July 11, 2007

I'm not going to say "Dear Diary".

I'm just not.

That's what girls write. That's not what this is. It's a journal. I'm a guy. Guys write in journals. I'm going along with this at Jinx's suggestion. But I'm not going to say "Dear Diary".

I never told her but I considered doing something like this when I first became Kid Flash. I thought I should chronicle the physical changes to my body. Nobody could tell what would happen to me, not even Flash. I was just a skinny 11 year old kid who suddenly had super speed. And I thought maybe keeping notes would help me in my crime fighting. What were each villain's tendencies in fights, that sort of thing.

But I couldn't leave anything around that would hint at my secret identity. My family didn't know about me. The truth is, they didn't much care about me. And my parents occasionally thought the new Wally they saw after I'd gotten super speed, the me in my ultra baggy clothes and omnipresent wool hat, was taking drugs. They searched my walk in closet sized room a few times looking for who knows what. I wasn't that kind of speed freak but they didn't know. So, I had to try and just keep in my head recollections of how my body changed with puberty and speed force combined and the details of my missions.

Jinx suggested this, saying it would be good to have a record of how I thought about being a Flash and a Titan, all the other heroes and our life together. She said that reading her old diaries was fascinating just to see how her perspective had changed.

Well, this is going to be a long entry seeing as it's my first one and I'm sort of recording what my life is like right now. First of all, the physical stuff. I'm 18 and one month old now. I just got off the scale. 163 pounds, 0.6 body fat. Six foot one. 41 inch chest, 27 inch waist and 40 inches at the hips. No, I'm not hourglass shaped. Jinx is. I'm just sprinter shaped back there. This seems to please my wife very much but just the same she never misses a chance to make fun of me for it if, say, her mother gives me a pair of 27 inch waist jeans as a gift and I burst the rear seam the first time I wear them. I may never hear the end of that so mentioning it's no big deal. Anyways. Blue eyes, orange hair. No distinguishing marks. They're pretty much impossible for me. I heal cuts and bruises in seconds.

I'm pretty much full grown. It's so much better to be like this in a tight Flash suit than the skinny kid I was when I started. I was so embarrassed back then. I get these amazing powers through an accident and it totally fine tunes my body. That was great. But I was still just a skinny kid and I had to wear this skin tight suit. Thanks Flash. Thanks a lot. Any time I stopped and girls were around they snickered at me or giggled or tried to pinch my buns. I sometimes think crooks and villains fought even harder against me because they were ashamed to let some kid who didn't even weigh a hundred pounds take them down.

I live at Titans Tower with Virginia Allen, maiden name Murphy. I'll get to that later. If I start writing about her I'll forget all the other things I want to say. She has that affect on me. First of all, Titans Tower. It's such a cold, futuristic looking place on the inside, all stainless steel surfaces, navy blue walls and black marble floors. It's odd that it feels so comfortable to me now. But it does. There are things I don't like about it, like being cut off from the people of Jump City. I know it protects us to be on an island in the bay and it would probably be impossible to get insurance on any building next to us if we were in the middle of the city but it still feels odd. Robin, Raven and Cyborg love it this way. I'm not sure what Starfire prefers. But I know Gar agrees with me that it's weird to be cut off from the people we're supposed to protect. It makes us seem elitist. It feeds into that view of us that you see in the press sometimes, that we're "arrogant". That's the way some dopy newspaper columnist described us a week ago.


It's bizarre being a public figure where everyone knows you but they only know you in this superficial way and they make all these judgements about you without having a clue as to what you're really like. Everyone here is so dedicated to helping others, it just blows my mind to see us described as "arrogant".

I'd like to see how many other guys would handle what Robin went through and give the dedication to the job that he does. Or how many girls could handle what Raven did, being told from birth that they were going to be the instrument of monstrous suffering and end up instead being a hero. Arrogant? Gods! I think every one of us has some kind of family tragedy in his or her past yet we're taking these abilities we have and giving our lives to helping out anyone and everyone who needs it. Arrogant? We risk getting killed by psychos with powers almost the equal of ours over and over. I couldn't tell you how many times we've had a no holds barred fight with some HIVE splinter group or Brotherhood of Evil faction paroled by those stupid french courts and dragged our butts back to the Tower only to run right back out before we even sleep to fight another bunch like that or to save the residents of a burning apartment complex. Arrogant? Un-fucking-believable!

