NYCC 2018 Part 1: Romantic Rendezvous

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I never completed my opus last year recounting the final two days of New York Comic Con 2017, in which I withered in ever increasing pain for twenty four hours after having been poisoned the night prior, only to miraculously rally on Sunday morning, meet my childhood hero Burt Ward (tv’s Robin), and receive from him in front of thousands of fellow fans the greatest compliment of my life (“You sir, have big balls), as well as a rare poster signed by him and William Shatner both. This year, my memoirs will be slightly less ambitious, covering in two parts only Thursday and the remaining days, respectively, but they will get completed. Not that I imagine many will be reading these, aside from myself in my geriatric and nostalgic years, my various biographers, and Twitter mobs looking for incriminating statements in order to James Gunn me from my career and public life. But it’s a fascinating story, and one worth telling.

My New York Comic Con 2018 began on Thursday morning, post-coital and midway between drunk and hungover. The details as to how I had met the previous night’s conquest, or even what her name was, or if she’d even shared such with me, are all obscured behind a thick fermented fog clouding my memory. As I quickly got dressed to catch the train, I left my apartment in a state of utter disarray, condoms and wrappers littering the floor and the stank stench of sex seeped into the sheets, where it’d be waiting for me still when I returned on Sunday evening. Having spent the entire night evening drinking, fornicating, and receiving far too toothy fellatio, the only sleep I got before arriving in New York totaled at half an hour on the train ride there.

After arriving in Manhattan, I dropped off my luggage at the Distrikt Hotel, chosen due to its close proximity to the Convention Center, but nevertheless proving superior accommodations over the dismal lodging last year at the Paramount. I arrived at the convention just as doors, and walked right in, surely to the chagrin of those who’d waited hours in line. Mistaking the effects of the alcohol as a sign of impending illness, I began to fret as I walked the show floor that I’d have only a few hours to truly enjoy my favorite week of the year before sickness confined me to my quarters. Still, I soldiered on, determined to make the best of whatever time I did have. And then, not ten minutes after the convention started, it happened.

From out of the corner of my eye I glanced a beauteous blonde, and turning towards her, called out her name, half in vocative, half interrogative, wondering if this could truly be her. She turned towards me, her initial bewildered expression confirming to me that the name indeed matched the woman, and as our eyes met her face turned to instant recognition and elation. For indeed, it was the Blonde from last New York Comic Con (whose name is once again being omitted to protect anonymity), the very same who I had three-way made out with simultaneously with the hottest cosplay chick at the con, to the point of being literally (yes, literally) thrown out of death & Co., and whom I woke up next to the next morning, having both been poisoned. It’s an anecdote I’ve told time and again over the intervening twelve months, so much so that – will my tales, tall as they are, are all true – she seemed more like a character out of a story than anything else. Yet here she was, in the flesh, exactly as if she’d stepped out of the pages of a novel, or rather as if she was inviting me step out of mundanity and back into the book myself.

We briefly caught up. She had lost my number, but had kept in contact with the Brunette, who unfortunately would not be attending this year. We exchanged cards once again, and I asked if she’d want to hang out one night after the convention. She said sure, and I tried not to get my hopes too high, knowing how awry go the best laid plans, let alone impromptu, non-committal ones.

After parting ways my exhaustion finally caught up with me, but since there’d be no opportunity to rest until my room was ready later that afternoon, I snuck in the back of my first panel, “The Building Blocks of Quality Characters,” hoping that the brim of my cowboy hat would obscure the facts that I was resting my eyes for a while, though keeping my ears awake to the tedium of the panelists’ talk. After that I attended “Making Comics the Marvel Way,” which was more than interesting enough to keep me awake. One of my favorite current writers was in attendance, Jason Aaron, and I asked him about the presence of misotheism in his work on Thor, Avengers, and The Goddamned. He acknowledged that his atheistic beliefs were definitely coming through in his works, but his brief answer was not otherwise illuminating.

