How the story goes (how the story always goes): a girl’s walking home from a bar at night, alone. The creepy dude follows. They spoke for five minutes and she said, thank you for the offer, but I don’t want the drink. Sorry you bought it for nothing. Sorry about that. Sorry. She goes a couple of blocks uncomfortably aware of how loud her heels are on the surface of the sidewalk. There’s a shadow among the shadows, pausing when she pauses, moving when she moves.
Diana is in New York and she hates New York. She hates Woody Allen and the endless phallic high-rises; she hates the smell of rotting garbage and the rats. When she steps out of the darkness and wields her lasso of truth and justice, the creeper can’t believe it. Genuinely can’t, can’t encompass this shining avenger, has never been brought to his knees by power, never knew the first damn place to look for it. And then he’s cringing and babbling about his tragic childhood, and he still has the lasso wrapped around him so he probably did have a tragic childhood and Diana looks down at him and thinks: you’re getting filth on my boots. You are the filth on my boots. When he runs for it she doesn’t bother chasing.
She calls an Uber for the girl off her own phone so it’s paid for. While they’re waiting the girl says her name is Sandy and she’s so grateful, she can’t believe it, her sister will be so jealous, they both had all the action figures.
Diana says, “All I want is for you to get home safe.”
“Diana, do you think you might be depressed?” asks her therapist, sitting forwards with her head balanced on her clasped hands.
She does therapy in English, but the day-to-day things of life in French. She was in New York, à L’Organisation des Nations unies, because for Diana of Themiscyra that's what day-to-day looks like: advocacy, working parties, and the endless battle to eradicate violence against women. And with them, the ephemera: the strawmen, the idiot requests for comment. They grabbed her on the steps of the Louvre pyramid today and asked her about the YouTube sensation du jour, some TV talent contest that ended with the eight-year-old winner chirping La Marseillaise, complete with the call to arms and the soaking of the fields of France with the blood of her enemies. Diana watched the clip, remembered the girl in New York and thought: soak your fields with the blood of your enemies, baby girl, all the days and years of your life, and it will come to a drop in the bucket of our final reckoning.
Out loud, she said something to the Buzzfeed reporter about cultural relativism and a century’s worth of history. National anthems are written for the moment of revolution, but times change and people with them. They made a gif of her smile.
“Maybe,” she tells her therapist, who's looking at her with distant, ethereal concern. Some things never change. "I don't know."
And she doesn't think so, but then she goes to London to open an exhibition on the impact of military propaganda and winds up crying on the pavement. The opening is being held at the British Library, which is warm and welcoming though the city is slate-grey with winter and as cheerless as it was a hundred years earlier. Diana does a talk on wartime mythmaking, against the background of all the posters and flyers that bear her own image, usually in full Amazon regalia with sword and shield, and she wears the lasso while she does it. A gimmick, but a worthy one; Diana believes wholeheartedly that truth is the first casualty of war. The talk is well-received, a fun counterpoint to the more typical dulce et decorum est, and she hurries across the courtyard towards the station with her hood pulled down against the wind, and cries as though something fundamental to her is breaking.
"You could look where you're going," snaps a voice, and then in another tone: "Oh, sweetheart, it's okay."
The girl – of course it's a girl, maybe seventeen, with a giant orange flower clipped in her hair – pulls Diana back beneath the awning, still on the pavement but out of the rain.
“If it’s a man, he’s a shit,” the girl says. “Christ, men are shit, aren’t they? Not fit to kiss your pretty feet, whoever he is.”
Diana laughs, suddenly. “It’s not a man,” she says, and hiccups. “I, just. It’s everything.”
“I get that too. Mostly it’s my blood sugar.” She rummages in a giant bucket-shaped handbag and fishes out a chocolate energy bar. “Have this if you want.”
What Diana wants is to pick up this perfect beautiful precious girl and fly with her back to Themiscyra and consign this world to the ashes of its bloody century. But she takes a bite, and it does help.
On the South Bank, she gets waylaid again. This time it’s a group of friends out celebrating something, who ask her to take a photo of them and then realise in a rush who she is. They all want to take a selfie with her and they're all talking at once, about how excited they are and how they watched her on TV growing up and how desperately, tearfully honoured they are to meet her. One of the girls tells her that while she transitioned she kept a poster of Diana on her wall; another girl has a picture on her phone of herself dressed up as Diana for Hallowe'en; a third girl, the shyest of them, asks if it's true she speaks a lot of languages, and when Diana nods, tells her in Farsi about her thesis.
Diana shouldn't hand out her personal email address, but she does it anyway, and a day later at home in Paris she gets an email with hefty attachment. It's a political science thesis, an analysis of the effect of individual actors on the geopolitics of the Great War. There's a chapter about Diana's arrival on the Western Front, and the epigraph:
"I have glimpsed a darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. A choice each must make for themselves, something no hero will ever defeat."
She takes a moment to appreciate the hard work it will take, the background reading that might be necessary, for her to fully comprehend the depth and erudition of this young woman's scholarship. It will be such hard work, and she's so tired. She picks up the phone, to ask about her library privileges.