Natural Disasters, Hidden Pain, and What Oliver Queen Does When No One Is Watching

[Art by MissMert]

Natural disasters are exciting. Whether hurricane, blizzard, or early tornado watch, when the Weather Channel calls it out we all embrace the terror, Instagramming pictures of our survival kits – books, games, drinks – and organizing our Netflix queues. Deep down we all hope it’s record-breaking because we love talking about it and we’re secretly disappointed when it falls short of expectations. But how does Team Arrow handle being trapped inside?

Oliver Queen

The stubborn, serious hero, trapped in his apartment room, peeks out the door to see if Thea’s home as he slowly shuts it closed. He turns off the lights, which makes him notice the glow from the city still sneaking in through the window. Ollie walks to the blinds in his sister’s apartment and peers into the record-breaking storm covering the city – his city – before twisting the lever to close them. It’s dark now, and he’s alone, and Thea won’t be home for hours. He lifts his mattress – he couldn’t keep it on his computer, Felicity’s too good – and Oliver Queen pulls the VHS box set of Batman.

He takes of his shirt and runs to the closet. He’s free now, oh so free! Batman paraphernalia pours out when he opens the door. Ollie grabs his favorite mask – a long-eared one he made on Lian Lu with tar and airplane wreckage while Slade and Shado slept – and lowers it onto his face. He watches all of them, even Batman and Robinespecially Batman and Robin! “Roy!” he says to the silence. “Get your motorcycle, we have to stop Freeze!”

9 hours later he’s sweaty from practicing his moves. He’s on The Dark Knight Rises now, having smoked 3 packs of cigarettes to practice his Christian Bale. He speaks into a glass vase to do Bane’s voice. “Let’s not stand on ceremony here, Green Arrow. Or should I say, Oliver Queen!” He gasps. “Laurel, you minx!” He punches the pillows he tied together with twine and until he falls asleep with dreams of being Batman in his head.

Felicity Smoak

“23… 24…. 25….” she counts the sit-ups and shakes the stray hairs that keep falling into her glasses. On the count of 30 she collapses on her back, her stomach rising and falling, capturing precious air. Felicity rolls to her side and pulls herself up using the arm of the sofa before pulling out her ponytail. She should take a shower, but honestly, there’s a blizzard outside and zero-percent probability of guests. She weighs showering as an option and chooses to leave that decision for future-Felicity. For now, she has work to do.

Felicity logs into her account using level-3 aerographic encryption. 27 new messages – a new record considering she’d just logged in earlier that morning.

“Dat dress, doe” –Joel, Central City, 53 miles away

“God bless you, mami” –Jorge, Starling City, The Glades, 3.8 miles away

“u lk btter wit no glases. u shud try lasik, u kno? u still hot tho… ramen?” –Kevin, Starling City, Downtown, 0.2 miles away

The messages never bother her. These messages are her job. The hard drive failure on Joel’s MacBook a month ago? Felicity Smoak. Credit card charges that made Jorge spend his weekend contesting 300 bottles of Thousand Island dressing? Felicity Smoak. One offensive tweet got Kevin signed up for one of the CD membership clubs from the 90s, and he still hasn’t learned. He will, though. There’s more than one type of vigilante, and patriarchy has long failed this city.

This is her sanctuary. Her pictures are hardly recognizable: girls’ night out with Thea, selfies in hundreds of dresses she bought but never wore in public, glamour shots on the beach with a Guatemalan photographer she paid in Bit Coin. Her mother would be so proud if she ever thought to notice her daughter in Beyonce’s 7/11. She’d been a dancer since she was 4… does Oliver even know that? “He never asked,” she says aloud to herself. They’d actually be surprised if they knew their sweet, nerdy Felicity is the web’s most sought-after bachelorette, whose profile once crashed Instagram when their servers couldn’t handle her message load. She went ahead and fixed that one herself before the platform even noticed, no thanks to Zuckerberg. She minimized her browser where the background showed a picture of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s On the Run Tour. “This could’ve been us, but you playing.”

A new message alert pops up. She pulls up a new account.

Roy Harper

The mannequin nearly fell as Roy pulled his costume from its stand. Mask, on. Gloves, on. Jacked, zipped. This would be the ultimate test of his skills. He’d been waiting for months, disappointed in what was supposed to be a historic winter, but now it’s here: he was an artist, and winter storm Juno is his muse. He would parkour every snowflake.

