The door swings inward, and the man I know only as Superman shambles in, doffing his Hannah Montana cap at the nearest cashier. “Hello, darling; I like your hair today,” he says, a greeting he offers to any number of passing women on a daily basis. I’ve learnt to just smile and thank him; he doesn’t mean anything by it.
His black facial hair is carefully trimmed today, no pervasive smells cling to his raggedy Superman costume or the scruffy sneakers on his feet. Someone at home must have convinced him to shower; though there is never any parent or carer present whenever he traipses about the local area.
As I continue tidying shelves, I watch as he wanders over to the books and videos; secondhand media seems to be a favourite of his, and each time he visits, this is always his first stop. He talks to himself, then to others as he pulls out Power Rangers and Pokemon videos, tucking them into his wheelie basket.
A small child approaches the wall of videos as Superman browses, picking out a Pokemon video. Seeing this, Superman turns and says, “That’s Ash. Do you know what he says? ‘Pikachu, I choose you!’ Do you like Pikachu? Charizard is my favourite – he breathes fire. Like a dragon.” He grins, eyes unfocused and teeth crooked and yellow – but the child he has spoken to sees a kindred spirit and gabbles excitedly about Pokemon before his mother hustles him away, glancing nervously at the colourful figure of Superman, with his costume, his Hannah Montana hat, pirate sword belted to his skinny waist.
Unfazed, Superman moves on, shuffling lopsidedly towards the secondhand housewares, picking up toy trucks and making engine sounds to the delight of the children standing nearby, sorting through the cameras and other small electrical items before approaching me as I stand by a cart of new stock to be added to the shelves.
“Rowr – I like the colour of your hair today, miss,” he begins, and I smile indulgently. Despite facing in my general direction, his eyes are crossed and unfocused as he speaks, sweeping his cap off his head in a slight bow. “I need a camera for some photos I’m taking tomorrow, but this one is broken. See? The cap where – where the batteries go, it’s gone! That’s a bit silly – the batteries won’t work now. Do you know what size batteries I need for this one? This one is silver, it matches my pirate sword, see? Arrrrr! You land lubbers!”
Struggling to follow along with his monologue, and uncertain where to look since his eyes aren’t focused on me, I smile and take the broken camera, before looking at the other one in his hand. “Looks like AA batteries to me, just two of them. You’ll need some film too, don’t forget. Have you seen the Bumblebee helmet on the shelf, today? It makes sounds and everything; here, let me show you.”
Leading him back over to the toy shelves, I let him pick up the Transformers helmet and press the buttons, before saying goodbye and returning to work.
Half an hour later, I spot him at the register, counting out silver coins to the long-suffering cashier. She is patiently trying to tell him he doesn’t have enough money for the bag of toys, the Power Rangers videos and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles backpack. Eventually, she gives up, taking his pile of silver and gold coins and giving him a receipt in return. He gathers his treasures and, curling a flirty wave in her direction, shuffles to the door, holding it for a departing woman before disappearing to wherever his daily adventures were taking him next.