There’s immense satisfaction in the aftermath of the anticipation I endured through classes and basketball as I finally am able to put my car into park outside of my place of refuge. This is the only place I want to be, and I have overwhelming relief in the feeling of home. However, this night is full of uncertainty and hesitation. It’s a special occasion – a premiere of sorts as we, the comic book community, welcome the battle of the century: Avengers vs. X-Men.
It’s one of those rare occasions when we get to open shop again and sell a new item on a Tuesday night instead of the traditional Wednesday. This kind of event is a nationwide phenomenon, so it should come as no surprise that there’s a line of twenty people waiting for the door to open. There are men, women, and children of the widest range of ages waiting, and I get a handful of annoyed looks from those who don’t realize I’m allowed to go in early. After all, I sort of work here.
I drop my bag off behind the counter, take out my notebook, and the boss laughs at my shirt – a black hockey tee with the red S of Superboy, over which is taped a cartoon of my favorite hero Red Hood holding the Iron Man helmet (“this…is not mine”). This is new territory for me – Marvel has never been my thing – but all the hype makes me more than a little curious to see if I can finally, finally be swayed. The boss is pacing back and forth as he keeps pestering the other boss with “what time is it?” She opens the door a scandalous nine minutes early, but the waiting is over.
I recognize many faces that walk through the door. Some are dressed up in their gear – making their alliance in the war clear – but there is one face in particular that sticks out in the mass of self-proclaiming comic geeks. He’s a regular at the store and a recent alumnus of Widener. Additionally, and most importantly, he’s a former New Yorker and a proud fan of the New York Yankees, as all good New Yorkers should be. We have a thousand and one things in common, so it’s only natural that we’ve spent a couple of hours talking during his weekly visits to the shop over the last two months. He waves to me from the back of the line; I smile and wave back. It’s certainly comforting to see a friendly face amidst the warriors aligned for this battle of supers.
Ten sales later and I figure the bosses have things under control behind the counter. I take this opportunity to walk through this little shop of heroes and say hi to the familiars I know either by name or by face. I compliment the special education instructor on his outfit, poke fun at the auctioneer for his balloon animals, and declare last call for pizza. As I turn around to go back to the counter, the Widener Yankee fan steps in my path. He asks for my opinion on a paperback graphic novel featuring my superfavorite, Batman. I tell him it’s a fantastic book, a phenomenal story, and definitely worth the money.
The conversation then slips into the age-old complaint I harbor regarding Iron Man, brought up probably for the umpteenth time because of my shirt. Some time passes and our conversation evolves into video games, but we are interrupted by the beep of my cell phone – a tone reminiscent of the female-dominated Disney Channel cartoon show Kim Possible. This somehow results in our conversation turning to the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, and I’m perfectly content with that. I could talk up the Rangers in their classic days for hours.
A few minutes later and the topic of conversation is changing again – this time to the classic toys of the 90s, the iconic cinema of the 80s, and baseball. It is such a relief to talk to a fellow Yankee in this place and not worry about getting food thrown at me because of where I place my loyalty. He talks, I talk, and it is a conversation between equals about subjects of which we are mutually passionate. A different change of pace from what I have been accustomed to on campus, and just one more reason for me to try everything I can to secure my job here for September.
The shop is emptying out now. The teacher is gone; the pizza boxes are in the trash; the balloon man is posing for a photo-op and saying his goodbyes. I look at the time on my cell phone – I have spent nearly two hours talking to this guy because he asked me a question about a 2006 book of Batman. This is my world. I get back behind the counter and write down statistics on the event, attempting to make the page look less than empty due to my lack of focus.
He taps on my shoulder and nods toward the Bat-shelves again. I give him a questioning look. He beckons me over, requesting some privacy. I smile, close my notebook, and say goodbye to some of the warriors of the store as they exit. I stand at the shelf and cross my arms, the scotch-taped Jason-Iron Man picture crinkling beneath my elbows. What’s with all the secrecy? He points to two guys in their late thirties who are still present in the store. He says they were pressuring him to ask for my number and insists they weren’t going to leave to let me close shop without seeing him follow through. His cheeks are red beneath his scruff, and I think I may be blushing too – only I don’t know what it feels like since it’s never happened to me before, so I can’t be sure.
I laugh to try and stop any potential awkwardness from entering the situation and hold my hand out for his phone. He gives me his with the address book open for a new contact. I give him mine with the same set up. We exchange phones again and he calls to make sure it saved properly. I show him the screen of my phone flashing his name – the first time we’ve ever formerly introduced ourselves, technically – as it rings.
It’s a sweet moment, I think, because after weeks of talking in the store maybe we can actually become friends in the real world. The moment of sweetness is fleeting as one of the guys who Chris had pointed out approaches us. It is Holland’s statement that gives this party, this night, this encounter, an entirely new meaning: “Two people of the opposite sex can’t spend over an hour talking to each other without having some kind of attraction.”