Last time, Hanna got her anus bleached and Kate and Jesús discovered the heady joys of petty theft. Not an awful lot else happened because this is a parody of a book in which nothing much happens at all, but you’ll be pleased to know that Hanna’s new boyfriend owns a helicopter. It’s some kind of substitute for a personality. Now, if we could only dig up a plot from somewhere…
After a great deal of swearing, cajoling and outright threats (his) and three in-flight tequilas and a mild panic attack (mine) we land on the roof of his apartment complex. I can’t stop shaking and I don’t think it’s desire this time. Actually I think I might be sick.
“Don’t look at me like that,” he says, looking so hurt that I want to feel better right away. “I was trying to do something nice for you.”
“I don’t really like flying,” I whisper, speaking slowly. I feel like if I speak too fast other things might come out of my mouth – bad things. It’s bad enough to throw up on a man in a parking lot but probably considerably worse to repeat the offence on a helipad.
His apartment is huge – open plan, with a U-shaped couch and a wood and granite kitchen area. The view is spectacular. In a corner is a large drawing board and I remember that Kate said he was artistic.
No she didn’t. She said ‘fat, busty dwarf maidens’. I was there.
– Oh God. Not you. Can’t you go back to sleep?
I intend to. Just pointing out that drawing World of Warcraft porn doesn’t exactly make him Picasso.
– Please. Have you seen some of that fantasy art? Picasso only wishes he was that good.
My Inner Goddess stares for a moment and shakes her head. Then she re-covers her eyes with a pink sleep mask bearing the legend THE BITCH IS SLEEPING and settles down to loud and deliberate snores.
“Do you draw?” I ask, pointing to the board.
“I dabble,” he says, removing his hat. “But I’m sure you know I didn’t bring you here to look at my etchings. Would you like some wine?”
I’m about to say ‘On top of three inflight tequilas and the remnants of a hangover?’ but he’s way ahead of me. The bottle, in its ice-bucket, is already on the counter.
“Margaux 1988 okay?” he says, pouring two large glasses. “It’s a little on the thin side and the nose isn’t what it ought to be but it compares favourably to the early 1990s – a series of very poor years for Margauxs.”
I take the glass. This wine is older than I am. Holy crap. “Do you know much about wine?” I murmur. It smells quite nice.
“Not much,” he says, raising his glass in a toast. “But I know what I like.” There is a wicked twinkle in his eye and I begin to feel less nauseous.
“Thank you,” I whisper, and I realise it’s a strange thing to say but I have no idea what else to say. I’m not entirely sure why I’m even here.
“Sit down, Miss Squeal,” he coaxes. “Make yourself at home. I expect you’re wondering why I brought you here?”
He doesn’t sit. He regards me thoughtfully as he sips his wine. “I’m a very wealthy man, Miss Squeal,” he says. “Very wealthy. I’ve made my fortune getting people what they want – if there’s a TV show, a movie, a videogame – anything they want, then I’ve got it. I make the uploads happen and people get the media they want.”
“It sounds very complicated,” I mutter.
“It’s really not. It’s simple. People want what they want and sometimes they’ll go to insane lengths to get it, like sitting up all night waiting for a bad torrent of the last series of Doctor Who.” He smiles. “I’m the one who makes sure that doesn’t happen.”
“That’s…kind of you,” I whisper, staring into my wine. I picture myself shrunk to the size of an insect, drowning in the drink, scrambling for impossible foothold on the smooth, slippery surface of the glass. I’ve had quite a lot to drink lately.
“Kindness has nothing to do with it, Miss Squeal,” he says, waving a hand around the sumptuous apartment. “As you can see, I’m well rewarded.”
“I can see that,” I murmur. When I catch his eye I flush and wonder what on earth he could ever want with me – mousy, innocent, unworldly, unwary me.
“There are, however,” he husks. “Certain things that not even money can buy.”
“But you’ll try anyway, right?”
He curls his lip in a sardonic smile. “Perhaps. I feel like I need to be honest with you, Hanna.” He holds out his hand. “Come – I want to show you my playroom.”
