It’s hard being best friends with a superhero: they’re always ditching you at the last second to save a bus full of schoolchildren, you can’t tag them on instagram because that adorable selfie you took together was while they were in costume, and you may occasionally get kidnapped whenever a supervillain discovers your connection to their nemesis. There are good times, too, like when you get to hear about all of the disasters averted and the lives saved and the thanks given.
One evening I arrived home from band practice to find my best friend (who, in the interest of protecting her identity and mine, I will call “Awesome Girl”) sitting at our kitchen table. She had her mask off, her hair down, and her head in her hands. Her cape drifted listlessly from her shoulders down across the cheap linoleum floor. I propped my bass up against the dishwasher and pulled up a chair to plop down next to her.
Then I waited.
I had learned that “head in her hands” was not necessarily AGC (“Awesome Girl” Code) for “I tried to help someone today and failed.” Some days, she’d sit up and happily tell me that she had put a smile on a senior citizen’s face, or done a ribbon cutting at a pet shelter, or helped to find a lost autistic kid. Some days, she had sad stories to share, but we both knew that she needed me there at the end of the day to refocus, to laugh or cry with, and to remind her why she did what she did.
We sat in silence for twenty minutes, just listening to one another breathe. Though she didn’t know it, I kept glancing at the numbers glowing from the clock above the stove on the other side of the room, which told me it would soon be tomorrow instead of today. I didn’t usually mind sitting up late, but we both had classes the next morning, and homework was due in the literature class we shared; all I had left to do was write up a response to the reading assignment, but I knew she hadn’t even picked up the book yet.
Finally, when the clock read 11:48, “Awesome Girl” let out a huge sigh, sat up, and cast her mask to the other side of the table, where it slipped off the edge and fell onto the floor. Then she looked at me.
“What’s up?” I ventured.
“I just want to be normal,” she moaned. “I want to have a stupid crush, and to eat dinner at 9 PM, and to be in a terrible local band.” She slid an arm across the table and rested her head on it, looking at me sideways. “I want to be you.”
I blinked at her.
I did have a stupid crush on the star of our local semi-pro basketball team (who, in the interest of protecting the identities and gigantic egos of all involved, I will call “Taylor”). I had scarfed down some leftovers before the both of us left that evening (she to patrol, I to practice). And I was the bass player and lead singer of, admittedly, a pretty terrible garage band (which, in the interest of protecting the identities and feelings of my bandmates, I will call “Admittedly Pretty Terrible”). But other than that, we were basically the same person in all the “normal” ways. We were both a year away from graduating college. We both loved pizza. We both wanted to make the world a better place and were both using our own unique abilities to work toward that goal.
I knew that what she really meant was, “I’m tired, and it’s so hard for me to see when I’m making a difference. If I could see the world through your eyes, maybe I wouldn’t feel so down.”
So I said, “Have you not eaten dinner yet? We still have some pizza in the fridge from last night. Want me to heat it up for you?”
She gave me a tired smile, and sat up in her chair. “I’ll get it. You should go to bed.”
“No, that’s okay,” I replied. “You can get started on reading that thing for Lit class and I’ll get you something to eat.”
“I totally forgot about that!” she gasped, and dashed from the room.
When she came back, looking like a normal college student in some yoga pants and an old t-shirt, her too-hot pizza steamed delicious fragrances into the air, and a glass of ice sat next to a can of her favorite strawberry soda. She sighed in delight and sat down to get to work.
It’s hard being best friends with a superhero. The bad times aren’t great. Sometimes she’s a second too late to prevent catastrophe. Sometimes the population of the city she protects turns against her. Sometimes she has to save me from a supervillain. And sometimes, she has a burnout day. But the good times outweigh the bad, and when I can, I do whatever I need to do to help her save the world.
“Hey,” I said as I found a place to shove the pizza box into the fridge. “If you were serious earlier… our drummer quit today. You could fill in at our next gig, until we find someone else.”
“Seriously?” She laughed. “Yeah, all right.”
I turned to leave the room.
“Wait,” she called after me. When I stuck my head back into the kitchen, she said, “You’re awesome.”
“Well,” I replied, “So are you.”