I guess part of it's jealousy. Who the hell are they to have super speed, or be able to morph into any animal or have hexing powers or fly and throw starbolts?! I guess that's a natual human thing. Really, who am I to deserve to have the abilities I have? Was I the best 11 year old kid out there? Probably not. But however it came down to me, it did. Still, I understand the feeling. I don't get too worked up over that Punk'd Titans web site that has all those pictures and videos of us any time we tripped or stumbled or somebody beat us. Robin hates it. He's sure a villain's behind it. Probably Control Freak he says. He wants to get IPO addesses and names. I don't get that worked up about it. But I was always more of a wiseass than Dick. And I was their feature video when it started. If I can shrug off them showing that footage of me getting turned into a lemur by Gorilla Grodd, Robin ought to be able to overlook a few clips of him tripping or getting thrown into some mud. Stupid Grodd and his change all humans into apes plans. It's like all he does. Talk about your one trick ponies. Anyway, he got most of the Justice League that time but me, being a 29th century boy genetically and a Flash, the ray somehow only made me a lemur, which isn't even a monkey at all, more like a cousin to a raccoon, I think. Not that I particularly enjoyed being shrunk to a third my size, covered in hair and having a three foot long tail sprouting over my buns. Although, I was only like that for a day and a half.

Allright, where was I? One of the few bad things about being able to type super fast is that it can be too easy to get caught up in stream of consciousness kinds of rambling. Jinx said one way to do this was to write as though speaking or explaining to another person. Oh yeah, Titans Tower. Jinx and I share a room, 1307. Raven's in the room to the right, Beast Boy the room to the left. Cyborg's got a corner room, Starfire another corner and Robin's on the other side of the building. He wanted the sun to come up in his room in case he wasn't already awake. As if that could ever happen. It's a great place to live. And living here, my whole food thing is taken care of for me. I get paid a monthly stipend like the rest of us but the food is complimentary, which is great for me. Six or seven meals a day can take a bit out of your budget. It was so ridiculous when I first became Kid Flash. Sometimes I could handle most everything about the whole deal except my own appetite. I'd get so hungry. My god. I think I might've turned villain for a cheeseburger sometimes. When I had the junior high schedule where we ate lunch first!? By the end of the day I'd be dying. Finally, I told Flash and he and Aunt Iris started giving me extra money to buy food that my mother wouldn't have to know about.

Poor Mr. Chen! But, hey, the sign out front said "All you can eat Buffet". The first few times I went into the Beijing Buffet, he just looked at me funny. Reed thin redhead goes back for seconds and thirds and fourths and fifths and . . . Then he took to patting me down. It must've looked to the other customers like he thought the skinny kid in the big gangbanger style pants must have a gun. But that wasn't it. I think he thought maybe I was shoveling rice and dumplings into a bag somewhere under my oversized shirt and pants and taking 'em home. He seemed relieved that I wasn't a thief but after he realized how skinny I really was from patting me down he started sitting across the aisle from me and staring at me as I wolfed down six or seven full plates of food. "Where you pit it aw, Daygrow?" he finally shouted at me, which was a bit much. My hair's orange, but not dayglo. I just smiled and said I was a growing boy. He said I should have grown to 300 pounds already and threatened to not let me back in. But, finally, he limited me to 4 plates worth. So, I'd pile my plate high in a pyramid of rice, crab, chicken and beef. And I made sure nobody ever got away with robbing Mr. Chen.

