind of hated that guy, considered him a lower

life-form among superheroes as he crashed into trees or cars.

After several seasons, he still hadn’t mastered the art

of flying and landing with a modicum of dignity,

the suit’s instruction manual always lost or missing

like the problematic disc my spouse often helped find

in addition to misplaced eye- and sunglasses. Sometimes

I wonder how he puts up with me, much like I wonder why

the Greatest American Hero’s intelligent and attractive girlfriend

Pam Davidson was into him. Would you trust the Greatest American Hero

with a condom? If pickings are slim, I’d rather dance

the horizontal mambo with the Six Million Dollar Man.

Rita Maria Martinez loves all things Jane Eyre. Her poetry collection—The Jane and Bertha in Me (Kelsay Books)—is inspired by Charlotte Brontë's classic novel. Martinez's work appears in publications like The Notre Dame Review, Ploughshares, and The Best American Poetry Blog. Her poetry also appears in the textbook Three Genres: The Writing of Fiction/Literary Nonfiction, Poetry and Drama and in the anthology Caña Quemada: Contemporary Cuban Poetry in English and Spanish. Martinez's recent poetry raises awareness about the challenges and triumphs inherent in navigating life with chronic daily headache (CDH) and migraine. Visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @cubanbronteite.