“You have space for a pool table too? Wow, this place is really huge.”
He grabs hold of my ponytail as he steers me towards the door. “So naive,” he chuckles, and places a kiss on the nape of my neck, a kiss that thrills me to the tips of my toes. I don’t even smell ham this time.
“I have never shown another woman the inside of this room,” he says, as we reach the door of the playroom. It’s just a door – wood with a brushed steel handle. No heavy foreshadowing here.
Maybe that’s why I relax and maybe that’s why I’m shocked when he opens the door.
Pink. So much pink. The floor is pink. The walls are pink and covered with pink shelving units. The only thing that isn’t pink are the ponies, colourful plastic ponies who smile down at me from every available inch of wall space. I remember the toystore and suddenly I understand.
“Oh my God…” I gasp. “Oh my God. You’re a…”
I feel his hand on my shoulder. “Yes. I’m a brony.”
I turn to face him. “I don’t understand…” I stutter.
He stares at me, raw emotion sheening his chocolate brown eyes. “Perhaps I should never have shown you…”
“No! No, you should.” Oh my God, he’s emotionally damaged. Why do I feel funny in the no-no place again? “If we’re going to be honest with one another…”
He grabs my shoulders. “Oh Hanna,” he murmurs. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” I groan. “Yes, yes – I’m sure. I don’t care. I only want you.”
Oh my. He’s close, so close. My lips are on fire and my heart in my mouth. His hand spreads covetously over my behind and then…oh my dear God…a slap.
“Giddy up, girl,” he whispers, in a voice that just about melts the nylon lace off my panties.
“Are you going to make love to me now, Mr. Neigh?” I whimper.
He shakes his head. “I don’t make love,” he rasps. “I clop – hard.”
And then we do it right there on the pink carpet. It’s all-consuming, transcendant and resolutely softcore. It’s also over in about ten minutes, including the time it took him to unhook my bra. My Inner Goddess has stopped snoring and is peering out from under one side of her sleep mask.
Congratulations. You’re a woman now. Brace yourself for a lifetime of similar disappointment.
She glares at me and goes back to sleep. Just as well. She wasn’t much help.
There’s a pony right next to my head – a yellow and pink one. Crispian looks at it and giggles. “Cover your eyes, Fluttershy,” he says, turning it to face the wall. “You’ll make them jealous,” he tells me. “They’re spoilt little ponies – until you came along they had nothing but my full attention.”
“I see,” I murmur, although I don’t. Oh, how I would love to have his full attention.
“Come and have some more wine,” he says, getting up off the carpet and fastening up his trousers. Oh my God – I can’t believe I just did that with a man. I never really thought much about how I would lose my virginity, but I didn’t think it would be like this. Nobody expects their first time to come with an audience of My Little Pony toys.
I climb back into my jeans and follow him into the kitchen. “I thought you were gay,” I mutter, still stunned by what just happened.
“That’s a common misconception,” he says, taking a large bowl from the kitchen cupboard. “And perhaps understandable, given my love for everything pink and adorable, but no – I’m all man. And a little bit of pony.”
He fills the bowl with off-brand cheetos and pushes it towards me. “You hungry?”
I take a handful. “I don’t understand,” I say.
He sighs. “Ugh. I knew this would happen,” he gasps, sitting down opposite me at the kitchen island. “People are so judgemental.”
“I’m not,” I say.
“No, but you are. I can see it your eyes. It happens with everyone. Just when I think I have a shot at happiness they find out about the ponies and the relentless tide of hate begins again.”
Oh God. I’ve upset him. I reach out towards him but he shakes his head.
“What’s wrong with the world today, Hanna? Why have we become so rigid in our gender roles and expectations that a grown man can’t enjoy the innocence and sweetness of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic? We buy our sons sports equipment and teach them stoicism, a stoicism that eats away at them from the inside out until they no longer know the relief of tears, or the simple joy of laughter – the laughter that ponies can bring. Why do we judge a man when he says he likes things that are pink and pretty and covered in sparkles?”