At Titans Tower, Robin handles all the procurements. He's the details guy. Everyone's supposed to email him suggestions or preferences. I usually forget. I'm not very picky anyway. But it's great. It's almost like it's magical for me. I zip to the fridge and there are some new goodies there just about every day. I never tell Gar this, but his vegetarian stuff is mostly horrible. I eat some of it now and then to be nice to him. He's such a good guy. I wouldn't want to slam him like that. He's always going back and forth with Cy about it and eating some of it's a way to stay neutral. Some of the sprouts are okay. But that tofu stuff is evil. I think it's distilled from that goo that makes up Plasmus or something like that. Almost as bad is when Starfire tries to cook. You get these casseroles where the noodles are supposed to be in some kind of gravy but they're swimming in mustard and they're not really noodles they're some kind of Tameranean things, "wertgrops". Can anything actually taste good with a name like "wertgrop"? Raven doesn't eat much but makes these great exotic teas. You always want to share a pot with Raven. Cyborg has his thing with waffles. The others make fun of him but I'm cool with it. Unobjectionable, easy to prepare carbohydrates? I'm a Flash. I've got to be okay with that. The surprise cook of us all is Jinx. She doesn't cook often because she'd rather die than get pigeonholed as some happy homemaker for the Teen Titans. But she's great. You give her a few simple ingredients and somehow she whips up some incredible souffle. She's all hush hush about it but I think she did more than her share of the cooking for the HIVE Five. Unlike those dopes (sorry See-More!) she wasn't going to eat pizza every day.

In addition to free food, we get use of one of the biggest TV screens in the world. We get beta copies of all the best games. I'm not that much into them, not like Gar and Cy. Even Gar's backed off a bit. But we had Halo4 when Halo3 was just starting to come out. We have a pool and a tennis court on our roof. It's a pretty sweet life. But, I think everyone here deserves it. We put our lives on the line all the time.

You have Cyborg, our strength guy and our electronics guy. If you think about it, he's Mammoth and Gizmo in one but not stupid or annoying. He's a fascinating guy. After the accident, he could have wallowed in self pity. He not only got himself back to normal human functionality. He made himself much more capable. Much more. Now he saves other people so they don't have to wallow in self pity. As strong as Robin's will is, Cyborg's is just as strong. It's just different. Robin's about the fight whereas Cyborg's a relentless will to build, to create, to improve things. Every time you turn around he's added some new feature to his armor or increased the power of some weapon or made some sensory scanning feature more sensitive. He casts these mischievous glances at me in the training room sometimes as though to say, "I'll find a way to deal with you, Wally. I'll find a way." He'll end up being as powerfull as the rest of us put together some day.

But for now, the most powerful might be Raven. It's hard to say. But for all her power, I mostly feel sorry for her. She's always so downbeat. Her default assumption about everything is that the worst will happen. I know she had that whole, terrible situation with her father. But the Titans got her past that. She doesn't have to expect the worst any more. Attitudes like that are self-fulfilling prophecies. Expect the worst and eventually you get it. Still, she's a terrific fighter. But she has terrible luck with guys. Malchior? Yikes. Dream guy turns out to be a dragon. And Aqualad. Um, was she the only one who didn't realize? Then there was Beast Boy. She gives him the cold shoulder when he's the 5 foot 2 funny looking little dude. Then, last year he has a weird growth spurt, shoots up to 6 feet tall, bigger jaw too, all of a sudden he's a total green pretty boy. And he grows up in other ways too. You could almost see her say to herself, "Hey, wait!". But it was too late. He made it work with Terra. She even glanced my way, but I have Jinx. She's really beautiful in a certain exotic way. I wish things could work out for her. I always wondered about maybe her and Kid Wykkyd. But Jinx says Elliot's very shy, that maybe he's not ready for her. It's too bad. I'd really like to see her experience a long term sort of happiness.

The next most powerful might be Starfire. Again, it's hard to say. Everyone's abilities are so different, just like we're all so different as people. Sometimes you forget about those differences. Other times you realize how great they are.

