Sonam knew the rainbow sparkle glitter would be important, he just didn't know how.
He put the small jar in his bag to add to his costume later. He looked at himself critically in the mirror. For a man dressed up like a cartoon pegasus, he thought he looked good. To the light-blue pajama onesie he had added a rainbow-colored mohawk, a rainbow tail and gossamer wings, slightly off center. He spun slightly to look at the cutie mark, the rainbow colored lighting bolt. The costume was tight across his wide chest, and bagged around his short arms and legs. “Nothing I can do about that, but I can fix the wings.” He said to his reflection.
He sang his favorite song from the TV show, ‘When life gives you lemons, you can make lemonade…’ while he added more thread to the loose wings, his thick fingers fumbling with the small needle and thread. Echoing in the small apartment, his deep baritone reverberated in his chest and through his neck, taking him away from the walls closing in on him, the darkness which threatened to swallow him up.
Bang, bang, bang! Thundered down from the ceiling. Ms. Granson, his upstairs neighbor, expressing her disapproval of his acapella performance.
He picked several of his best drawings, artwork carefully copied from the TV show, but drawn into iconic San Francisco and Oakland landmarks. No one else liked his unique drawings, but maybe he could find someone to share them with.
“I probably won’t show them, but in case-” he said to himself, packing them carefully in a folder and then into his bag.
In the online forum for the Brony community, when he saw the Convention was only a short BART train ride away, he impulsively bought the ticket. How could he not go? Being a Brony was the best thing to happen to him in years. He was online of course, watching Anime, when he saw a short clip of the TV show. He laughed, and then in spite of himself he watched another. He felt foolish, a grown man watching a show for little girls, but something about it just clicked, and the welcoming community.
His phone rang, and Sonam’s heart jumped. Maybe someone responded to his post to go to BronyCom together? No a telemarketer, of course. He imagined himself standing on the station platform, stepping into the BART train alone, the passengers amazed at his outfit, awed by his magnificence. He laughed out loud, “Oh no.”
He quickly took off the blue costume and stuffed it in a backpack. He will put it on when he gets there. He hoped the other commuters would not notice his gold spray-painted Converse AllStars.
Sonam got his ticket and went through the turnstiles to wait on the station platform. He kept his head down and tried to be as inconspicuous as he could be in his wide body. When the train came he entered quickly, taking the first open seat he saw on the aisle a few steps back. He pulled his bag off one shoulder and put it in his lap, breathing out heavily.
“Excuse me,” Sonam heard a soft voice at his elbow. “Do you know how long until we get to San Francisco?”
He turned to see a small woman, her eyes bright against her flawless complexion.
Sonam’s mouth went dry and his whole body froze. He knew the answer, it was on the map on the wall, six more exits. But he did not trust his mouth to form words, to speak to this beautiful stranger. He shrugged, and shook his head no, and looked away.
Don’t make a fool of yourself, he thought. She didn’t say anything else the rest of the trip. He listened to her breath next to him and tried not to think that he could have made a friend.
Walking into the Grand Hyatt his eyes were drawn up to the light filled atrium, the open balconies climbing up 20, 30 stories into the air, while huge sheets of glittering, sparkling lights hung down to just over his head. He was stuck there, staring into space, in awe of the architectural marvel.
“This is a Grand Galloping Gala!" He felt people walk by him, he stood in the middle of a stream of color and imagination, pegasuses, unicorns, ponies and even dragons pranced and sauntered past him toward the far end of the atrium.
A huge smile grew on his face, stretching unused muscles. He made it. Sonam found a bathroom and pulled out his homemade costume. He looked at himself in the mirror, pulling his shoulders back, lifting his hooded and rainbow covered head. Fabulous.
He breathed in and closed his eyes. “I am Rainbow Dash!” Sonam stepped out into the parade of color and magic.
Only a few steps later, a man put his hand on his shoulder. Sonam’s body wilted.
“No, no- I have a ticket-” Sonam protested. He turned to see a tall square-jawed man in an elaborate golden costume, yellow and red hair flowed around a unicorn horn on his forehead. Sonam’s eyes went wide. “Sunset Shimmer!”
Next to him stood a lean black man in a gray form-fitting long shirt over matching leggings, arms on his hips, his head up in a questioning look. A long four foot mane of purple hair poured down his shoulder. “-And Rarity!”
“What’s your name?” Sunset Shimmer asked in a dulcet voice.
“My name? My name is Sonam, like when you are cold, your hands are so-”
“-No, your character,” Rarity interrupted.
Sonam smiled. “I am Rainbow Dash.”
“The-Rainbow Dash?” Sunset leaned his head in and lowered his voice. “Are you the Rainbow Dash we met online- the one with the Magic Glitter Dust?”