After that, the feeling of fatigue and the pain of my hangover press more upon my memory than however I passed the time. It might’ve been at another panel, though if it was the “DC Meet the Publishers” panel from my schedule, it left no impression upon my recollection. It’s entirely possible I attended something else, or just wandered the show floor while I waited for my chance to finally kick of my boots and enjoy a much-needed nap. When I did check into my room, I first texted the Blonde, inquiring if she was attending any after parties that evening. I had no pretensions that she’d want to cancel prior plans just to meet up with me, so I figured such would be the best opportunity to see each other again. She said she was skipping all that this year, at which point I invited her out to drinks, just the two of us, getting back only an “I’ll let you know.”

After only an hour or so I woke up entirely refreshed, all the more so after a quick shower and shave. I walked back over to the convention center for a panel entitled “#MakeComics: Editors on Editing,” to be followed directly by another on networking with said editors. While I do have aspirations to write for comics one day, I acknowledge my own skill set would be better put to use as an editor, and my portfolio of work with Hub City Review and Wisecrack certainly qualifies me to do so. It’s one of sever career moves I’d consider making in the next few years. But partway through the first part of the panel the Blonde texted me that she was starving and going to get some sushi. I responded that I loved sushi and asked her where she was going, understanding that she was by implication asking me to join. I immediately left the panel and met her over at the sushi joint on Eighth Avenue which she’d stumbled upon.

As I walked inside I couldn’t help but notice that she’d changed from earlier, now sporting a sultry black top which left one shoulder exposed, and wondered if the evening’s attire was for my benefit. Dipping my toe into conversation with some small talk, I asked how she’d been doing this last year. She countered with some big talk: “I’ve been great; I just got married last week.”

Saying this, she raised her left hand to flash the ring. I don’t know how I missed it. The rock was the size of Gibraltar and is sparkled like a gay vampire covered in glitter and sunlight. Whoever had bought it for her had real money. I was taken aback, but careful not to show such on my face, and of course offered the obligatory congratulations. She recounted the story of how they’d met and got engaged, how they had honeymooned before the wedding, and how he’d be flying into town the next evening.

The subject thankfully didn’t linger too long before we turned to recollections of the year prior. She showed me Instagram pictures of the Brunette, some naked and hanging upside-down, contorted into painful posed by a tangle of thick rope. Neither of us could make heads or tails of what that was all about. I then dissuaded her from her theory that the Brunette had been an escort or even more explicit, recounting how we had met her coworkers, two scrawny fellows who’d watched impotently as the three of us wrestled with our tongues. She then confirmed that she shares my theory that one of the waitstaff that fateful evening had indeed slipped something into our cocktails. After so much skepticism from those who weren’t there, it was vindicating to find agreement from an eyewitness to the event.

She then offered me one of the fatty salmon rolls she had ordered while waiting for me to arrive, upon which I immediately proceeded to choke, having swallowed too soon. I tried to sip some water to lubricate it down my esophagus, but when none of the liquid was able to bypass the blockage, I knew I was in potential trouble. I stood up with my hands clenching my throat, and she without hesitation embraced me from behind, ready to give the Heimlich. Just before her first thrust the food finally went down and I could breathe again. I successfully played off the potentially embarrassing situation, first by complimenting her quick decisiveness, and secondly by comparing it to the previous year’s near-death experience which we’d just recounted. At that, we raised some sake for a toast to surviving death.

After more sushi and more saki I asked if she wanted a cocktail, to which she said yes, but suggested we go to another bar, much to my surprise, as earlier she’d said she wanted to be in bed by nine due to an early start the next day, and also not knowing how long she’d want as a newlywed to spend with a former fling. I picked up the bill, firstly as a genuine southern gentleman, secondly to further conceal any disappointment over her recent nuptials, and thirdly to flash some cash.

Counterintuitive as it initially was to me, I’ve learned in my years in this world that the wealthier a woman is herself, the more important money is to her in a potential paramour. Poor girls, for whom even a modest sugar daddy could raise their standard of living, have learned to live without and acclimated out of necessity to the point many successfully trick themselves into believing that they prefer a good ol’ boy with a good heart but not a cent to his name; they even take a certain pride in poverty, in not needing money to make them happy. Rich girls, however, far from financial independence as a result of their riches, expect and even more affluent mate, one who will always buy them everything. When I dated a nun under a vow of poverty, she insisted on slitting the bill or paying on half our dates; when I dated a millionaire model, she never once reached for the check. I knew the Blonde was accustomed to an affluent lifestyle, and therefore made sure to pay for her throughout the evening, not in spite of her bigger bank account than mine, but because of it.

