Alex and I soon began directly messaging each other instead of joining the chat room, and it was always fascinating to hear what that guy was doing in his lab. There were plenty of small inventions and items he created, such as a thin, transparent paint that made whatever it coated glow-in-the-dark. Alex said his housemate used it on his keys to better find the lock on his car after work. Some others, like a pen that shot lasers, didn’t sound plausible at all to me but I generally humored him.
“So what is this pen called?” I had asked him. “Does it have a name?”
“I suck at naming things,” he had typed back. “My housemate started calling it the Pen o’ Doom after I accidentally shot a hole through the bathroom door.”
Our conversations tended to stick to inventions, comics, and superheroes just like in the old chat room. We had been messaging each other for a few months while only publicly going out, usually to see the latest superhero movie (which ignited conversations about how the movie failed the comics) or browse the science fiction section of our local bookstore together. He even accompanied me to the electronics store to help me pick out a new desktop computer for my games (which ended up being a buying spree for computer parts so he could help me build my own desktop). It was the night I was going through all the basic settings of my new computer that he instant messaged me a bit earlier than when we usually talked.
“Hey,” was how he always greeted me on our messenger.
“Hey yourself,” I said. “I thought you had a shift?”
“I kinda forgot it,” he said. “I was working on something new, and I got too distracted by it to notice the time. My housemate was actually the one who poked his head in my room to say that he got a coworker to cover for me.”
“Now don’t you feel bad for calling your housemate a pain-in-the-ass last night?”
“No,” was the blunt reply. “Last night he was an ass. Besides, I paid for his share of the rent last month, so I owe him nothing.”
I smiled to myself and played with the different resolutions for the monitor before typing, “Out of curiosity, how was he an ass?”
“He hid my sketch journals.”
That threw me for a loop. “You draw?”
“Not really,” he said. “I make rough sketches of inventions. It has more math than drawings in it.”
I responded with a simple, “Ew,” and he typed out a laugh before I said, “Why would he hide your journals?”
Alex left me hanging for a few minutes before saying, “He wouldn’t give them back until I ate dinner.”
“Why wouldn’t you eat?” I asked. “Food is awesome.”
I could have guessed that he would respond with, “I got distracted by some things…”
“Ass or not, it’s a good thing your housemate is there to make sure you stay alive,” I said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have anyone to discuss how we can obtain super powers.”
“Glad you’d miss me for my mind and not my good looks,” he said, complete with a winking emoticon. He kept typing instead of letting me respond. “Actually, I’m very excited about what keeps distracting me and I’d really like to show it to you.”
I waited for further explanation, but when none came within a moment, I said, “It must be something deadly since you’re not offering to bring it the next time we see each other.”
“Not deadly,” he typed back quickly. “It’s just really big. I can’t move it out of the house. So I was wondering if you wanted to come over some time… We’ll have food!”
I smirked at Alex trying to bribe me with food but pondered on the invite. True, he hadn’t been a psycho like I had initially been worried about (he was a bit crazy, yes, but not psychotic), but I knew next to nothing about the guy outside of his superhero knowledge and genius eccentricities besides the fact that he had a housemate (whose name I never caught) living with him on the other side of town.
“Would your housemate care?” I asked. While waiting for a reply, I tried to figure out if I was hoping he would or not.
“Not at all,” Alex said. “Actually, he’s wondering what you like to eat. He does the cooking around here.”
“You dump that chore on him? All the time?”
“I do okay creating and buildings things as long as there’s no food involved,” he said. “Otherwise, I’m a disaster.”
I laughed out loud at the image in my head of Alex standing in the middle of a kitchen white from an exploding sack of flour. I took a deep breath to compose myself before responding with, “I’ll come if he’s making something good.”
“He’ll make whatever you want!” Alex said, a grinning emoticon appearing next to the statement. It never ceased to amaze me how excited Alex could get over anything.
“Better make sure of that with him,” I said.
“He’s right here by my side,” Alex said, and I shook my head, curious as to how long the other man had been there.
“Hi, Alex’s housemate!” A simple hello replied to my words before choices for dinner popped up on the screen. We discussed food while I laughed at how differently Alex and his housemate typed. Alex was always proper with grammar and spelling, while his housemate couldn’t be bothered to capitalize the beginning of a sentence.
“So, next Friday night, then?” Alex took control of the keyboard again.
“I’ll be there by 4,” I said. He sent me one last smiling emoticon before we signed off for the night.