In retrospect, it's no surprise that she and Robin broke up. It's a funny thing how your perspective changes when you're in a relationship. When I was a lonely 14 and a half year old boy, no friends, never mind girlfriends, I wouldn't have thought that I could diagnose a relationship's problems. But sometimes I do now. Maybe that's presumptuous to think that because Jinx and I work so well that I can see what should work well with other couples. But Starfire was just too emotional for Dick. They couldn't have quiet time or down time. Everything was a crisis with her. Everything was a test. She was constantly hectoring him for this or that perceived slight or sign of lack of caring. Everything was a test of his love. Everything. Maybe it was the princess thing, too. She's a princess, after all. She was probably accustomed to people always focusing on her. But that's not the way Dick is. She saw every single thing he did through the prism of "our relationship, Robin". That was just way too much for him.

He's not a cruel person at all. He's actually sort of kind if you get to know him. But you have to have a different scale with him. He's not trying to hurt anyone. He just doesn't have much of him that's devoted to expressions of being nice or avoiding things that might be interpreted as uncaring. That's just not him. So, you let him step on your toes a bit and you develop tough toes, or something like that, as part of being his friend. Believe me. I know. Dick's my best friend and he'd ignore me to type out a new case file any day of the week. It's just the way he is. It's not cruelty or dislike. You can't get upset about it and you can't wait for him to feel all flushed with warm fuzzy thoughts to put aside all his work and do something with you. He just doesn't work that way. But if you reset your expectations from emo boy to boy wonder, it's fine. You even get to a point where him patting you on the shoulder is the equivalent of some teary hug from anyone else and it feels great.

But you you have to physically separate him from the files and keyboards and stuff. It's just a different standard. But he's a great guy. Even Jinx grudgingly admits he's not the guy the HIVE thought he was. The HIVE kids absolutely hated him. Hated.

When he and Starfire broke up, there were some shouting matches and as in most such situations, the other friends in the circle had to pick a side to some degree. Did you eat any of that casserole she made becomes picking a side. Did you write out some case files? Even just who are you talking to or spending more time with becomes picking a side. Even if you don't think either party's to blame or intend to pick a side. You end up picking a side anyway. Well, I'm Dick's best friend, so it was obvious where I was going. I was still nice to Starfire. She kind of looked at me warily those weeks but I made it clear to her that I had nothing against her. I just wanted to help my best friend Dick Jinx took his side, too, not very openly, never in a way that was much critical of Starfire though she did mumble to me, once, while looking at Starfire complaining to Raven across the great room, "Good luck finding a guy who's got the emotion dial turned up to 11 all the time like you, honey."

Gar sort of took her side, Raven too. But both admitted to me that they sort of felt they had to. Jinx and I were "on the side of the Robin". Cyborg just pulled back from the whole situation. He was pretty smooth sidestepping the whole thing. Lot of sonic cannon work and phased plasma gun heat signature identification to do those weeks. Lots of it. Smart Cyborg. Gar and Rae felt like they had to hang with her to sort of make things even.

It was a problem for the team for a while there. But we still went out on missions like pros and protected the City. Robin called out attack formations the same as always with no change in how Starfire was used. Things were kind of winding down, too. Then, East visited us and Bee was all over it. Gods, it was like an episode of Oprah! The situation had almost run its course and she had to butt in and make like it was a big crisis and cause this big scene. Hell, she made it a crisis! She did! I had my suspicions about that. And when I muttered them to Jinx there in the great room beside the others watching Starfire cry while a furious Robin tried to stare a hole through Bee, she agreed. It makes one team's leader look better if the other team is seen as being in some kind of "crisis", especially if the other team's "crisis" is a problem with its leader.

I even mentioned a hint of our suspicions to Bee as she was following Robin back to his room. She did NOT like that. Uh uh. The next time I tried to schedule another training session for Mas and Menos, she had an excuse for every time I suggested. Um, we're training then. Um, I think they're going to S.T.A.R. Labs for a checkup that day. We might be meeting the Mayor of Steel City on that day. And on and on. Finally I just stared at her on the giant comm screen. They need to work with other speedsters, I told her, irrespective of their leader's moods. Then I signed off.

