When I was a tiny child and my first round of teeth hadn’t yet fallen out, I was certain that when I grew up I would either be Link, from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or I would be one of the X-Men. I was a reasonable child so I would have been satisfied with either profession, but I knew it had to be one of those two. I knew I was destined for great things.
Fast forward to my junior year in high school when I spent most of my time at home staying awake into the single digit hours of the night re-watching Star Wars and the same three Pixar movies that made me feel feelings. I had started taking sleeping pills to force myself to sleep. So, naturally, I took it as a challenge to stay awake through the effects of the pills. It made for some pretty psychedelic viewings of viewings of Wall-E.
It was on a day after a particularly heavy dose and a victoriously sleepless night that I finally had the chance to get my superpowers. In my chemistry class, I saw the beginning of my superhero origin story crawling up the wall above the light switch. It wasn’t a radioactive spider or my alien parents or a tiny Patrick Stewart telling me I’m special. Slowly swirling up the face of the wall were gentle undulations of color, a rainbow of smoke. I remember sitting at my desk, not learning about valence electrons, enraptured by the strange patterns of color working their way up the wall from the light switch. I remember my eyes drooping and sound feeling dense and me drifting about in memories of laying in my hot bed watching the extended edition of Lord of the Rings.
And I knew touching that light would give me the superpowers I deserved. I fantasized about what manner of superhuman I would be. Would I sprout ripping muscles disproportionate to my unfinished teenage body? Would my head swell with sudden psychic potential? Would my fake front teeth pop out, replaced by the genuine article grown by my suddenly rapid ability to heal?
I was transfixed. I was average, but I wouldn’t be once I touched that light. I was lightheaded, and couldn’t remember why.
Class ended. My teacher finished talking toward us, and I was ready to sprint to the wall and seize my birthright. I was ready to dedicate my life to fighting crime, to wearing tight, garishly colored clothes, to arriving just in time, to being almost defeated by my nemesis only to pull it all together at the last moment by discovering yet another hidden power.
I stepped away from my desk, ready to leap into history.
But I never made it to the lights on the wall. I was carried away in a stream of students escaping chemistry, and I forgot about them because I was getting dizzy and I was distracted by friends and some girl I had a thing for but have since entirely forgotten her name. I didn’t get superpowers, but when I got home that day I remembered the lights on the wall. I remembered them, and then I threw up in my toilet, took more sleeping pills, fell asleep, and got back to be relentlessly average and unforgivably bad at chemistry.
Now, far flung into the future my real identity sounds like a superhero’s secret identity: unassuming English teacher and serial tea-drinker by day. . .
. . .and the same thing by night. I have half a superhero identity, but it just had to be the boring half.