According to contemporary social myth, all it takes to be a hero is to be standing nearby when something bad happens. Given how often bad stuff seems to be happening, you and I are officially heroes.
If something bad hasn’t happened near you yet, fear not. It soon shall.
Lately, given my status as hero, I’ve been giving some thought as to what my super power might be, in that bad stuff has been happening to me for a long time, so it seems as though it ought to have made itself evident by now. I should have an inexplicable mysterious power, allowing me to accomplish amazing feats beyond the understanding of common men, like Spiderman, The Hulk, or Arsenio Hall.
Since we’re all heroes in this era of terror, I looked around at my fellow citizens, to see what kind of super powers others have been endowed with; what unique abilities and talents this time of stress and strain has borne.
I found a woman working in the customer service department at CitiBank who is bestowed with the amazing ability to keep any caller from finding the department that might be able to help them.
I discovered a man blessed with the unequaled power to appear at the front of any line he didn’t feel he needed to wait in.
And several people all appear to be sharing the talent to create a parking space in which to wait for their spouse in the red zone in front of Safeway where none of the rest of us could hope to get away with it.
I could sure use that one.
The more I thought about, the more I realized that I had, at various times, had and lost a series of super powers.
I used to be Fast Metabolism Boy, able to eat ice cream without having it go to my hips.
Once, I was Captain Fearless, beholding of the power to convince myself I was immortal. Not actually immortal, mind you. Just seventeen.
Unfortunately, those youthful super powers are fleeting, and unable to stand up to the evil Doctor Time.
I have, in the intervening years, developed a new and growing super power. My new super power is to make the people I care about go away.
For a while, I was Daddy Man, defender of the defenseless, larger than life, destroyer of under-bed monsters, maker of pancakes with funny faces on them.
Unfortunately, like Thor, like Pan, like Vulcan, like all heroes and Gods, our existence as Daddy Man depends on belief. When the worshipers find more mundane and secular objects for their affections, champions fade away like steam.
And I have been, on multiple occasions, Almost Boyfriend Man, good friend and confidant, cuddler and supporter, lover and dependable intimate, whose only threat is the dreaded Rejectionite.
Of course, along with each super power comes some kind of angst-filled irony; a sad estrangement from family and friends, or the need to carry on a life of lies to protect yourself and those around you from danger. Generally, a sad separation from the very society you are bound to protect. Superman can’t tell Lois who he really is. Spiderman must resign himself to loving that redheaded chick from afar. And Plastic Man must spend his time hanging out with the rest of the Fantastic Four, to whom, of course, he is simply the other lonely hero with no normal friends.
Almost Boyfriend Man avoids the dreaded Rejectionite by way of an uncanny ability to choose the exactly right woman at the exactly wrong time. Choosing the exactly wrong time gives Almost Boyfriend Man the opportunity to hang out with the exactly right woman, without fear of the dreaded Rejectionite. The dreaded Rejectionite, you see, is bound by the strict rules of Space-Time, and exists only in the exactly right time, when, if he had actually stumbled across the exactly right woman, he would open his lunchbox and find a pile of glowing stinking Rejectionite which would peel his skin like an orange. But never fear, Almost Boyfriend Man unflinchingly chooses the exactly wrong time, and spends his energy demonstrating what a great boyfriend he would be, were he a real boyfriend, and were this the exactly right time, creating healthy expectations and giving the exactly right woman all the information she needs to go out and find a real boyfriend.
Not exactly satisfying in the short term. But heroic in the sad, lonely, estranged from society like a guy who turns green when he’s pissed sense.
It’s been rewarding, being Almost Boyfriend Man. I’ve made many wonderful friends, and watched them leave for better and more satisfying lives which they all say they’d never have had the opportunity to enjoy had they not spent enough time with me to want to get away from me and start over. With any luck, the kids I’ve driven away from me will someday have the opportunity to say the same. They’re bound to realize how wrong they were sooner or later, after all.
But I find myself now hoping that the time for heroes is gone. I’ve had enough of difficult times catapulting me to heroism. It’s time to set aside the super powers, and try life as a regular mundane guy, a guy whose arms don’t stretch, whose eyes don’t shoot laser beams, whose focus is not the fear of the evil Doctor Time or the dreaded Rejectionite.
Or at least move on to a new and less isolationist super power.
I just want to be Mister Mundane. Able to avoid drama and angst with a single snore.
Oh, and a sidekick. Got to have a sidekick. Preferably, the exactly right sidekick.
Is that asking too much?
That’s it. That’s all I got.