It didn’t take me too long to find the central fountain in the mall, and I felt a bit silly pacing back and forth in front of the fountain with a Batman-patterned scarf. On the plus side, I probably looked irritated enough to keep the kiosk employees from bothering me.
I wasn’t sure if I was more anxious about meeting this Tech or about being stood up. When my watch indicated the appointed time, I began wondering if I was by the correct fountain in the right mall at the precise town. I started scrolling through my phone’s calendar while periodically looking around to be sure I had the right date when I noticed a peculiar young man walking toward the fountain.
He certainly wasn’t fashion-conscious, wearing a tan vest over a white t-shirt and faded blue jeans. His short blond hair was sticking up at all angles, but nestled amid the mess atop his head was a pair of safety-goggles.
He looked at me, his eyes flickering to my scarf that I said would identify me, and smiled shyly. “Dynomite369? Forgive me, but I didn’t imagine you were a girl.”
Before I could retort, he stuck out a hand and said, “Hi. I’m Alexander Baker. You can keep calling me Tech, if you want.”
I shook his hand, replying, “Sierra Parker. It’s nice to meet you.”
“The pleasure’s mine.” He adjusted the duffel bag he had over his shoulder and took a minute before saying, “Uh, want to grab a table at the food court and we can talk?”
I smiled. “Sure.”
We walked side-by-side in silence, both of us apparently uncertain as to what to say. I had hoped he would have been as talkative as online, but apparently his screen name had been his own mask. He seemed like a decent guy, though. If I had to guess, he was probably a few years younger than me, maybe just entering his twenties. Alex even attempted to pay for my food, which was more than what my last boyfriend did.
Once we got settled with our pizza at a corner table, we eased into a conversation with the generic, “How are you?” questions. Neither of us gave too much background information, a cue he seemed to pick up from me. Eventually, I pointed to his duffel bag that had occupied the third seat at our table.
“So, what did you bring with you?” I asked.
His face broke out into a grin, showing off dimples, and his soda nearly spilled from his duffel bag joining it on the table. I couldn’t help but share his enthusiasm as he pulled out items I’ve only ever seen in comic books, such as a mock Green Lantern ring (“It only glows,” Alex said, sounding thoroughly disappointed the light couldn’t materialize into shapes.), a visor that looked as if he stole it from Cyclops (“The lenses are actually made from ruby quartz just like in the comics!”), and even Wonder Woman’s bracelets (he laughed when it was obvious they were too big for me).
“I wanted to bring the Batarang and Green Arrow’s weapons,” Alex said as he packed up his toys a few hours later, “but I figured I’d get into trouble with security…”
I chuckled. “That was smart thinking.”
He paused a moment before saying, “Maybe we can meet up again? Somewhere else without the threat of police?”
“You sound as if we’re planning a crime,” I said with a raised eyebrow.
Alex gave me a crooked smile, but flushed as he considered my words. “Yeah, I suppo–”
“I’d love to,” I blurted out. We stared at each other, both of us wondering where my words came from, before he smiled.
“Great!” He hopped up from his seat and I followed suit. “I’ll message you later about it.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll look forward to it.”
Conversation was much easier on the way out of the mall, and he walked me to my car. He seemed ready to hug me with all his enthusiasm, but restrained himself to a good-bye handshake before going to find his own car.
As I started my car, I shook my head as if the physical motion would settle my wild thoughts. Glancing at the time, I vowed to make my shopping trip quick to return to my laptop as soon as possible.