“So, do you like working in a bank?” he asked, biting into one of the particularly hard breadsticks that the Italian restaurant offered to every patron, probably in the hopes of getting rid of the stale, tasteless things.
She smiled slightly, running her hand up over her forehead and through her thin blonde hair, teasing it in another direction, and returning her gaze to his eyes. Her light blue eyes were chilling and set her bright red lips even further into contrast.
“Well, it pays the bills… It isn’t very fun, but you meet a lot of people and the bank is pretty lenient. They let you be up to fifty dollars over or short every day…”
“Really?” he asked, wanting her to go on, hoping that by letting this girl talk that he could get into her pants. She really was gorgeous. He had, of course, met her at the bank, but had been set up by a mutual friend who knew that they both had a few things in common, such as eating, breathing, and enjoying the company of the opposite sex.
Rod took another bite of the breadstick and concentrated his peripheral vision along her body, her figure, her mildly revealing white dress, while keeping a firm and understanding gaze on the girl’s eyes.
She finished whatever it was that she had been saying and he had to respond to her somehow. Rod hoped that she had reached some conclusion to his line of questioning and asked a new question.
“So, you been seeing anyone lately?”
“Oh, no,” she smiled in a way that made Rod think that play was imminent. His chances weren’t bad regardless. He was in most way average, which seemed to work toward his advantage. Not too tall or short, not too fat or thin, not too serious or funny. Average.
“Do you go on many blind dates, then?”
“No, not really, but I knew you from the bank… or remembered you, at least. Enough so that I could be set up without being afraid of who would show up.”
“Well, thanks… That’s flattering, at least.”
“Yeah… There’s just so many creeps today, you have to be careful…”
They both lapsed into silence, smiling gently and staring at each other.
“And here it is…” the waiter interrupted, placing two plates of food in front of them. Rod was unimpressed by the size of the portion, but that was the price of eating at an expensive restaurant. You were essentially just paying to impress your date.
“Thank you,” Rod muttered, turning his attention away from his tiny chunk of filet mignon and back to his date, the larger and tastier morsel.
“So, what do you do for fun then… outside the bank?”
“Oh.” She considered it thoroughly, not really having any hobbies. “I guess I read sometimes.”
“Oh, really? What do you read?”
“Hmmm… Mainly Cosmo and John Grisham novels…”
He sighed internally, trying to keep any disgust he felt from showing on his face. His eyes stayed fixed and glazed and he managed a nod to imply recognition.
Her eyes focused over his shoulder, widening slightly. He wondered what she was looking at, but was definitely not going to be so obvious as to look over his shoulder. She kept looking and Rod began to worry about whether or not a chance meeting with one of her ex-boyfriends would be in his disadvantage.
Her eyes drifted and followed something until it was above Rod’s head. He felt the presence, the closeness, of someone standing behind him.
He finally gathered himself, trying to move smoothly, confident but seeming strong and possibly imposing, and turned around in his seat.
Behind him was a man in a tight spandex and lycra costume, like a superhero, colored black and blue, covering him from head to foot, boots, a mask, and a large ‘N’ across the chest of the costume in a muted purple. Rod sighed and lowered his eyes.
“So we meet again, fool!” the stranger bellowed and raised a fist defiantly.
Rod began to turn back to his date, eyes closed, dreading this whole exchange.
“Weakling, turn from my gaze! Run from your own damnation!” The man burst into a fit of shrieking laughter.
Rod turned back and spat “I thought we had an agreement” under his breath, low enough that his date might not hear.
“Rod, do you know this man?”
“Yes, peon, introduce me to your concubine that I might drink of her beauty as I exact my revenge upon you.”
Rod offered a curt “Brian, Tiffany. Tiffany, Brian.”
“I am Nemesis!” Brian bellowed.
“You’re behind on rent, that’s what you are.”
The maître d’ arrived finally. “Is there a problem here?”
“Yes, this man is accosting us…”
“Bastard, you will pay for what you have done to me!”
“Sir, without proper attire and a reservation, you will have to leave.”
“I will do no such thing! I am unstoppable! Stand aside or be annihilated!”
“Sir, I will have you removed,” the maître d’ warned fiercely.
“No man defeats Nemesis!” Brian screamed, being dragged from the building.
Embarrassed, everyone settled back into their seats, went back to their eating or their jobs.
“You knew him, Rod?” Tiffany asked, more curiosity than an accusation.
“Um… Yes. That was… Brian.”