As for being "on the side of the Robin", well, there were certainly more warm and fuzzy places one could be. I gave Dick some room. I didn't go vibrating through his door and hugging him right away. I could see where he was going after the breakup.

Shutdown. Total emotional bat shutdown.

Opening up hadn't worked. It'd only gotten him hurt. The doors slammed shut and you needed a frigging security code to get in, a code he wasn't handing out to anyone, including me. At first we didn't see that much of him. He'd be in his room or down on the 6th floor at the backup communications center where he could process files without people going by on the way to the kitchen or the great room on 13 and 14. And, like always, he did his workout starting at 5:30 AM. No competition from the rest of us then, at least until Jinx had her great idea.

Funny how her ideas usually require that I do something uncomfortable.

Wally! Why don't you get up at 5:30 and train with him?

This got a deserved hostile glare back from me.

Even if you only get to say a word or two, it'll be good for him! I looked at her, again, like she was nuts. Between books and making love and talking, we never get to sleep before two thirty. Two at the earliest. Yet, there I was, five thirty in the morning, sleeping so contentedly, spooning with Jinx and the stupid alarm goes off. Then she untangles from me. And I get a pale gray foot planted against my butt and I'm kicked off my own bed! Luckily I don't have to put on much much and I'm a Flash. Ten seconds later I was in the workout room with Robin. The sacrifices I make!

Dick's expression was so, I don't know, closed. I couldn't even be Wally with my friend Dick Grayson like I'd been for all those months before that. He wasn't even ready for that.

Total shutdown.

I don't think there even was a Dick Grayson right then. There was Robin. There was his crime fighting. And that was it. Dick Grayson had emotions. He got hurt. He was out. There was only Robin now. And an emotion free Robin at that. I worked out with him, followed him around the circuit of workout machines and spotted him on the bench press. When we were all done, I gave him a pat on the back before we went hit the showers. It seemed so ridiculously short of what I wanted to say but it was still too much. He gave me an odd look like he couldn't possibly understand why I would do that.

I did the same damn thing for two weeks! Jinx got a kick out of it, out of kicking my buns out of our bed at that insane time every morning. "Out you go, speedster!", she'd say with a laugh waking me out of groggy half sleep, barely affected by the alarm going off, and knocking me to the floor. I'd come back there at 8:30 after almost 3 hours of working out and she'd be blissfully asleep amongst our covers, a smile curling her lips just knowing that I'd come back to see her so wonderfully rested.

It was a slow progression. By the end of the two weeks, I'd gotten all the way to saying "Good workout, Dick" as I gave him that single pat on the back. Amazing catharsis, huh? Tectonic movements proceed more quickly. But that's the way it had to be with him. My best friend. It was kind of funny, even at the best times with him, though. He could be so uptight about certain things. I knew about Slade, but there must have been villains that he faced with Batman who wanted his little butt, too. Maybe there were some psychos they chased who were gay. I'm not sure exactly but Dick had a serious problem with the idea of gay anything. When I gave him a hug, I could feel him, after about a second each time, recoil. I mean, with me, Kid Flash, not Speedy or Aqualad. He was much more uptight around them, maybe even more with Speedy than with Aqualad. Garth made him uncomfortable. But at least he seemed to sort of intellectually understand it. Okay, he's homosexual. Fine. But Speedy?! Mr. Affections in all Directions, as Jinx called him? Robin looked at him like he was an alien species. He even got uptight at how friendly I was with both of them, especially Garth who is just about the nicest guy in the world. "You know, he wants to screw you,don't you?" he'd helpfully and tactfully inform me. Uh, yeah, Dick. I realize that. "And you let him hug you?" To which, the answer was usually that I'd hugged him. I don't know if Dick thought Speedy or Aqualad would bend me over the railing on the roof before getting in their T-Jet and flying back east or something but those are the sorts of things he'd say. I could upset him sometimes just by hugging him so that the skin of our ears or cheeks rubbed together. This is how uptight he was even in the best of times.

