It’s Comic Con for Christ’s sake! I should be ecstatic. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. That’s what I keep telling myself as I walk up 5th Avenue in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter among the crowd of colorfully costumed geeks. The last panel just finished, so everyone’s hitting the bars and restaurants for a fun-filled night. Each place I pass is packed with superheroes, aliens, and other iconic characters, many I recognize, others I don’t. This would be the perfect environment for Han Solo, who I’m dressed as in his iconic black vest, white shirt, and navy pants. But despite the fact that Solo means “alone” in Spanish, he never rolls by himself. That’s why Iris was going to be Princess Leia. I bet she returned her costume by now.
She could have at least waited to break up after Comic Con! She knew how badly I wanted this. Well, fuck it! I’m determined to have a good time without her, damn it. Now where am I going to eat? A Darth Vader standing outside an Irish pub salutes me with his lightsaber as I pass by. I stop and nod. This place looks like a typical bar, with walls lined with TVs showing the Padres game and dim lights.
The hostess grabs a menu before I even decide whether I want to eat here. “Bar or table?”
I take a look inside. Scores of folks sit at the bar shouting above the obnoxious music and drinking beer from pitchers fit for giants. The tables are a bit quieter.
She sits me at a booth near the back next to the restrooms and leaves me my menu. The moment I sit down, I immediately feel out of place. Looking around makes me acutely aware of how empty I feel inside. How alone I am. Groups of superheroes and villains laugh and talk about the day. In my head, I see them all turning around and laughing at me. All alone at a comic-book convention? Pathetic.
So I dash out before my waiter comes. On my way up the street, a group dressed as Star Wars characters asks to take a picture with me. I’m especially impressed by the spot-on Boba Fett costume. Standing by their Princess Leia and smiling, I let a depressing thought creep in: This could have been Iris next to me. The camera flashes. Hopes of possibly joining the group immediately crumble when Luke Skywalker quickly thanks me, and they head off together.
I decide to take a high stool outside a Mexican restaurant one block down to look at all the nice costumes. But as I sit there, drinking some mixed drink, I realize I’m the spectacle, not them. What a loser. That’s probably why Iris broke up with me. In fact, I’m sure of it. She didn’t give much of an explanation before she packed her bags, leaving me to reach my own conclusion.
But I didn’t come here to ruminate on all that! To help get my mind off the breakup, I pull out a few of the limited-edition comics I just bought. Careful not to spill my drink on them, I read each one with glee. This is why I came here: to be soaked in nerd culture. This is my world, and I should be loving every second of it. The waiter comes, and I order fish tacos and another mixed drink that sounds good. The warmth from the alcohol relaxes me. I continue ordering drinks as I read through the comics. When people stop to take a photo of me, I give Han’s signature sheepish grin, which I’ve been practicing for weeks. I’m in heaven.
Once I flip through the last comic, I slip it back into its sleeve and pay the bill. When I stand, it dawns on me just how much I drank. Thankfully, my hotel is just a few blocks down, so, as if in character, I wobble my way back to my room. Sinking into the king-size bed, I begin to drown in the sorrow I’ve been ignoring. It was there all along, pooled beneath the vodka and cilantro. I am not OK. But today, I’m a little less not OK than yesterday. Right now, that’s all I can ask for.