Well, it appears we are all another year older. Oh God. If you’re reading this with a hangover you’ll be pleased to know this episode does not contain any mention of throwing up, unlikely internet porn or pilonidal cysts. It does however contain the usual foul language and gratuitous dick jokes, because if I didn’t put those in there then how would I ever be able to look any of you lovely people in the eye ever again? I know you expect these things from me, you sickos.
Happy New Year!
Once again I am nervous, quivering with anticipation, tremulous with apprehension, waiting and worrying and ransacking the thesaurus for suitable verbs. Lately I seem to spend my whole life waiting for Crispian Neigh, even though I only met him about a week ago. It’s almost like before I met him my life was pointless and futile.
It was. Still is. It just contains one hundred per cent more nerd cock than it used to, that’s all.
– Oh, it’s you.
Of course it’s me. You think I’m going to miss out on some enchanted evening with that nice Mr. Neigh? And by ‘nice’ I mean ‘creepy compulsive masturbator and despoiler of little girls’ cartoons.
I sigh. It’s going to be a long evening, I can tell. I’m plucked, waxed, moisturised and made-up to Crispian’s most exacting standards, peering out of the window like Sister Anne, waiting for Naylor and the SUV.
No shit it’s going to be a long evening. Couldn’t we just skip to the party? Has the author never heard of in media res or is she getting paid by the word?
The SUV pulls up. I wave goodbye to Kate and Jesús, even though they don’t deserve it, and go downstairs. Naylor is waiting, this time with an orchid corsage, a Blackberry and a small diamond tiara. I don’t want to accept any of these gifts but Crispian is impossible when I don’t, so I do. Besides, I can’t help but think the tiara kind of suits me.
Yeah – you keep on telling yourself that.
I could really do without my Inner Goddess tonight but at least I should be partially grateful that she has at least given up mime. I drink two glasses of champagne on the journey to steady my nerves…
And keep telling yourself that too.
– Oh my God, will you shut the fuck up?
Oh my, Hanna – defensive much? I’m just saying…
– Well, don’t.
…you’ve been pounding them back since the Roman shower incident.
– Have not.
Have too. It’s like you’re unhappy and drinking to forget.
– Fuck off.
I am not unhappy. I am not drinking to forget. I say these words over and over like a mantra as the elevator carries me upwards to Crispian’s apartment. Everything will be fine. He’s probably right. Why shouldn’t he like ponies? It doesn’t hurt anyone, does it? It’s not like he raped or murdered anyone. He just…has very specific needs.
The door is opened by a boy in a rainbow t-shirt. He is wearing what looks like pony ears and a clip on tie. “Hi,” he says. “I’m Daniel.”
“I’m not unhanna,” I blurt, managing to change it halfway through. Successfully? I’m not sure. He’s looking at me strangely. “I’m Hanna,” I finish. “Hanna. I’m Crispian’s…girlfriend.”
Am I? What am I to him? I want to be his girlfriend, not his pony. The Serendipity thing would be cute if he didn’t take it so damned seriously.
Crispian’s apartment is full of young men. Several of them are hunched around laptop computers, some are watching the pony cartoon with rapt attention. A large group in the kitchen are screaming their way through a song about winter and keep being shushed by the others. They’re all shapes and sizes, colors and creeds, but they’re all wearing something pony-related.
There are a lot of fedoras in this room.
– So? Crispian wears a fedora.
My point exactly.
Crispian elbows his way through the crowd. “Glad you could make it,” he says. “Come and meet my friends.”
“Okay,” I say. It comes out in a sort of squeak. I’m sure they’re all nice people.
Nice people who spank it to My Little Pony.
– I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I preferred you when you were a mime.
Crispian bangs on the side of his glass with a spoon. “Hey guys! Guys! Listen to me!”
Slowly they turn away from their laptops. They pause the TV screen. I am bathed in the plasma glow of a giant pink pony face, wide blue eyes, mouth open like an equine version of The Scream.
“Guys, this is Hanna,” says Crispian.
“Hi Hanna,” chorus the bronies.
“I want you to make her feel welcome, okay?”
A large, bearded man grabs me around the shoulders and squeezes me. “We’re gonna love and tolerate the shit out of you, Hanna,” he says. He smiles, but for some reason it sounds like a threat.
“Um…thanks?” I whimper. My Inner Goddess is ominously silent.
“So who’s your favourite pony, Hanna?” asks a skinny one with hair you could use to fry eggs.
“What did you think of the resolution of the season two story arc?” asks Beardo. I have no idea what any of them are talking about.
“Go easy on her,” says Crispian. “She’s new to this. Let’s find you a drink, toots.”
“I already had some champagne…”
“What’s a little more booze between friends?” he says, and grins at Beardo. “She’s twenty per cent cooler when smashed, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.”
I pass the TV set where the cartoon is playing again. “Diabetes!” shrieks a boy, rocking back and forth in his seat with excitement. “It’s so fucking adorable it’s giving me diabetes ohmygod!”
I feel a strange cringing sensation at the nape of my neck and I want to leave. I don’t think I can handle this. Thanks to the internet I can no longer see cute cartoon ponies without thinking about…horrible things. Dirty things.
But no – I promised him. I promised him I would give it a try. I can’t back out now. Maybe if I try to forget what I’ve seen and concentrate on the songs and the pretty colours?
“Is this your girlfriend, Cris?” The next one to approach us is wearing blue foam wings and ears.
“This is her. Isn’t she great?”
“She’s cloptacular, man. Brohoof!” He bumps fists with Crispian.
– Did he just call me ‘cloptacular’? And does that mean what I think it means?
Definitely. You’ve hit the manchild motherlode here. You think half these rejects have ever even talked to a woman, let alone acknowledged her as a member of the same species?
– I’m not sure I’m a member of the species they’re interested in. Do you think they all do…you know. That? To ponies?
Hell yeah. Check them out.
I glance over at one of the laptop huddles, their faces rapt, mouths open, reflected ponies capering in their glasses. I don’t think I’m comfortable with this.
“She’s a virgin too,” says Crispian, jolting me back to the here and now.
“You’re kidding,” moans Blue-wings, staring at me. “You’ve never seen the show? Never?”
I shake my head, confused by his intensity. “I don’t really watch TV. I prefer to read…”
“Oh, that’s so Twilight Sparkle,” says Blue-wings. He’s grinning like a maniac as he and Crispian steer me towards a nearby computer.
“Get ready for the most awesome experience of your life, Hanna,” says Crispian, and clicks play on the video.
It’s not so much awesome as weird. For about fifteen interminable minutes I sit watching a child’s cartoon, while two excited grown men watch my every blink and frown. “Isn’t it great?” Crispian whispers, squeezing my hand. “Don’t you think the writing is amazing?”
It’s okay. It’s not awful. If he wasn’t staring at me the whole time I could concievably see myself enjoying it, but not to the point that they obviously do. “It’s very cute,” I murmur. “I need some air. Is there a balcony or something?”
He leads me through the crowds of howling, squealing men, out through a glass door. I didn’t realise this was here, but suddenly we’re in a walled roof garden, with potted shrubs, a bamboo arch and a little pebble fountain bubbling away over the gravel. It’s quiet and nothing short of magical.
“I never saw this part of your apartment before,” I say, just as I realise we’re not alone. Another brony emerges from a thicket of potted bamboos, cigarette in mouth.
“Well, you know – you only saw the bedroom,” says Crispian. “And the kitchen. Always an auspicious start to a relationship. This is Eric. You’ll like him – he’s kind of spiritual – reads books and stuff.”
“Um…okay?” He leaves me there with Eric and disappears before I can even ask him where he’s going.
“So you’re the girlfriend?” says Eric, blowing out smoke. “Wow. Never thought we’d see Crispian get tied down to a chick.”
“Nobody’s getting tied down,” I say. “Or tied up. Or spanked, whipped, caned or flogged.”
Eric frowns. “I see. Do you want to be?”
“I don’t know,” I shrug. Do I? Would I prefer that to being forced to watch My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic for the remainder of my natural life? Maybe not, as I really don’t like pain, but on the other hand I could see myself getting very sick of ponies.
“You should know,” says Eric. “Knowing is the first step to visualisation.”
I sit down on the bamboo bench beside the deer-scarer. Dangling a modifier into the cool water, I lean forward, curious. “Visualisation?”
“Visualise what you want,” explains Eric. “Visualise in detail. The more detail you supply the more likely the universe is to comply with your desires, you see. It’s a kind of cosmic ordering, but more Buddhist.”
Wow. He really is spiritual. “You mean if I simply imagine what I want I’ll get it?”
“Positive visualisation, yeah. It’s amazing. I read this whole book on it – it’s like on the level with physics and quantum theory. It’s all about energy, about harnessing it to meet your desires.”
I picture a beach, Florida. I imagine Crispian holding my hand, smiling, being my boyfriend. We are sipping pina coladas and nothing is about ponies. Everything is about me. “This definitely works?” I ask.
“It takes a while,” explains Eric. “Practise. Buddhist monks can take a lifetime to produce full thought-forms, although I’m unusually gifted. I had a full-on manifestation the first time I tried – I could feel her weight on the bed beside me, the texture of her hair. It was incredible.”
I take a deep breath. Holy crap. That’s the blue one. I remember that much, even if I still get Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy confused. I should have known this was too good to be true. “So let me get this straight,” I say, slowly. “You asked the universe to bring you a toy pony?”
“No. A real one. A living, breathing Rainbow Dash.”
I stare at him for a moment, unsure as to what to say. Is he going to be offended if I explain that Rainbow Dash is a cartoon? Is he going to go insane with rage and disappointment and toss me over the parapet?
“They call it a tulpa,” he explains. “In the East.”
…as opposed to the West, where we call it ‘batshit insanity’.
– Okay. So it’s not just me? Do you think Eric might be a little odd?
No. I think Eric might be a lot odd. I think Eric might be straight-up H.P. Lovecraft crazy. Sure, he’s seeing darling little candy coloured ponies where Randolph Carter used to see slimy tentacle abominations, but that doesn’t mean he’s not so far round the twist that it’s practically non-Euclidean.
– Is it wrong that I would actually prefer the tentacled abominations at this point? Help me – I don’t know what to say.
How about ‘bye’?
Crispian comes back out to join us, carrying champagne glasses and a fresh bottle. Eric makes his excuses and leaves while Crispian pours the drinks. “See?” he smiles, handing me a glass. “I told you they were great guys. Bronies are the best.”
“I’m sure they are…” I murmur, gazing into my champagne. I watch the bubbles tickle the surface and am none the wiser, or more comfortable. It’s not that I hate ponies – it’s just that I don’t think I want to design my life around them.
He knows something is up. He always does. I don’t know how he does that. Maybe it’s intuition, or bad writing. “What?” he frowns. “What’s up, Hanna?”
“It’s not nothing. I can tell. Say what’s on your mind.”
Here’s your cue handed to you on a plate. Tell the nice man that you are never going to okay with the fact that he spanks it to My Little Pony.
– Oh come on. I can’t say it like that. He’ll break up with me.
And? Not seeing a downside here.
I hesitate for too long and Crispian gets defensive. “You think it’s unmanly, don’t you?” he says, scowling.
“No, it’s okay Hanna. You can say it. You think I’m some kind of little sissy boy because I love things that are pink and adorable, don’t you? What do you want from me? You want me to be some big dumb jock boyfriend who abuses steroids and spends every spare moment at the gym?”
A moment at the gym would be a start; you have to admit he’s kind of doughy.
I shush my Inner Goddess and sigh. “You’re putting words in my mouth,” I protest.
He grabs me, his hands on my ass, pulling me in close. “Feel,” he says, rubbing against me. “Feel how much of a man I am – for you baby. All for you.”
I carefully put down the champagne flute and return his embrace. “I never questioned your masculinity for a moment,” I say.
Your sanity, on the other hand…
– Will you be quiet?
He curls the ends of my hair around his fingers. “Did you like the show?” he asks. Holy crap – I think he’s actually nervous.
“Yes,” I say. It’s not entirely a lie. “I liked it a lot. I thought the…the…characterisation was excellent.”
His smile could light up all Seattle. “It’s awesome, isn’t it? They really thought it through.”
“Totally. It’s just…I…”
“It’s just…” I begin, haltingly. “It’s just…Eric was saying some…strange things there and…”
“He was making obscene suggestions?” Now he’s angry – oh God. He’s so mercurial.
“No, no. God no. He was talking about spiritual stuff – like you said.”
Crispian nods slowly. He looks like a pressure cooker on simmer.
“He talked about…thought forms?” I explain. “As far as I could make out he was saying like he believed he could imagine ponies, actual ponies, out of thin air.”
“Ohhh,” says Crispian. “That. Yeah – he is into all that.”
“So you don’t…”
“Try to think ponies into existence?” He grins, all rage forgotten. “No. That’s just nutty stuff. Besides – I’ve got you. My Serendipity.”
“Yeah. You have.”
His grin takes on a bedroom quality. “So…what was that you were saying about dressing up as a unicorn?”
I laugh but I’m uneasy. It’s all so…pony. I lost my virginity in front of an audience of My Little Ponys – isn’t that enough for him? Why can’t he try it my way?
I draw away from him and retrieve my drink. “Cris, I’ve been thinking…” I murmur, scattering ellipses.
“Hanna, you are not breaking up with me.” It’s not a question.
“No, I’m not,” I say. “I just…want some space. To think. And I’d like to see my mother before I graduate.”
“She’s not coming to your graduation?”
I shake my head. “No. She has to stay in Florida. Something to do with Uncle Chet’s root chakra. Or was it Uncle Tate’s? I can’t remember – anyway, she won’t travel if her horoscope advises against it.”
“So you’re going to leave me?” asks Crispian, archly. Oh crap – he probably has abandonment issues and that just makes me want to stay. And fix him.
“Only for a few days.”
He looks sceptical. “I don’t know, Hanna. You never mentioned your uncle’s taint before – why is it so important now?”
“It’s not. I’m going to see my mother.”
“Oh, so you’re definitely going?” he says, his eyes glittering dangerously. “You’re trying to dump me, aren’t you? Because you don’t think I’m a man. You think I’m gay, don’t you?”
“How does being gay make you less of a…?”
He cuts me off. “Why did you ask me that? It was the first damn thing you said to me when you phoned me…”
“…I was drunk dialling from a nightclub bathroom! For God’s sake, Crispian – I know you’re not gay. Why are you so weirdly defensive about it?”
“I am not weirdly defensive,” he says, scowling. “You don’t know what we face, Hanna – the discrimination we bronies suffer. Every day we encounter trolls who call us fags and homos, just because we are secure enough in our masculinity to enjoy a cartoon about the magic of friendship and toleration…”
“Well, maybe if you didn’t talk about it all the time…”
Crispian stares at me in disbelief. “I don’t think you understand,” he says, his voice glacial. “I’m a Brony, Hanna. Capital B. This is my life. This is who I am. You want me to hide that? My essential self?”
“No, of course not, but…”
He shakes his head. “You know what,” he says. “Go to Florida. We obviously both have a great deal of thinking to do. I’ll have Naylor take you home.”