The Power of Acceptance

Submitted into Contest #48 in response to: Write about someone who has a superpower.... view prompt

3 comments

Fantasy

Ken had asked him to have a beer after work today. It hadn’t been out of the ordinary, but the second they got their drinks, he knew something was different. Ken exuded confidence - he was the only person that Conan knew who could do a presentation without sweating, or sing “Don’t Stop Believin” on karaoke night without any alcohol in his system. It just wasn’t like him to be sitting here, not making eye contact, tracing the outline of the napkin with his finger. In hindsight, these were all the typical signs. Conan was just off his game tonight.

“Congrats on the promotion,” Conan started, attempting to begin on a positive note in case things went south.

He was met with nothing more than an eyebrow raise - a vague attempt at showing gratitude. His mind was clearly elsewhere. The promotion had been a huge deal to the company; Ken was fresh out of college and already making his way to the top. If that wasn’t why they were having a drink on a Tuesday, what was?

“Listen, man, I really have to talk to you about something.” Here it comes.

“Yeah?” Conan was scared - Ken never spoke in such a low tone.

The napkin still seemed to be the object of Ken’s attention. It was easier for him to direct the words at an inanimate object, Conan supposed, which only made him more concerned. The air collected between them as neither spoke. If Ken had known what Conan’s second job was, he wouldn’t have been nearly as nervous.

Finally, Ken filled the void: “So...you know it’s been a hard year for me.”

“Right.” Ken’s sister had passed away a few months ago.

“And it’s made me think about how I live my life. Like...what am I doing to make the most of it.”

“You’re not moving to California, are you?”

Ken stifled a laugh, feeling a break in the tension. “God, no.”

“Good, because you know I wouldn’t last two seconds in middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin without you.”

His eyes left the napkin for the first time since they sat down. Briefly, yes, but it was enough to remind Conan of how those eyes lit up every room they entered - made people go out of their way to understand the person behind them.

“Conan.” Ken never said his actual name. He said it reminded him too much of the lanky, pale, ‘unfunny’ comedian that shared it. “You know you’re my best friend.”

“You don’t have other options, really.”

“Stop. You would be no matter where we were.” Ken hated how Conan used humor to be so self deprecating.

He shuffled uncomfortably. “Yeah, I know.”

“So you’re the first person I’m telling.”

“About wh-”

“I’m gay.”

They sat in that for a moment, just a moment, before Conan hugged Ken. Ken was crying before they even made contact.

Right now, he could tell his friend about all the years he’s known. He could tell him about the times that he’s seen Ken’s laptop opened to Call Me By Your Name. He could describe how Ken stared a little longer than necessary when a cute guy walked past. He could talk about the days he spent wondering when Ken would tell him. But it didn’t matter now. Ken had just done an incredibly difficult thing - more difficult than Conan would ever understand. And that was enough.

But now, Conan knew what had to be done. It was time to get to work.

He pulled away. “Are you going to tell your parents?” Ken didn’t live with them anymore - he technically could do whatever he wanted.

Conan might as well have asked him to rob a bank, by the way he looked. “God, no...not yet, at least.” His eyes were red from the crying, and the napkin was now being used for tear collecting. “I mean...have you met my parents?”

“Sadly.” Ken laughed, mostly as a reaction, as Conan checked his watch. The seconds were ticking by now - he had to act fast. “But if you don’t want this to end in heartbreak, we need to go now.” He started pulling bills out of his wallet to pay for the beers. His skin started to prickle in its regular manner, but it felt different tonight, probably because he wasn’t expecting it.

Ken just stared at him. “What?”

“Do you want them to be accepting?”

“I mean, obviously, but that won’t-”

“Then we need to go now. I’ll explain on the way there.”

The two exited the bar, Conan speed walking as he did the calculations to figure out exactly how much time they had. He knew it was at least half an hour to Ken’s parents, and the power only lasted a little longer than that.

He stepped into the driver’s seat, only glancing to the passenger’s side to make sure Ken was in the car before he stepped on the gas. He wondered how the job would feel with people he knew - would it have the same effect?”

Conan was driving so fast that Ken had to keep his head pressed against the seat. “Do you want to tell me what’s going on?” Nervous energy verberated through his voice.

Things were happening so fast that Conan decided not to sugarcoat anything. He couldn’t process this enough to do so, anyway. “So you know how I sometimes joke that I have superpowers?”

“Yes.” Ken was answering quickly to get to the point of this. But it was true - for years, Conan had been saying that he was somehow magic; it was such a known thing that he dressed up as a wizard every year in college for Halloween.

