Old Homes, Old Friends, and Comic Books

July 8, 2008 at 1:54 pm 1 comment

In a lot of ways, the mere act of living is strange. Human beings have an incredible knack for avoiding the important things, for approaching problems the wrong way, for failing to say the things we mean.

For the longest time, most of my conversations were couched in comic book terms. Given how big of a geek I am, it was easy (at least for me) to convey what I thought solely in terms of superheroes and villains. As I’ve discussed before, there’s a beautiful sort of allegory to the better works of comics, where characters can simultaneously be complex, living people and still represent basic ideas about good and evil.

But of course most people don’t read comics, and so the reference was lost on them. Eventually I grew out of this habit and started conversing like a normal person (well, relatively normal). Nonetheless, I can’t help recalling a time and friendship defined largely by a mutual love of comics.

*****

I moved away from Amherst over four years ago. At the time I was leaving behind some of the best friends I’d ever had. But of course I went back to visit when I could, staying at Jon’s house when I did.

Jon is a huge geek; far moreso than me. The kind of geek that reads Star Wars Extended Universe novels and worships on the altar of Bruce Campbell. The kind of friend with whom you have long arguments about whether Harry Osbourne became the Green Goblin II or the Hobgoblin (he won that one) and if J. Jonah Jameson’s son became the Spider-Man villain ‘Man-Wolf’ (it turns out I was right, and he did).

The last time I stayed at Jon’s house we rented (or maybe someone bought?) a copy of X-Men Legends II and me, Stephen and Jon played through a campaign. I played Iceman, while Jon and Stephen were Wolverine and Colossus (of course). I managed to deck out my character early on and make him an unstoppable fighting force, leading to arguments about how, canonically, Iceman cannot be stronger than Wolverine and Colossus; it just doesn’t make sense given their depictions in the comics. It was, perhaps, the most ridiculous argument I’ve ever been drawn into.

*****

We spent most of the stay watching movies and TV; everything from Clone High to the absolutely wretched “Alien VS Predator” movie. After one late night of media, Jon and I began a long discussion of the Justice League. I made the point that really, the only superheroes you need to solve any problem are Batman, Green Lantern and The Flash.

“Okay,” says Jon, “prove it.” And so I do, launching into a detailed explanation of how, working together, the three heroes could defeat God himself. Jon looked at me with a mixture of shock and respect.

“You’ve thought this through, haven’t you?” I had. “I need you to write this down for me.”

I can only hope that, all this time later, Jon still has that piece of paper describing Batman’s valiant assault on God.

*****

The visit ended awkwardly, sitting in a airport lobby waiting for my flight to board. The silence cut through my head like an axe, exposing thoughts and worries I had been suppressing the entire trip. This was the last time I’d be seeing Jon in a long time. Maybe for years. Maybe forever. I needed to come up with something, anything to say that would convey how much I valued his friendship, how fantastic it was knowing someone like him, how much it had all meant to me.

Instead, I said this: “You know, Bullseye was the best part of the Daredevil movie.”

Beside me, Jon nodded slowly. “Yeah, he was.” I can only hope he understands.

*****

Not long after that I boarded my flight and went home to Winnipeg. That was all there was to it, I guess. I was right to worry in the airport; I haven’t been back to Amherst since that trip. I haven’t seen Jon in over two years, and though we remain friends the chances I have to actually talk to him are rare.

So far as I know, his life is going well. He still has the same job as when I left (in fact, the same job as he’s had for the entire time I’ve known him), but he’s going to school and working to something better. He remains one of the geekiest people I know. If I’m lucky, he’ll send long e-mails about movie ideas him and Stephen have cooked up that we can all do together one day when I finally come home.

Home. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there. Longer still since I lived there. Increasingly, I find myself not referring to it as home at all. But I still hope to go back one day. To see old friends and have new adventures. To see what’s changed, and what’s stayed the same. Maybe I’ll be able to go next year. Maybe this time I’ll be able to say what matters. Maybe this time I won’t have to rely on comics.

Maybe.

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Entry filed under: essay. Tags: , , , , , .

New and Exciting Holidays Summer Reading, Part II

1 Comment Add your own

  • […] Danger doesn’t manage to find us, and we pass the time talking about comic books and tv shows. It’s what we talked about on the car ride here. It’s what we talked about during the day. It’s what we talk about nearly all the time. Even our attempts at serious conversation tend to end up couched in comic book terms. […]

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