After that I suggested we go to Raines Law Room, my favorite bar in the city, one with a genuine speakeasy feel. There, amidst the low lighting and leather-bound books and cozy fireplace, we once again reminisced about our first meeting. It was then that she told me how far of a departure such proclivity was from her personality, much to my surprise. And yet she stressed just how much she’d cherished that evening. Prior to learning this, and based only on our actions that night, I had imagined her as having such a wild streak that out tryst would barely be a blip in her registry, and worried that if she remembered me at all, it was tinged with regret. If all I’d gotten out of that evening was the confirmation that so beautiful a woman had once had so wonderful a time with and because of me, that’d been enough. But there was more to come.

I again asked if she wanted another cocktail, and again she suggested we find yet another establishment, not due to any defect in the one we were at, but simply to add yet further variety to an already excellent evening. We elected to wander in the direction of her hotel, allowing chance to choose where next we’d drink. As we sauntered the conversation turned to chance and such, and as it did she opined, “I don’t think it was a coincidence that ran into each other this morning. I think we were meant to meet again.” I’m not so daft as to not read between the lines as to what she (a married woman, mind you), was truly saying. I answered honestly, “I don’t think it’s coincidence either; call it fate or providence or purpose, but you’re right: this was meant to happen.”

We both agreed that if we came across a rooftop bar that’d be the ideal next spot to hit. Then suddenly, as if to confirm our musings about destiny, we happened upon The Skylark, the very rooftop bar where we first really got to know one another last year. Though the top floor was closed for a private event, the rooftop above that was open, an lo and behold the only open seating was at the northwest corner, directly above the booth where we were last time. Our meeting and our coming upon the bar and our seating could of course all be construed as mere chance, as not even too improbable a possibility; but neither of us wanted to see it that way. And as we talked about such things and spoke without words others, our eyes meant in an intense stare, so much so that the glint and glittering of the city lights twinkling in her pupils will be forever burned into my memory. And as we held each other’s gaze, our heads each tilted ever so slightly in signal of what we both wanted to happen in that moment, and with nothing more than her big, brown, beautiful eyes, dilated in the dark of that magical Midtown midnight, and with the implicit intent which those eyes in silence spoke, she kissed me more sweetly and succulently than ever I’ve been kissed with even the softest and fullest of lips.

Already many hours into our impromptu date, we once again began heading back in the direction of her hotel. But she stopped before going inside, speaking to me words which I’d been longing to hear all evening: “I want to be bad tonight.” The text was explicit enough, but every letter of every word of the subtext screamed out the adulterous intent she could not bring herself to voice. She then proposed we punctuate the evening be acquiring a particular illicit substance, which I need not name. Now as it so happened, I knew that the manager (or was he the owner?) of the very bar where we’d first met, which was only a few blocks from that spot, could supply us with exactly what she was looking for. And had I decided to press for that course of action, the evening might have turned out very different. But I had truly believed that destiny was guiding our course that night, and seeing where it had taken us so far, trusted in it to likewise deliver us a happy ending. She agreed with my reasoning, and we made for the nearest bar, letting fate decide whether we’d be able to procure substance on which she could excuse the adultery which would inevitably follow from it.

Alas, as it was so soon as we walked into the Houndstooth she spotted a client, whose interjection into our evening interrupted the would-be affair. When I once again walked her back an hour later, it was with my genteel reputation and her marital vows both perfectly preserved. As I walked back to my own quarters, it was with a mix of emotions. There was an undeniable thankfulness for so much that had happened: the seemingly-chance encounter, the confirmation of what last year had meant to her, the nearly perfect sequel this year. And yet as a walked on, as I write even now, it’s with the knowledge that I’ll be forever haunted by the kiss I ought to have given her.

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