I shake my head. “I don’t know, Crispian,” I exclaim. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever called him by his first name. “But I understand – I do. People judge me because I’m mousy and clumsy and because I love classic British novels more than I love make-up and shoes and all the other things young women are supposed to like.”
He takes my proffered hand. “Yes,” he whispers. “I knew it, Hanna. I knew it right away. You felt it too, didn’t you? We have a connection.”
I nod frantically and squeeze his hand. When I look down I see that the off-brand cheetos have stained my fingers – I wear little orange crescents under my nails, just like his.
“Serendipity,” I whisper.
After that we do it in his bed, this time with Rarity for an audience. Rarity is the white unicorn with the purple hair. Crispian says she likes to watch. He has a theory that she might be kind of kinky, because she has a British accent.
“Brits are kinky bitches,” he says. “I think it’s all that boarding school – they get into experimental lesbianism and discipline.”
“You might have a point,” I mutter. “I know a British woman, and she’s a lesbian.”
“You won’t have to worry about her anymore, baby,” he says, stretching triumphantly on the cheeto dusted sheets. He won’t take his underpants off though. Not sure what’s up with that. He just pokes it through the hole when we…you know. That. Oh my.
“I know,” I sigh, sadly. “I’m a college dropout.”
“You?” he says. “What are you talking about? You’re no dropout. You’re the class valedictorian. Speaking of which, you’d better write a speech.”
Immediately I realise what he’s done. I leap out of the bed and search for my clothes.
“No!” He said he wouldn’t do this. I asked him not to do this. (At least, I think I did, or at least heavily implied that I didn’t want him to do it. Did I?) “You said you wouldn’t – it wouldn’t be right!”
He jumps out of bed after me and grabs me around the waist. I fight him for a moment but it’s no use – he’s a man. The only man who’s ever been interested in me. I have to take what I can get.
“Hanna, listen to me,” he says. “There was a mistake. It turns out Professor Jarrett was an illegal.”
“She was an illegal alien.”
“Oh my God. She’s some kind of space lesbian?”
He frowns. “No. Like a Mexican. An illegal immigrant – yeah, I know. It’s weird because she’s white. But listen to me, Hanna – she only got married so she could get a green card. She’s a leech, a parasite. She’s part of the cancer that is killing America.”
“They won’t send her back?” I gasp. I feel sorry for her now. This country must have felt like heaven for her, this country where she could marry who she chose to marry (subject to state law) and choose from a variety of affordable (and not so affordable) health care plans. And now she’s going to be thrown back into the slums of England, where they’ll probably make her sweep chimneys until her lungs are black.
“Yeah, she’s already in the process of being deported,” he says. “It’s a shame, because they just don’t have the mental health facilities back where she comes from.”
“Mental health facilities?”
“Oh yeah. She’s insane. Did I mention that? That was why she failed you. She went nuts about six months ago when she realised you weren’t a muff diver and would never return her love. Seriously though – you should stop wearing those Birkenstocks and grow your fingernails. When you take into account all the denim and flannel you wear you’re giving a lot of single ladies the wrong idea. Mixed signals, you know.”
“Wait…” I say, struggling to process what’s being said. What’s a muff diver? Is that some kind of deep sea fisherman? “What has my taste in sandals got to do with anything? Do you mean to tell me that Professor Jarrett was in love with me?”
“Head over heels, baby. But love soon turned to obsession and then to hate.”
I stare at him. Everything makes sense now. “Oh my God,” I say. “You mean she failed me…”
“…out of spite,” he concludes. “And not because your papers were the inane, ill-presented ramblings of an empty-headed solipsist with kleptomaniac tendencies.”
I sit down heavily on the end of the bed. “Wow,” I say, and again. “Wow. So I didn’t fail at all?”
“No, you didn’t fail,” he says. “You won, Hanna. You graduated top of your class.”
Holy crap. I don’t know what to say. “Holy crap,” I say. “Oh holy crap.” All my blood feels like it’s run to my feet – my head is white and empty and floaty, like a wedding balloon.
“What’s the matter?” asks Crispian. “Aren’t you happy? You’re valedictorian.”
