Dads and Dates
Fall 2004, Buckeye, Arizona
You know how in those sappy romances the soon to be lovers always describe their first touch as “electric”? Well, I never expected it to be literally electric. I saw the spark of electricity, I saw my finger tip involuntarily shift towards its neutrino form, I felt the energy travel up my arm. It was real. I felt it, and I know she felt it too.
I didn’t know what to make of it. The sensation wasn’t entirely comfortable, but I longed to experience it again.
Now, you’re a savvy reader. You know who she is. But at the time, I had no clue. All I knew was that I had just met a beautiful woman that affected me physically in a way I had never experienced before.
“You’re awfully quiet, Son,” Mom said. We all sat in the living room reading. Dad was scouring a catalog of vintage car parts. Mom was reading “The Da Vinci Code.” And I was pretending to read a textbook on nuclear physics.
“Umm—” I began.
My dad saved me. He got up and said to her, “Can’t you see the boy is thinking?”
In retrospect it is obvious who Licia was, right? Well that is retrospect for you, not reality; right then and there, I didn’t have a clue.
After that dinner with the Lopezes, my life continued its normal, and very odd, pattern: working at Palo Verde (very boring) and doing the superhero gig (very exciting). But amidst it all I kept thinking about her.
After stopping the bank robbery and freeing the hostages at the main Wells Fargo branch, I thought of her. After keeping the Ferris wheel from collapsing and saving hundreds of lives at the Arizona State Fair, I thought of her. After emptying the trash and polishing the floors at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, I thought of her. After eating my mom’s meatloaf, I thought of her.
It was getting ridiculous. Seriously. Even my dad noticed, and that is saying something.
“Come on, Son,” he said after putting his catalog away. “I need some help with the Charger.”
“Al,” Mom started, “no use of powers. You know the rules.”
“Of course not,” he answered grinning at me.
He led me out to the double garage, which held his prized possession: a black, 1972 Dodge Charger. He was “restoring” it. Actually, he had been restoring it since I was ten. It was not clear to any of us (I think Dad included) why it was taking so long.
My dad was an accountant, but he tinkered with cars on the weekends. He had this white collar side (work and making money) and this blue collar side (cars, football, Coors beer, and Bruce Springsteen).
“I need a weld,” he said. “The metal is starting to crack around the driver’s side door hinge. It’s gonna break eventually.”
I nodded and went over to look. The garage was brutally hot (but only brutally, it was fall in the Valley of the Sun after all). Dad cracked the garage door and moved the portable air conditioner in place to blow on us. He also clipped a light to the door and rigged it to shine on the hinge.
It was a hairline crack running the length of one side of the hinge. I took a deep breath and concentrated on the tip of my right index finger, willing it—and just it—to go neutrino. Slowly my flesh transformed into the pulsing, glowing yellow of my neutrino form.
While I did my transformation, Dad put some blocks under the open car door, taking the weight off it.
This was harder than a complete transformation, but safer for everyone, and everything, around me. Once the tip of my finger was a bright yellow, like the sun, with swirls and motes running through it, Dad handed me a thin dowel of steel.
I rubbed my finger along the crack until the metal started glowing red. I then scraped small amounts of metal off the rod and worked them into the crack. With my finger all neutrino, it was like working with play-doh. I went slowly and carefully and soon the crack was filled, and the metal was cooling.
I sat back on the cement and let the air flow over me.
My dad handed me a beer, sat down next to me and said, “Good job, Son. So, shall we talk about her?”
You know what strikes horror into a superhero’s heart? Not the League of Villians, Extraordinaire (LOVE) not the Arcturian Alliance, not Toxicwasteman, nope, none of those. What strikes horror into this superhero’s heart is talking with his father about his romantic feelings.
My dad is a good, kind man. I know he cares for me and my mother deeply, but he’s not the warm-fuzzy kind.
When he handed me the beer, his face was his usual stony mask as he ran his fingers through his thinning brown hair.
We weren’t done with the door yet. We had to wait for the metal to cool and try it out, make sure the hinge hadn’t gotten warped and that the door still shut. I knew it, and he knew it.
“You like her,” he said, it was a statement, not a questions.
“It’s scary,” he said, as he took a pull of the beer.
I drank too and nodded again.
“And the worst part is that this was your mother’s doing, and you don’t want to give her the slightest hint that it worked.”
I laughed hard then, his baritone rumble joining my laughter. It was funny because it was true.
When the laughter had run its course, we sat in silence drinking our beers. After a time his blue eyes locked with mine and he said, “She’s a good kid. Don’t overthink it, go with your gut. Just call her.”
I nodded, finished the beer, and we got back to work on the car.
“Hello,” she said, after the fourth ring.
My hands were sweating, my belly tight. “Hi…” I began, and then stopped. I was mad at myself. She was just a girl, for God’s sake, get over it.
“Hello?” she said again.
“Oh… yeah… sorry. Umm. This is Nik, Nik Nichols. We met the other night at my parents’ house.”
“Ummm, hmmm.” She was not making this easy on me.
I took a deep breath and just got it over with. “Look. I really enjoyed meeting you. Can I take you out for dinner?” It wasn’t elegant, but at least it was done.
There was silence. I am not sure how long of a silence, but long enough that I felt like throwing up.
“Look, Nik, please don’t take this personally,” she said, and after that I was taking it real personally. “I am just not in a good place… you know?”
I licked my lips and nodded. Realizing she couldn’t see me I said, “You know what, neither am I. There has been a lot happening lately, so yeah, I get it.”
“So we’re good?”
“Yeah, if you go out with me we are.” I winced after the words spilled out, wishing I could take them back. It was just not me. I waited helplessly for her retort.
She laughed. It was a small laugh, really only a chuckle. “Really?”
“Sorry, that came out strange, what I meant—”
“It’s okay, Nik. It’s okay. I appreciate your… enthusiasm.”
“So, dinner? I would be happy to drive up to Flagstaff, take you wherever you want to go.”
“Slow down. How about a glass of wine? I know this great winery, Page Springs Cellars, down in the Verde Valley. It’s halfway between us. I have time today.”