Friday, November 17, 2006

Dealing With It

I'm embarrassed to say it’s my mom who wants me to go into crime-fighting. I don’t think what I have is even technically a "gift," but she just keeps pounding away at me ever since I got laid off.
What started as subtle clippings left on my bed ("Crime Rates Soar!” and “Police Chief Baffled Again!") evolved into a high-pitched campaign when The Caped Vapor’s invisible crime spree began.
“The city needs you! Fighting him is your destiny!" she‘d volley over the permanent panic of Channel 4 News.
"Argh, Ma, give it a rest" I’d lob back from my dent in the couch.
But the idea itched me a little. Or scratched my itch maybe. It is odd how perfectly adverse our abilities are. Before The Caped Vapor appeared on the scene I considered my "skill" to be sort of a curse. Picture this - you're in a crowded elevator, someone lets one rip, and you alone can clearly see the green fog swimming out of the heart-shaped butt of the leggy blonde in the corner. Is that cool? Or would you prefer to not have the God-given ability to see any kind of gas as a tangible colored word bubble?!
I’ve kept my power a secret for 26 years out of embarrassment… or maybe just because it always seemed like a completely worthless talent. I’ve never even told Vera, my girlfriend of three years. My mom discovered it when I was four years old and I inadvertently alerted her to the monoxide leak in our basement. She’s hoarded that knowledge like a winning lottery ticket ever since.
But eventually I started thinking Mom was right. When she made me the full bodysuit that was somehow both purple and flattering (though the weird logo on the chest that I think is supposed to be a nose but more closely resembles a penis is not going to work), I kind of went for it.
Little things at first –making the workplace safe from fumes for the common folk, sniffing out some toxic waste dumping hoodlums, and the inevitable monoxide poison prevention, making a little name for myself in the process (Mom and I argued for three days over what was to be my superhero name – she didn’t think “Gaseous Clay” was very funny, and whinnied, “Finally we can make a name for this family! Why don’t you have any respect for your fatherrrrr” until I accepted the bland and confusing moniker “The 7th Sense”).
Meanwhile The Caped Vapor had been exterminating large crowds of people with untraceable chemical cocktails, and, as he’s been doing this primarily in large outdoor settings, the police are completely unable to get the jump on him.
“That’s where you come in,” says Mom. She’s convinced that he’ll strike again this evening at the big game at Central High. The entire town will be there, and The Caped Vapor’s made public several not very cryptic messages regarding his disdain for high school sports. But the whole scenario she’s laid out for me (complete with “floor plans” that look like they were drawn with boxing gloves on) is, truthfully, at the back of my mind. I’m just a frazzled mess, lying here in my room with this purple suit half on. I can’t get motivated about this whole mass annihilation thing right now because stuff with Vera has reached a standoff.
So, ok, here it is. To be frank, Vera is what you’d call a “gassy lass.” Normally, with a relationship as developed as ours, this wouldn’t be an issue. We’ve showered together. She’s held my head while I vomited out many a Friday night. During climax I’ve heard her foghorn every possible obscenity she can conjure up. Hell, I passed gas myself on her naked thigh two nights ago (not on purpose). And yet, she would rather be drawn and quartered than admit to a single vaporous emission. You laugh, but this morning she left my house in tears after a very heated exchange that all began with her insisting (for the millionth time) that the foul stench in her vicinity was the work of Ted Koppel. Thing is, I feed Ted Koppel the $50 superhealthy dog food, and he’s nowhere near the flatulent age yet. Oh, and plus there’s the fact that I CAN SEE THE GREEN GAS SNAKES COMING FROM HER ASS WHEN IT HAPPENS BECAUSE I’M A FRICKIN SUPERHERO. I just don’t understand why she’s denied it so childishly! It’s not like I’d love her any less. Truthfully, I think it’s kind of cute (though I always avert my eyes from the green snakes, which I find hideous).
So what do I do? I’m certainly not going to go to the game tonight with this weighing unresolved on my mind. That kind of cloudy thinking could cost a lot of people their lives. Do I reveal my secret identity to her? It’s very plausible that she’ll be so embarrassed that she’d go public with the info, ruining my blossoming career. I feel like we’re at a giant, noxious crossroad. If she lies to me so easily about this, what else is she hiding? Hell, she could be The Caped Vapor herself, as far as I know (though she has no background in chemistry). This is one of those trial-by-fire moments that we superheroes all have to go through – would we be happier as normal people without these amazing powers? Wouldn’t our lives and relationships be more carefree? Simpler? No suit, no saving, no snakes?
When I woke up the next morning in the eerie silence of a suddenly vacant town I was still half dressed in the purpley pants. Outside the sun was shining blearily through a few curls of the acid orange mist rising from the Central High gymnasium. I shook my head to clear it of the fuzziness and the green snakes I’d wrestled all night in my dreams, and went to the front door to retrieve the want-ads.

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