So, there was that extra complication in trying to get my friend to open up again, emotionally, at least to the degree he had been. Nothing could have even the most insane possible interpretation of it that came out as gay or anything like that. After the couple weeks of painfully early workouts, I vibrated through his door into his room one night to find him typing extra case file information into the computer.

Case files.

God. He made such a big deal out of them. But we never really used them. That's the thing. We'd get a call that Plasmus, for example, was running amok in the warehouse district or Dr. Chang was seen outside Jump City College and what would we do? Did we all sit down and review case files? NFW! We ran out and took care of him. And the information we had was whatever we remembered in our heads as we went out there. Still, Robin acted like they were this all important thing. The Case Files Grail! The Shroud of the Case Files of Turin! He probably thinks there was a Case Files Crusade somewhere around 1000 A.D. Maybe moslems keeping christians from holy filing cabinets in Jerusalem. Something like that. But, really, it was just something on which to focus his mania. But I'm cool with it. I understand. It's what he is. It's just not what I am.

He told me how he feels being the guy without powers who has to keep up with all of us superspeed, superstrong, morphing, flying, hexing types. It makes sense in a way. But that first night, I sat there on his bed while he typed away and the only words we exchanged were him telling me I should knock first, as I entered, and me saying sorry. Not one other word. Not one.

It sounds stupid to someone who doesn't know him, like you, oh journal.. Why didn't I just start talking to him? But Robin puts out this intense wall of silence, this overpowering vibe that interaction with you is NOT desired. In the past, sometimes, I'd pick him up from his chair and run him up to the pool at super speed and throw him in, or another time, I left him in Raven's room. The smell of brimstone was in the hallway for days after that one. It really was the only way to separate him from what he saw as his work. He literally could not do it himself. He doesn't have the off switch. But if you did, he would actually talk and joke with you like a great friend. I don't get that. If you had a great time laughing and joking with me up at the pool, then, don't you choose to go up to the pool now and then? But he can't do that. He can't stop himself from doing his case files and things. You have to stop him. Starfire never got that, somehow. It wasn't that he didn't care. There was no degree of caring that mattered. He couldn't go from point A to point B. And getting mad at him for it was unfair to him.

But he couldn't stand the disruption then. That's what I sensed. He seemed sort of brittle after the breakup with Starfire. So, I spent four hours watching him type. Crazy. But that's all I did. I watched him type. But that's Dick. And if I wanted my friend back to the way he'd been a few months before then I just sensed somehow that this was how I had to proceed. He'd had enough of being told he wasn't sufficiently emotional by Starfire. He wouldn't have accepted me bullying him into being more open. Things would have to proceed at his pace.

The next night it was the same thing. It was so frustrating. I could have been with Jinx. Instead I was in Robin's room looking at his back, his gelled hair and cape as he typed. I didn't even get a word out of him that time. I'd knocked before vibrating through the door. Not one word in 4 hours. None. Zero. I wanted to laugh out loud at the situation but barely held back. The tidal wave, the bursting of the emotional dam the third night was him saying to me, "You write really good case files when you bother" without ever looking away from the screen. I said something about how convenient it was to be able to type at super speed but I'm not sure he heard me. But, hey, nine words was like the great american novel or an epic poem at that point.

I kept at it another two weeks till finally, we could exchange a few sentences, at the end of which, I had enough and told him, "Hey, throw me a bone, here, Grayson. It's been a month here now that my friend disengaged from contact with me and everyone else. And I don't think I did anything wrong. I think I was loyal to my friend. And now I've gotten up at five thirty in the freaking morning for two weeks to be around my friend and then I spent every night for a couple more weeks watching my friend type these stupid case files just so I can be around him and show him how important his friendship is to me. But I'm a different kind of person than my friend. I like to talk to people and I like to hug them too. Out of respect for our friendship, can I get a hug here?"

He paused and sighed, finally stood up from his desk and we hugged. It felt great to have my pal back.

Then I ran him up to the roof and threw him in the pool. It was just like old times.

Gotta go, communicator's beeping a mission alarm.