I can’t breathe. He empties out the rest of the cheese snacks into a bowl and hands me the bag. “Breathe into this,” he commands. He’s so controlling. “You’re having a panic attack, Hanna. Breathe in the air in the bag – that’s it. And breathe out slowly through your nose. Again…that’s a good girl…”
Slowly I begin to feel better. My head floats back onto my shoulders. My lungs are thick with off-brand cheeto dust, but they’re working. I’ll be fine. I’ll be absolutely fine if I don’t think about it.
Ha. Yeah. Good luck with that.
Oh God. It’s her again. When did she wake up?
Sometime around the time when you started hyperventiliating. It’s not easy being a poorly characterised figment of someone’s unconscious, especially when that someone is having a panic attack. Gets awfully noisy in there.
– Well, go back to sleep. This isn’t the time.
Nuh uh. This is exactly the time, Princess. This is positively Shakespearean. I’m a manifestation of your guilt.
Guilt. You know how this goes – or at least you would, if you’d paid attention in class. I rumble around your head tormenting you until you’re prowling the battlements in your sleep. You’re never gonna get that cheeto dust out from under your fingernails, girl. The damned spot is here to stay.
– But I didn’t do anything.
No, but on some level you had to know that Captain Clop here was going to use his considerable influence and huge fortune to get you your degree. You didn’t tell him not to do it, did you?
– But he didn’t.
Sure he didn’t. And now your English Lit professor is being deported. Doesn’t that sound suspicious to you?
Liar. If it’s not suspicious then why are you shaking like a shitting dog and breathing into an off-brand cheetos bag?
– Duh. Because if I’m valedictorian then you know what that means, right?
Um…you’re a lousy little cheat with no morals and an endless capacity for self-delusion?
– It means, Einstein, that I’m going to have to make a speech. I can’t make a speech. I’m shy! I’m mousy! I’m incredibly clumsy!
My subconscious sighs and shakes her head. She peers over her glasses at me in one of the cute little roleplays she should have been performing if she was doing this right…
…and treat the reader to an endless, undiluted dose of you? I don’t think so.
– It’s my story! It’s about me! This is about my journey of sexual discovery – not yours. I’m getting a little bit sick of you coming in here and talking down to me when you should be shaking pom poms and or dancing round a Mexican hat every time Crispian makes sex eyes at me, okay?
I hate dancing.
– I don’t care. Do as you’re told.
My subconscious sighs again. Okay, she says. Let’s get this straight. You want me to stop talking?
– God yes.
And instead you want me to convey your inner monologue – such as it is – through the medium of some kind of amusing, interpretive dance?
– Yes please.
– If you wouldn’t mind.
No, I think I can manage that.
– Right. Thank you.
I wait for a ‘You’re welcome’ or some other sarcastic rejoinder, but my Inner Goddess has gone quiet. Crispian is rubbing my back in a way that’s beginning to be annoying, but at least I can breathe again. I’ll be fine as long as I don’t think about the speech. Oh my God. I’ll have to make a speech. How can I make a speech? Even my speaking voice is unsuited for speech – I mutter and murmur and whisper whenever I should speak clearly. I’ll stare at my shoes and flush pinker than the pony room and then some – and that’s even if I manage to get up to the podium without falling flat on my face. I’m so uncoordinated. Before this amazing, transformative night I was just a clumsy, uncoordinated girl and now I’m a clumsy, uncoordinated woman. Okay, so I have a well-trimmed bikini line and perfectly smooth heels but I don’t feel any different – I don’t feel any more confident before. In fact I feel rather more terrified than before. Oh crap, why I am so insecure? Why am I so timid? Why am I so big-eyed and sensitive and straight-up vulnerable?
And why is my Inner Goddess not giving me shit about being self-absorbed?
Her absence halts my inner monologue. And then I see her.
She is wearing white make up, with black eyebrows drawn very high on her face. She wears tight black pants, a tight striped jersey and a black beret.
– I hate mimes.
She smiles, pulls a smug face and taps her breast, then her head. I don’t speak mime but I can hazard a guess at what she’s saying.
She says I know.