I Hope You're Happy Now
I realized Sombrina Saint Sadden was the one when I saw her slouched against that exposed brick wall, fumbling with her purse, unpacking objects onto the bar—a book of short stories with the cover half torn off, wadded tissues, an orange that appeared to have fossilized—goddamn, I thought. Now here was a mess I could sink into, make myself comfortable. Sombrina looked tired. Rumor had it she was always sad.
I knew she was dating Dullbeard Jones, a notorious big-palmed goofball from Windsor Terrace.
The bar curved in a protracted U-shape and boasted one hundred and seventeen beers on tap. The names of the beers were printed in tiny chalk lettering on a board hanging from the ceiling. Out of the one hundred and seventeen beers, one hundred and three were IPAs. For this reason, the bar had been awarded Best In Brooklyn six years running by local critic Pierre Devonshire. Pierre also praised the bar’s eclectic jukebox, its set of giant Jenga blocks, and the aforementioned exposed brick wall. In those days, exposed brick walls were enough to make people swoon.
I can’t claim to have been immune to it either. Here I was staring at Sombrina Saint Sadden as she pulled a damp bandana out of her purse, my eyes transforming rapidly into pink valentine hearts. I liked her forehead, pale and wide, and her downcast eyes. I liked the strange, stuffed olive collar on her jacket. I wanted her to condense her unhappiness into a liquid formula and inject it into my arm so I could share an experience, any experience, with her.
“Be careful,” said my friend Ruby Apathy. “She already has a man.”
So Sombrina Saint Sadden was not the one. I reached into my tote bag—ratty New Yorker canvas stained by coffee, city grime, and beer—pulled out my phone, opened my Compartmentalization app. I added Sombrina to a list of 'The Ones,' which was growing incrementally longer by the day.
Seated across the table, Ruby drank and watched me struggle. She wasn’t smug in her insights. Her eyes were yellowy.
At the time, I lived in an apartment above a boutique sex shop called Bits and Pieces. The storefront was as quaint and innocent as something out of Little House on the Prairie. It was only when you looked closer at the window display that you noticed how many objects were penis-shaped, hidden away among vintage cola bottles or balls of yarn.
One of the clerks was named Alexander Salamander and he was one of my 'Ones.' We had spoken a single time, in May a year before, when he was outside smoking, his reddish hair tufted up in frivolous little wisps.
“I like your shirt,” he said.
This was more than enough to make me fall in love at any time of year, but in May he might as well have bent at the knee and presented me with a narrow slice of chocolate raspberry cake. My heart exploded into confetti.
I was wearing a Sonic the Hedgehog shirt I had purchased at Target. I mumbled and stammered there on the sidewalk, trying to think of something pithy to say about Sega and nostalgic franchises. Alexander held his cigarette between his teeth. In the window behind him was a miniature Manhattan made of butt plugs.
Ruby came over so we could continue commiserating. I had a six-pack of Red-Brick IPA in the fridge. It was a disgusting, syrupy brew left over from the last woman I’d dated. Normally, I wouldn’t touch the stuff, but Ruby and I were drunk. I lay on the couch and drank like a baby at the bottle while Ruby dug under the television, unearthed my ancient Gamecube and hooked it up. She wanted to play Mario Kart.
“I’m dating the Retro Gamer’s daughter,” she said, untangling wires.
“No goddamn way,” a trickle of beer ran from my chin down my neck.
“Well, not dating, but we spent the night together.”
“How does the Retro Gamer feel about this?”
The Retro Gamer was a toned, tanned, tattooed fellow who ran one of Brooklyn’s several arcade bars. His daughter mixed drinks there on Saturday nights.
“He won’t even give me a token discount,” Ruby said furiously.
My dates in those days were intercontinentally flaky. Michael Vanderbilt, for instance, told me he loved me more than toast before moving to England to never again return my calls. Chreem Lara Jacobson went on tour and came back with a boyfriend who wrote code for McSweeney’s. Even Rat Girl, in her cloak made of New York’s poisoned vermin, disappeared below the earth and subtweeted me from her new free-love coven.
Often, I got drunk and climbed on the roof, calling to the moon, asking it to join me in bed. I received scolding notes from my landlord.
Only Ruby really understood me. We never slept together although we talked about it while fully saturated with booze. Ruby tethered me and helped me compartmentalize my 'Ones.' She spent all day drawing comics and all night drinking. She was not even slightly apathetic. Our banter never felt tedious.
“If you were a song, what song would you be?” she asked.
“I Hope You’re Happy Now, by Elvis Costello.”
She was right. I awoke later that night, alone in my bed, my mouth acrid and dry. In the bathroom, I rinsed my tongue and eyes. The sky was brightening outside the living room window. Ruby was asleep on the couch, a Mario Kart victory screen glowing on the TV. Donkey Kong cradled a trophy. I put a blanket over Ruby and slipped down to the street.
It didn’t take long for the L-train to arrive. I would hop the subway until I reached the sea. My impending hangover would not kill me, I decided, folding into a corner seat, closing my eyes.
I did not need 'The Ones.' Sombrina could have her Dullbeard, Michael could have his toast. Alexander was free to live out the rest of his days among cutesy nipple clamps and prosthetic vaginas. I didn’t care about 'The Ones' who had ditched me, who would never text back. I didn’t care that the moon didn’t want to fuck me. I hoped they were all happy now. The train lurched and hollered in its descent. My eyelids fluttered open from time to time, glimpsing white lights, rainbows, smiling dermatologists, the promise of satisfaction partway guaranteed.
Michael Giddings is a writer, cartoonist, and musician from Brooklyn. His recent work can be found in HASH Journal, and is forthcoming in Pidgeonholes and Reservoir Road Literary Review. He is currently at work on a novel.