I love going to Comic-Con. I love the dusty-with-a-hint-of-butterscotch scent of comics, I love the camaraderie, the love of loving something. Although I go exclusively for indie comics, mainly Drawn&Quarterly, I enjoy the big Hollywood stuff too. Basically, it is a four day Christmas of wonderment and total exhaustion. I love it and am addicted to it, the way a rat will still go after the cheese every time even though it gets electrocuted.
Now, if you’ve ever been to Comic-Con, you know EXACTLY what that means. The Con is exactly that, it’s the greatest, happiest, con that you’ll happily allow. Here, take my money, my sleep, my good eating habits, and my ability to act like a normal adult sitting behind Brian Posehn while watching the premiere of Borat. It’s a con in the greatest sense of the word, but it’s a Comic Con, so it’s great.
I think that morning I got in line at 2am. It’s a part of the con: you stand in line for six to 12 hours to see someone that doesn’t show up till 4pm. It’s ok. I love it. You meet people you love and they love the Con too. There’s a great deal of love at Comic-Con. I’ve met many friends from there and I honestly cherish them all.
It was hot and horrible and I had just come off a really bad year of being super sick, surgeries, and losing a bunch of friends who were sick and tired of me being sick and tired. I had been carrying a bottle of Percocet in one pocket and a bottle of Zofran (anti-vomit meds) in the other pocket. I could drink all I wanted, but eating was tricky. I had the whole day planned out with Lara bars and pumpkin seeds. I was going to make an entire day in Hall C without a single sick hitch.
Hall C is the BIG hall where all the movie directors, producers, actors, and actresses show up. You get to see clips before anybody does (15 seconds later on the internet) and a few really drunk celebrities. It’s a good time if you like that sort of thing. We all went in at around 11am, me, my brother Trevor, and our group of friends that we met at Comic-Con: Sean, Michelle, Carl, Callum, and Kristina.
So far, the Con had been disappointing. Perhaps this might be the last one I would be attending. What a shit year. Everything that could go wrong personally had and my Christmas-Con was quickly becoming the bane of my existence. It was, of course, at this thought that I realized I had left all my meds back at the hotel. What was one bad day turning into another bad day had turned into one really horrible life. No meds meant I couldn’t eat or drink anything and that eventually my liver would protest in pain and illness. It was Comic-Con though; I wasn’t giving up my chair. Eventually, our good friends Carl, Michelle, and Callum left Hall C to go see something else and just Trevor, Sean, and Kristina remained as we waited for the Scott Pilgrim panel to start.
I was pretty excited for the panel because it had a fair amount of actors and actresses I really liked, but mostly I was psyched for Edgar Wright. I loved all of his movies and his tv show Spaced, and I just knew that he was one of us and that it was going to be a great panel. Before the panel a bunch of people were handing out buttons. Some were Scott Pilgrim buttons and others were a comic picture of Scott Pilgrim with that familiar Mario Brothers 1-UP symbol. I REALLY wanted that Scott Pilgrim button and was hoping they would pass that one out to my row because on the big screen an ominous warning read: TAKE A BUTTON PASS THEM DOWN DON’T TRADE. Don’t trade? Have we gotten to that point where we can’t even ask nicely for a trade? Obviously, we had because when our row got our 1-UP buttons, I then sheepishly looked around to see if anyone wanted to trade and everyone had their heads strictly down, holding their button prize just as a merchant might clench the last gold coin of the day. Ah well, what were you expecting?
Now it’s important to note here that I have a theory, an awful theory, but it’s mine and every therapist in the world has told me that it’s not mine, but it’s mine. It’s called precedent theory. Basically, if it’s happened in your life enough times it becomes a precedent and there’s nothing you can do to change that precedent. That’s your life. You are stuck. Basically, my precedent theory is this: if there is a way for me to lose or get hurt, that’s how it will it end. Hey! I know it’s maudlin and pathetic and not really reflective of a life of someone who was valedictorian and married to someone they’re utterly in love with — I see the gaps —but the reality is, precedent theory had become a big part of my life after being sick for such a long time. And I had been stuck in some major precedent theory for a couple years now. So the fact that I got the button I didn’t want just added to my precedent theory that everything that could go wrong will go wrong, even a button.
Now, here’s where everything changes. It doesn’t change just for that day, it changes everything. What happens next is the reason why I still see doctors even though I get the same results, it’s the reason I’ll try something I know I physically can’t do, it’s the reason why I hunted my future husband down through Google and casually Facebook messaged him after countless real life run ins (creepy or adorable? I couldn’t tell you). What happens next changes everything because every hollowed out echoing prayer, finally got a response.
