In the superhero game, you tend to hang out with other supers. It’s not intentional. It just sort of happens. My life before the accident that gave me superstrength, sometimes, it seemed like a faraway thing. I still kept in touch with the old gang, but just getting together and hanging out, that was rarer and rarer.
“Are you sure she won’t mind?” I asked as Erica knocked on the door.
“Why should she? Just the other day, Gwen was telling me we should have lunch together.”
“Did she mention me specifically?”
“No, but she said Old Gang. You’re part of the Gang, aren’t you?”
I had been, but things had changed.
Gwen opened the door. Her smile dropped. Just for a moment. She plastered it back into place. That was Gwen. Decades of beauty queen training at work. If there was a lull in the conversation, she could always share her thoughts on world peace and puppies.
I hadn’t ever liked Gwen much. Unfair, since she’d never done anything to me. But I was certain she didn’t like me much either, so we shared an unspoken rivalry. My second greatest. Right after Strongobot, the strongest robot on Earth.
Gwen was pregnant as I already knew, following her Facebook page. Gwen and Erica exchanged hugs, but when it came time for me, Gwen held up her hand.
“Sorry.” She rubbed her belly. “Precious cargo. We wouldn’t want any accidents.”
I wanted to tell her to screw herself.
“I hate to ask,” said Gwen, “but you aren’t . . . radioactive or anything? Carrying strange alien spores? I wouldn’t ask, but . . . . ”
She rubbed her belly again, like a shield.
“Maybe I should go,” I said.
“Don’t be absurd.” Erica took me by the arm and pulled me into the house.
“Careful, that’s a very expensive lamp,” said Gwen as we entered. “And that vase is an antique.”
She proceeded to warn me of everything in danger of being crushed by me. A polite tour of her home given to any random bull or superhero who happened to stop by. She shouldn’t have gotten to me, but by the end, I felt like I might destroy something precious and irreplaceable with a careless sweep of my arm.
This was why my best friend was a space Amazon. Dementra had her flaws, but she didn’t make me feel like Godzilla stomping through Tokyo.
We sat in Gwen’s living room, a room made to be looked at, not used, and waited for her to bring some snacks.
“She certainly hasn’t changed,” said Erica.
“Why are we friends with her again?” I asked.
It was a good question. Sometimes, you just ended up hanging out with people. There wasn’t a convenient explanation why. But if you did it often and long enough, you were suddenly “friends”, even if you couldn’t always stand one another.
“Hey, I forgot to mention, but you’re still single, right?” asked Erica.
I nodded. I didn’t want to. I should’ve just lied.
“There’s this guy I met the other day who I think would be perfect for you.”
“Let me guess,” I said. “He’s a superhero.”
“How’d you know?”
It was always a superhero. Some nice man falls into a vat of unstable mutagen, and suddenly, he was the Perfect Guy for me. Like all it took to make a healthy relationship was a shared love of heat vision and fighting time traveling megalomaniacs.
Gwen returned with a tray of snacks and something to drink. She handed Erica a delicate teacup and me, a disposable plastic cup.
“This tea set belonged to my grandmother,” she said. “You understand?”
I couldn’t yell at a pregnant woman, and I couldn’t punch her into orbit.
So I simply smiled.