As promised, here is the first installment of the newly revised and edited Devious Origins. Give it a read, and don’t be afraid to provide feedback as comments to this post.
“I’m a superhero,” she declared in between bites of her chicken salad sandwich. The words were delivered as casually as one might comment on the weather.
“A superhero…” I repeated, an unspoken question hanging in the silence that followed.
“Yeah. You asked what classes I’m in, but I’m not actually a student here. I tried the college thing for a while, but it just wasn’t me. Did retail for a bit but couldn’t stick with it… pimping overpriced plastic crap to the consumer masses… it was damaging my soul. I quit and just drifted for a while. Then I really took a hard look at myself, what I wanted out of life, the mark I wanted to make. One day it all just snapped into focus. Superhero.”
“There are openings for that kind of work?” I asked, my amusement clearly showing. I was more than willing to play along with the gag.
“Oh it’s definitely an under-served market, but you won’t find any posting for it on craigslist. This is totally a freelance sort of gig.” She finished the last of her sandwich and turned her attention to her papaya and wheat grass smoothie. She took a long slurp and continued. “I actually made a list. All the things my dream job would have. Excitement. Adventure. The chance to do something big. Important. The chance to help people. I thought about all sorts of possibilities, but only one really seemed to fit. Superhero.”
I chased the last of my three bean salad around my plate, finally getting it onto the plastic fork. I gazed across the table at her while I finished eating. She showed no sign she was joking. She either believed what she was saying or was one hell of an actress.
My eyes wandered around the Student Union, taking in the varied patrons. Some were obviously studying. Others were having lunch. Some appeared to be socializing, just chatting and laughing. A typical collection of university students engaged in the usual activities. No one really standing out. Everything normal.
My eyes found their way back to my companion.
She seemed normal enough as well, at least at first glance. The right age to be in college. Dressed with an individualistic flare that made me assume she was an art student, maybe a theater major. Her short dark hair had a few purple streaks dyed into it and some small feathers woven into it near her left ear. She wore tennis shoes, a motorcycle jacket, and cut-off jeans over black tights. On her hands she wore leather gloves with the fingers cut off. She carried a small backpack with a much larger skateboard strapped to it. She was the most interesting person in the room, though not so unusual that she didn’t fit in to the wide spectrum of college persona.
I admit I was surprised when she asked to sit at my table, me being rather the opposite of the flamboyant art student I imagined her to be, but then the Union was close to full at the moment, so it was probably just the three empty seats at my table that drew her here. Making smalltalk with strangers has never been a great skill of mine, but she seemed surprisingly easy to talk to. Nevertheless, I now found myself at a loss for words. What do you say to someone who has just claimed to be a superhero?
My companion noisily slurped the last of her smoothie and finally broke the verbal deadlock.
“Well, I have to get going,” she said, “thanks for letting me sit here.”
“No problem,” I replied, then realized the one and only female who had shown any interest in talking to me since I started college was about to walk out of my life as quickly as she had entered it. “Um… I would love hear more about this whole superhero thing… do you… like… have a phone number?”
She smiled. It was not one of those ‘Oh I am so glad he asked for my number’ sort of smiles, more like an ‘Oh god he is so clumsy at this sort of thing I think I might burst into laughter’ sort of smile.
“Must we really fall into such tired gender roles?” she answered. “What if I want to ask for your number instead?”
My brain seemed to freeze up. No words came. Instead I simply opened up one of my notebooks, tore off a section of paper, and wrote my name and number on it. She smiled as I handed it to her. It was a less amused smile, more genuinely warm.
“Thanks… and welcome to the team,” she exclaimed, then slung her backpack on her back, turned, and headed for the door. I sat looking at the door for several minutes after she left.
It finally occurred to me that I had never learned her name.
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