Edgar Wright out of nowhere announces that whoever has the button with the comic Scott Pilgrim and the 1-UP has a free ticket, right now to see the movie with him and the entire cast, we just have to follow him. He jumps off the stage and my brother Trevor and I just look at each other while our friends Kristina and Sean are already getting up and we start to run toward Edgar so we can follow him to the theater because they didn’t announce which one. Edgar just said to follow him. We’re trying to get close to him but security is all over him and us and he’s yelling at security (which is so cool) to just leave us alone. And we start marching with Edgar as if he is our very own pied piper, there is a huge chorus of us and we go out the doors and begin to mingle with thousands outside. We continue to march for about 10 minutes, climbing the hill to the second Comic Con site, which makes perfect sense that they would play the movie there. We get to the top of the stairs and begin to look around for the Scott Pilgrim screening. At first we are mildly searching and then it becomes frantic, we discover that we lost the Edgar Wright group and ended up in another group. We immediately turn around and Trevor falls over a man’s traveling luggage, crashing so hard into the ground the pop of his knee was audible. We recover quickly with Trevor now limping, we begin to head into downtown San Diego asking everyone we can if they knew anything about the Scott Pilgrim showing. Everywhere is a dead end and as I begin to have trouble breathing with my inhaler safely stowed with my other medicine, I realize: this is life. It’s a big exciting letdown and I don’t want to have anything to do with it anymore. I could feel the pain in my liver, and I think I either wanted to or did throw up in a public garbage can. It’s a mostly hazy experience, muddled with real physical pain and disappointment that precedent theory was true. But we kept going. My brother, Trevor, wouldn’t stop. He kept asking people, looking on his phone trying to figure out what was the most probable theater, and he just kept moving AND I just kept moving with him. We all just kept going, in a hopeless march to the emerald city. I remember Kristina and Sean cheering us all on and it is beautiful in retrospect, but I was far too miserable to allow myself to feel it.
Suddenly, we see him. Edgar Wright’s in the distance waving us on, apologizing to people for all the confusion, shaking hands, thanking everyone, sweating ever so slightly in his black suit beneath the San Diego sun. Then it’s our turn and I show Edgar the button I so despised just moments earlier and he smiles at me, thanks me, and gives me a hi-five. Not just a flat handed hi-five, but the kind you get at the end of the movie Rudy, where they hit your hand and hold onto your hand for a couple of seconds.
That hi-five disintegrates a lot of spiteful murderous hatred I had for myself. For one, I’m wrong a lot of the time. I don’t always see what is so great about what I have and instead sheepishly peek at all the things I think I want, but would actually disappoint me. Second, I have to keep trying. No matter how lost I am, I’ve got to find good people to surround me and I have to keep going forward and seeing new doctors (I’m up to hundreds) and trying new medications (way into the thousands).
The rest of the night is amazing. We see the movie, which is fantastic, and we see the cast again, and The Metric comes out and plays a show for us! It’s an absolute fantasy world come to life. Yes, about half way through The Metric show I go to bathroom and puke everything from my feet up. I’m barely conscious as we walk back to the hotel. I think (?) Sean and Trevor do that drunk “one arm on each guy / dragging me back” sort of thing. I’m completely out of it and yet completely blissful. They drop me off at the hotel and I enter a Percocet coma, but not before I hold my 1-UP button in my hand and take a picture.
Later that year I was going to see a big shot doctor (the last doctor I saw right before I saw the doctor who diagnosed me with celiac) and I was scared to death. I knew she wouldn’t believe me and that it wouldn’t matter; I was terrified. I called my brother for some advice and he reminded me how I never thought we’d make it to the theater but we did. He told me that I just had to keep trying. So I took that button and put it in my pocket for the appointment. She was an awful doctor, but when I left, I realized there were other chances and doctors, AND the next doctor was my 1-UP doctor.
I don’t know why this meant so much to me. It’s really a silly story, I know that. It’s a movie and some director I’ll never meet (again). I think at the end of the day, it was an experience that happened at a really bad time in my life, and my friends and brother there to support me during a really sick time. It taught me that no matter how badly I might want to die or even how close to physical death I am, there’s always some extra life waiting. That’s what we have to remember, no matter how bad it gets, no matter how hard it is, no matter how the pain might sear through your body, there’s more actual life waiting, 1-UP kind of life: the kind of life that gives you hope and strength to keep moving forward.