“It’s not a joke.”

“What do you mean it’s not a joke?”

“I mean that I’m actually magic.”

There was a pause. “Listen man, if you don’t want to be friends with me now, just tell me. Don’t kidnap me in a high speed road chase with no one chasing us.”

Conan figured it was best to get into the explanation, now that the fact was in the air. “Remember when we were sixteen and Lisa told us that she was gay?”

“Dude I grew up with you - I obviously remember all this stuff.”

“...but do you remember how I took her home after we talked about it that day?”

“I guess -”

“Well I did.” Conan was growing impatient now, the prickling skin starting to get more and more painful. At least it helped him drive faster. “And she decided to tell her parents that night.”

“Oh shit.” 

“And they were not thrilled. They just both started yelling at her.” Conan knew that Ken didn’t need to hear more details than that. 

Ken was clearly thinking about that now - about the possibility of his own parents not being thrilled - so he said nothing. Conan sensed this and continued:

“But it was weird. I was sitting on her couch and I had this...this feeling. Like I suddenly got a million bug bites on my arms. It started earlier that night, but it just started getting worse and worse.”

“Gross.”

“So I started leaving as all this was happening, because all I could think about was this pain, right? So I get up, start towards the door, and I collapse. And her parents come to get me, and I reach up and...and I touch them. And that’s it. The pain’s gone.”

It was a lot already, so he gave Ken a moment to process. He hadn’t done that all night, but when the feeling was over him, it was hard to gauge the emotions of others. 

“But that’s not all that happened.” Conan loved leaving suspense, even in moments like this. He was grateful that Ken wasn’t calling him a liar just yet.

“Well what else happened?”

“They both just...stopped yelling. Like obviously I was suddenly the main focus of attention, being a healthy teenage boy that just collapsed in their living room, but after I got up, they just...didn’t yell. And then the really weird thing happened. They both hugged her.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, seriously. And you know how they were the rest of high school -”

Ken let out a nervous laugh as he started putting the pieces together. “They went to Pride with her a few times.”

“Exactly.”

“So what you’re telling me is…”

“I fix homophobes, yes.”

There it was. Conan’s own little secret, suddenly not so secret. Well, it was never really a secret, if you asked the right people. But Ken had never been the right people...until now.

Rightfully, Ken had questions: “How do you know it wasn’t a one-time thing though? Like, what if it was just a weird coincidence?”

“I go to gay clubs and help people come out to their parents.”

“You what?”

The ridiculousness of that statement hadn’t occurred to Conan until now. But they were getting close, so he had to hurry; Ken needed to trust him for this to work. “I tell people to come out to me, like officially, because that’s where the magic...or like, the feeling, or whatever...starts. Then we drive to their parents’ house, I touch their arms, and poof. No more homophobia.”

“How long have you been doing that?”

“Since I was sixteen, I guess.”

Ken physically cackled - seriously, he sounded like a witch. Nerves make that happen, Conan knew. “So you’re telling me...you’ve been going to gay bars for over seven years...and I’m the one that just came out to you?

Conan normally would laugh, but the pain was seeping into his brain now. “Yes it would seem that way.” They were on the right street now. He looked at the time. Ten minutes, more or less. “Listen, Ken, we only have a little bit of time - the effect goes when the pain goes away. You need to tell them right when we get there.”

It was then that Ken remembered what was happening. “But what if it doesn’t work? Then I will have just burst into their house and come out to them for no reason.”

“Ken, this is 100% effective, I swear.”

"And I'm just supposed to trust you?"

Conan parked the car in front of the house. They were running out of time. "You trusted me enough to tell me about who you really are. And I love you for that, Ken. But I just need a little more of your trust now."

And there was the house. The house that Ken grew up in, afraid of the person that he wanted to be. Afraid of being himself. But now, here was a way that he could make it all go away. He just had to trust the one person that had never given him a reason to doubt.

"Okay. I'm ready."

July 01, 2020 16:38

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3 comments

C. Jay Loren
14:57 Jul 06, 2020

I loved the concept! I love the stories where it turns the "mundane" things in life into superpowers. You would think that opening people up to possibilities would not be a super power but it kinda is. Good job. :)

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Kirby Povilaitis
14:47 Jul 07, 2020

Thank you so much!! You have no idea how much your comment means to me:))

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E. Jude
07:45 Jul 15, 2020

What an original idea! Wish that existed for all those people out there! Well-written! Again, a great story!!

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