The Iceman VS. Mr. Blaze

Iceman and Mr. Blaze are arch enemies, but sick of fighting, so they arrange a debate to raise and confront their disagreements. Just as the debate starts, Iceman's podium has already frozen solid; all he touches grows brittle and cracks open in a big puff of cold steam. Mr. Blaze's podium is, well...'ablaze,' but it has been treated with a chemical that keeps the fire from burning it down. Blue reflections shimmer on Iceman's end of the dais, and the other far end, where Blaze stands, all is engulfed in red light.

Usually by now, with both the cold and hot enemies in such close proximity to each other, fists would fly, but both foes have come to understand that the fight is always a stalemate. Their fights always end in wet, charred things laying about their feet. Nothing ever gets accomplished.

Iceman adjust his tie, which is, of course, frozen stiff, and speaks first.

Iceman:  I think about trust all the time because it is something I rarely experience. Trust - given to friends, to anybody in the world with whom I cross paths - is a rare phenomenon. It is a foggy glimpse into a dark loch, or a blurry sighting in dense woods. It turns to gaze at me as it strides, its long arms swinging, as if to ask me, 'you want some of this?'

My answer, almost every time, is 'no.' Trust is for the birds. Trust hurts. Trust is exhausting, because it mingles with the ever-present fear of that trust being violated. When did I stop connecting with people the way I used to, before I turned so cold? I can light my skin on fire as yours is, Blaze, but my core is still ice. And like ice, I am brittle. I will turn on you. And I won't feel anything.

Mr. Blaze tries to adjust his tie but it has already burned away. How does Mr. Blaze even still have clothes on? Why haven't they burned away? Well, Mr. Blaze has special flame resistant clothes, but he doesn't own a tie. He put one on before the debate (got it at Loehmann's for $7.99) hoping it might take on the qualities of his flame resistant suit. It didn't.

Mr. Blaze: I disagree. I think trust is its own reward.

Listen, friendships are hard, Iceman. Earning trust is hard. Hell, math is hard. Solving world hunger is hard. What do those things have in common? They're all essential to the human experience. They hold the key to our evolution as a species. The reward of trust and friendship is the most immediate we can experience. Is there anything more gratifying and satisfying than shared emotional intimacy, shared laughter, shared understanding? I think not.

If you put yourself out there, and give of yourself, you will get back an equal amount. The moment you stop putting effort into that which defines your growth, you stop growing.

Iceman shakes his head coldly.

Iceman: There is nothing unique enough about me to justify that amount of effort. I am only happy seeing myself through the prism of others, of their experiences. My vacant character is thus given purpose. In the vast universe of human connections, I am happier for being the uninhabitable gas moon revolving around other, larger planets and suns smeared with their big ole oceans and vast forests and icy peaks. It is better this way, hidden. It is better that I stay small. As part of that arrangement, I pledge to not matter much in the scheme of things. Who am I hurting as long as I don't eschew the trust someone has put in me? Why must I always reciprocate? After a while, I start feeling obliged to people.

Mr. Blaze: But why limit yourself? There is no limit to how much you can learn about yourself by putting your trust in others. Can you imagine the wars that could be averted, the diseases conquered, the frontiers breached, if only more people would refuse to act like you? I am not here, Iceman, to tell you how odd your views are. If anything, you are the norm. Most regular people are like you. And why? Because it's too damned hard to be any other way! Why do you think the world is going to hell? You have to be more passionate, more engaged!

Iceman: Why do you think most people are like me? Do you think I enjoy 'giving up' in my friendships? I do not. It's just that you talk on and on about the lovely exchange of intimacy and laughter but you say nothing, nothing at all about uncommunicative expectation and how it ruins friendships. You say nothing of how people infer injury everywhere and how it makes people like me want to stop trying. It's the reason I am the way that I am! I was so tired of being accused of being this insensitive person that I grew numb to it, and that numbness grew into a deeper cold.

Mr. Blaze: Don't paint all friendships with such a broad brush. You know they're not all like that.

Iceman: Most are, and you can't tell me what my experience has been. I'm sick of people. Why do you think that Icemen like me attach ourselves to other cold, unreliable people? We seek out unreliable people and we cling to them because they, like us, don't harbor uncommunicative expectation. They don't hold grudges. Back in the days before I became Iceman, a friend tried to kill me because he harbored a grudge that he never bothered to communicate to me. My coldness has kept me safe. It has defined me for so long that I do not know any other way. I don't have the energy level that some people have. I descend into the slow, deadly warmth of hypothermia every time I start feeling pressured. It's better that way. It keeps me alive.

Mr. Blaze: Did someone really try to kill you? Someone other than me? Did you hurt him in some way?

Iceman:  I never spoke ill of him, but he felt I over-shared my life and it made him resentful. He held it in so long without saying anything, and one day, he tried to kill me. I was just sharing myself, and my experiences, and one day, he tried to run me over. He didn't even give me a chance to apologize for doing something unintentionally hurtful. After that, I felt less compelled to share myself with people. Too many people in this world don't make the distinction between intentional and unintentional hurt. If you blunder into hurting someone, they'll shit on you just as much as if you'd taken a sledgehammer to them.

Mr. Blaze: I'm sorry that happened to you, Iceman. All the same though, when I said 'friendships are hard,' this is exactly what I was talking about. It's not all mutual understanding and flowers and stuff. People get weak and miscommunication happens, and - well, someone trying to run you over is pretty harsh - but fights happen. Then, you talk it out and you move on, and your friendship is stronger for it. That's the reward part I was talking about. Isn't that worth it? Isn't that worth you thawing out?

I don't think you give people enough credit. I think that there is a lot for forgiveness and gentleness in others' expectations of you than you realize. I think you've taken a few situations and you've spread them out like an ice wall and you've made it your whole life.

Iceman: I don't know, Blaze. I understand that I may be doing that, but my experiences with human nature - and they are just that, my experiences - have been overwhelmed with disappointment. True, I had more fulfilling friendships before I got cold. Am I always expected to rise above, to leave myself vulnerable and tapped out? You said earlier that friendship and trust is hard. Yes, but for certain types of people, it is more than hard. We are not all the same. Not all of us have your fire, Blaze. Not all of us can burn through the difficult times. Some of us form the ice wall before we even realize what has happened. Maybe it's in your nature to burn through the tough times with the force of your passion. I don't know if I have it in me. I am an Iceman. I was not always this way, but who knows - maybe I was always destined to be this way.

Mr. Blaze: I still think you can change. Commitment and love and trust and all that stuff is undoubtedly essential to the survival of our species. I'm sorry you don't feel that way. I'm sorry it's all too hard for you.

Iceman: Now you're just being condescending.

Mr. Blaze: I am only trying to reach you. Even if I have to burn through your defenses.

Iceman: I'll stop you cold.

With that, the two foes kick away their podiums and began running for each other. The fight takes them, as most superhero fights do, to the upper stratosphere and back, and then through a forest, then an urban area. Finally, it ends where it began, on the stage - or what's left of it. The wood is splintered, charred, lined with frost and dripping with water. All is in shambles, but then again, it's the way it always is. 

The two figures - one burning white hot and the other rigid and opaque - sit on either side of the wreckage. They both look defeated. That is perhaps because they both are defeated in a stalemate without end.


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