“Yeah, that too…”
“And where do you know him from?”
“Well… We’ve known each other since we were kids.”
“Did he always walk around in a super hero costume?”
“Not always. That came after he got a job and could afford it… Obviously, the costumes have changed and gotten better over time. The last one cost him around $500. He designed it and took it to a seamstress…”
“How do you know all this? How do you know so much about him if he hates you?”
“Well, we’re roommates, you see…”
Okay, so it was back in the mid-seventies. We were kids… teenagers, really. We spent most of our time hanging out, chasing girls, skating, listening to albums. Brian always liked comic books, read them all the time. He actually got made fun of quite a bit at the time, but so did I a little. We were best buddies, all that stereotypical stuff you think about in bad coming-of-age films. That was us.
We were close. Like brothers. We had good times.
Then one day I invited him to a concert. I told him it was some really good stuff and he went based on my promises of a good show. We rode with my older brother and his hippie girlfriend, who was the one who really wanted to go. I just wanted to see a concert. Brian… well, Brian wanted to belong.
We get there… and it was pretty horrible. And Brian had a terrible time. He would never quite forgive me for ruining the day and talked about it for weeks… He had paid his own way, so he felt like I owed him and I apologized, but he never forgave me. I think I even eventually offered him the money for it, but he refused.
So he started by inflicting petty vengeances on me, stuff like simple pranks, hiding things from me, which progressed into stealing, talking about me to my friends behind my back, spreading rumors. It was pretty bad for a while there until he realized his true calling: to be my tormentor, to be my super villain.
He started wearing the costume. No amount of making fun of him dissuaded him. If anything it only made it worse, because he learned to block all of that out, only to trust his own thoughts. He became, in his mind, my Nemesis.
So we went off to college. We even roomed together. Things were fine around the room. There were subtle things, he would eat my food, drink from the milk in front of me and then burst into crazed laughter, stuff like that. He would only wear the costume, which was getting more elaborate, less of a little boy’s towel cape fantasy and more of a Halloween costume, he’d wear it out and follow me around, hurling insults, throwing rocks, pushing me. There’s been a few times I’ve snapped. I beat him up pretty good once, but he just vowed revenge and it added in to his fantasy.
After college, we got jobs, went off into the world… He still followed me around, so I eventually asked him when I needed a roommate. If he’s following me around, he can at least pay half of bills, I figured.
We’ve been living together for a few years. He still follows me around, we live together, he insists on wearing the suit. I occasionally try to get him to cut me some slack… like tonight. But, unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten our deal.
He keeps getting crazier and trying to pull more stunts, more pranks, but he has the rent on time. But constantly being followed is an annoyance, not that I could do anything about it anyway.
And all this just because I dragged him to see Cat Stevens.
“You let a madman follow you around and torment you because you took him to a bad Cat Stevens concert?”
“No, just a Cat Stevens concert. And there’s nothing I could do about it anyway, except kill him. Restraining orders, jail time, wouldn’t stop him. It’d all just make him think he’s really a super villain.”
She sighed and stood up from the table. “I think I need to go home now.”
Rod understood, so didn’t try to dissuade her. “Do you want me to walk you to your car?”
“Really, it’s no problem at all.”
Tiffany paused. “Okay.”
Rod and Tiffany walked beside each other down the sidewalk, back into the parking lot beside the restaurant. They were quiet for a while.
“I’m really sorry about tonight.”
“It’s okay… Your life’s just… a bit much for me right now. You know, I want something normal in my life. I work at a bank…”
“I totally understand… Friends?”
Tiffany thought for a second and then reached out to give Rod a hug. “Okay.”
From out of the shadows, a figure leapt on to them, shrieking. “Vengeance is mine!”
The three of them fell to the ground, rolled on the pavement, darkness and shuffling noise. Tiffany began to crawl away and turned to see Rod lift Brian up and punch him squarely in the face.
Brian shrieked like a girl and fell away. “We talked about this, Brian!”
The Nemesis quickly rose and ran into the night.
Rod helped Tiffany back up and dusted off her dress. “Again… I’m really sorry about this whole night. I wish things were different…”
Tiffany seemed angry, but calmed, her face taking on a certain acceptance. “It’s okay… I wish things would have gone better, too.”
Tiffany got in her car and closed the door. The window slid down.
“Good night, Rod.”
“Good night, Tiffany.” Her car drove away into the night.
Somewhere in the distance, a voice cried “revenge” over and over again.