The action began once he kicked down the door. Swoosh! A gust of wind brought a fierce flurry of snow hitting him in the face. He flipped sideways! He dashed into the street and propelled himself off a parked car, flipping forward and sticking the landing. He ran to a light pole, jumping and flinging himself into a building before climbing the gutter drain and diving back down to the ground below. From their apartment, a family of 4 looked out their window at the figure in red running through the streets.

“Should we call the police?” a woman asked, concerned.

“Call the police, honey. This guy’s not right. Go inside!” the man yelled from the window. “It’s a storm, you should be indoors!”

But Roy Harper knew danger.

He jumped! He landed! And he jumped again. But then, as he landed, Roy slipped on a patch of ice and grabbed his ankle as he fell to the ground.

“Oh, no!” the woman gasped.

“Stay inside, honey. I’m going to get help.”

“No,” Roy said through gritted teeth. He was covered in snow, but it wouldn’t stop him – what if these were real obstacles? What if they were daggers? He needed to save lives! “No!” he yelled. “I can do this! I have to do this.”

He dug his knuckles into the snow as he pushed himself back up. He flipped again.

John Diggle

John looks down as his daughter as she lay in her crib, sound asleep. “You’re beautiful,” he says to her. Lyla is on a mission in Indonesia for A.R.G.U.S., and he stayed home to ride the blizzard with his bundle of joy. “I could stare at you for hours.” He walks to the kitchen to recycle his fourth beer bottle, but stops short when he passes by the living room. He should check reports of the storm, so he grabs the remote and flips through the DirecTV guide to find the Weather Channel. Up, up, up, he presses the button repeatedly looking for the station no one memorizes, until he stops. There’s a marathon of his favorite show. A show he grew up with, before the Special Forces, before jumping out of moving vehicles and bullets blazing by. A show that reminded him of his step team, his high-top fade, and his burger joint hangout before all the white people came into his life.

One episode wouldn’t hurt.

“I know my par-ruhnts love me! Stand BEHIIIND ME COME WHAT MAY, urmmm,” He was drunker than he thought, but it felt so good. For a brother surrounded by no other people of color, nothing could feel better than the feelings from A Different World. He tried watching with Lyla, but she didn’t understand. She said it was “okay,” and said Whitley Gilbert was annoying.

“She’s supposed to be annoying,” he tried to explain to her, but he gave up trying when she asked if Freddie was white.

On his fifth beer Diggle found his letter jacket from college. On his sixth, he made flip-ups out of two pair of sunglasses. He began to cry at one point, sitting slouched on the ground, trying to glue on the rat-tail he made of twine. “If you dish iiiiiit, we can take it,” he sobbed. Lyla came home early from her mission to see the apartment in disarray.

“What happened, baby? Are you alright?” she asked, helping him smear the tears from his eyes.

“I’m okay, baby. I’m okay,” he said. “How do you feel about visiting Reggie and Darryl? You know, my old friends from college.”

Thea Queen

Swinging her katana high, followed by a heel kick to the chest and a low left-hand block, Thea quickly turns to the second man trying to attack her in what he must think is her blind spot. She slowly kicks him backwards off the sword she plunged into his abdomen. Snow whirls around her and as far as the eye can see, and 6 swordsmen lay on the ground in their blood, turning the white to pink as the snow collects and covers the black of their uniforms.

“This was supposed to be a training exercise.” Malcolm Merlin walks towards her through the fog of the wind and snow.

“You told me not to hold back.” Thea replies with a smirk.

“That’s my girl,” Merlin pulls a crossbow and fires an arrow at his daughter before the last word leaves his mouth. She strikes it down with her sword and runs towards her dad. Blizzard or no blizzard, this is a training day for the Merlin family. They once fought over an active volcano in Vanuatu, and that was her birthday. When a cinder landed on her arm and burned her skin, her dad told her to blow out the candle, so this – a blizzard on a Tuesday – wasn’t even worth covering her midriff.

“You continue to improve, Thea.” Malcolm says after their bout ends in a tie. She looks from the rooftop towards her distant apartment and the wind clears for a moment for her to see Oliver through a crack in the blinds, speaking into a glass vase.

“Thanks, dad.”

Laurel Lance

Laurel watches Girls on HBOGO and continues to be awful.

Are you following Black Nerd Problems on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or Google+?


  • Jordan Calhoun is a writer in New York City. His forthcoming debut book "Piccolo Is Black" is a celebration of the common adaptations we made while non-diverse pop culture helped us form identities. He holds a B.A. in Sociology and Criminal Justice, B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Japanese, and an M.P.A. in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy. He might solve a mystery, or rewrite history. Find him on Instagram and Twitter @JordanMCalhoun

  • Show Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *