It was morning and my head rested against the warm window of the train. Outside I could see the crisscrossed tracks heading to San Diego. There was a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man balloon alongside the tracks. Far down the railway I saw the train station. Beside it a Rick and Morty bouncy castle.
“Are you going to Comic-Con?” the man asked.
“Yes. My first time.”
I stared at my seatmate. He was a short and solid young man in jeans and a black T-shirt. He wore a lanyard around his neck attached to a Comic-Con badge emblazoned with a picture of Rick from The Walking Dead. His hand rested on a large suitcase beside him. He looked at me carefully.
“Where are you staying?”
“The Marriott Marquis,” I said.
“Me too. I am called Michael.”
Michael nodded. “We can go to the hotel together.”
The sun blared overhead and my head pounded as we stumbled out of the train and into the station lobby. In the station there were cosplayers all around us, a Deadpool and a Harley Quinn standing in the corner. A Captain America sitting on a sad worn bench. I leaned over and put my heavy pack on my shoulders.
“I’m ready,” I said. “How do we go?”
“We take an Uber,” Michael said.
The Marriott Marquis was crowded. I sweat through my Star Wars T-shirt as I waited to check in.
Michael looked at me and said, “You do not like all the people?”
I swore. Michael laughed.
He pointed to the lobby bar. “Check in and then drink some wine, Ernest. You will be better after a cup or two.”
I trusted Michael so far, in everything but judgment. But I did what he said. He found me in the bar soon later.
“Will you have a drink?” I asked.
“If you do,” he said. “Are you going to cosplay?”
“Yes,” I told him. “I will be a six-toed cat.” I pulled my cat onesie out of the plastic bag next to me.
Michael grunted approval. “I will be Batman. But first, we drink and go to the convention center.”
A drink or more later, Michael helped me put my cat onesie on in the lobby bar. I could feel myself drunk. My face, reflected in the mirror behind the bar, looked strange to me.
“The onesie scratches my skin,” I told Michael.
“You get used to it. Put on your mask and let’s head to the convention floor.”
The mask made it hard to breathe. I didn’t say anything and followed Michael outside. There were throngs of people ahead and behind us. I put a six-toed mitten on Michael’s shoulder so I wouldn’t lose him.
“Great cosplay! Can I take your photo?” a woman asked. She had a lovely Irish face. Dark hair curling almost to her shoulders. Smooth clear skin. Her hands were small and she held a smartphone in one of them.
“Of course,” I told her, and for a moment I was unbearably hot and felt death and wished I had a strong cup of coffee.
She held up her phone, smiled and said, “Thanks!” before the masses swallowed her.
“People like your costume,” Michael said. “Are you having a good time?”
“Yes,” I said.
Michael walked me inside the convention center to the Comic-Con floor. Different booths with different wares screamed at me and I wanted to tell Michael to stop so I could look closer.
At some point I lost Michael in the throngs and stumbled outside. I headed toward the bay. It was a lovely, cool sub-tropical summer evening and the palm branches were sawing in the wind. I could feel my heart beating against my onesie, and I thought I hate to leave here, is all. I hate to leave here very much. But I have to leave on Sunday.