Sonam tried to remember someone asking about glitter in the online forums but couldn’t quite remember-
Sonam threw both hands up in an exaggerated motion. He flung his bag off and pulled out his jar of his rainbow glitter. “Magic Glitter Dust!” He held it up triumphantly.
Sunset’s eyes narrowed at the jar. Rarity shouted and gave an acrobatic flying backwards kick.
“I told you to count on Rainbow Dash!” He slapped Sunset’s shoulder. “We are set- let’s go party!”
The convention hall was packed with people, almost all in costume. Some like Sonam, wore homemade costumes, some only in a cartoon tee-shirt, while others were in elaborate full fursuits, or in mascot costumes with character heads covering their faces.
“Hey Sunset!” A woman came up wearing a tight fitting dark-blue pleated skirt and matching low cut top. Her long blue and purple hair spun in Sonam’s face as she squirmed close to Sunset to give him a hug. Sonam’s mouth dropped open involuntarily, she was as beautiful as a dream. As if his imagination conjured Princess Luna up just to tempt him.
“Sunset, how do you like this-” Luna said, pushing back and spinning quickly, her skirt flew up and a moonglow flashed underneath.
Sunset grabbed her arms, stopping her spin, and pulled her toward Sonam.
“Princess Luna, have you met Dash yet?”
Sonam’s mouth went dry and his whole body froze. He wanted to say something, not look like a statue. Suddenly he remembered he wasn’t shy Sonam, but Rainbow Dash! He reached out and gently clasped her hand, leaning over it for a soft peck. Then, looking onto her eyes, he lifted her hand up and pulled it slightly to the left encouraging her to spin again. She did, and when she was back facing him, he circled his arms around her and dipped her low over his outstretched knee and gave her a long kiss before pulling her back up again, smiling wide.
“Oh Dash!” Princess Luna purred. “I like this one, Sunset. See you ponies later!” As quick as a snap she disappeared into the crowd.
Sunset leaned in close.” You’re quite a ladies man Dash, we might get along yet.”
“Meet my friend Dash,” Sunset repeated over and over through the crowds of colorful people, through the different exhibits. Everyone seemed to know Sunset, and Sonam found himself talking about his costume, and about how he participated in the community.
“Let me show you my drawings!” Sonam said pulling them out of his bag and displaying them a nearby table. His pictures were amateurish drawings of the Mane Six characters, in various poses around the iconic San Francisco landmarks.
Rarity laughed. “Dash, these are not very-”
Sonam looked up with fear in his eyes. He had never shared these drawing with anyone, and he did not want to hear what Rarity was going to say.
Rarity closed his mouth. In a serious tone began again. “They are amazing- oh my goodness!” Rarity looked around and saw a man nearby dressed as an orange horse with golden hair under a cowboy hat.
“Hey, Applejack’” Rarity called out. “Come here, take a look at this.”
Applejack smiled big and gave a hearty "Hee-yah!”
“You should buy it.” Rarity pointed to one of Sonam’s pictures of Applejack dancing on a cartoon image of the Golden Gate Bridge, the hills green in the background.
“Oh, Rarity- it is nice, but…”
“These are not for sale-” Sonam said, scared to hear Applejack’s opinion, scared to hear a ‘no’. “I just wanted you to see them-”
“-They are $200 each.” Rarity said over Sonam’s protestations. “A.J.- these are originals. You will be lucky to get ‘em at that price.”
“OK- I’ll venmo you- Applejack said with a smile. And then, with a few blinks, and with Rarity’s encouragement, all of Sonam’s pictures were gone, sold, and the money materialized in his account.
“I was going to give them away-” Sonam was not sure what had happened, even the folder was gone, someone took it to hold the last picture.
“You are an Artiste!” Rarity said.
A commotion in the crowd caught Sonam’s attention and he turned to see Twilight Sparkle come up, gorgeous in a full mascot costume. Twilight walked up to Sunset and put her head down to nuzzle Sunset roughly. Sunset gave a head nod toward Sonam, and Twilight pranced over.
“Hello Rainbow Dash,” A man’s falsetto voice came out of the unicorn’s head. “I heard you have the hookup. You need to come to Pinkie Pie’s party.” Twilight did a quick dance and nuzzled Sonam’s face. “Room 4 on the Party floor, invite only.” Twilight spun around and then was surrounded by a crowd asking for pictures.
An invitation from Twilight Sparkle! Sonam floated on a cloud of joy. Prancing like the ponies they were, Rarity and Sunset each had one of Sonam’s elbows as they moved through the crowd, and then up the stairs toward Pinkie Pie’s party. The Party Floor had several rooms each with its own theme. From the far door, a blast of vibrant colors and costumes swirled around waiting to get in. Sonam didn’t even care that his wings had fallen off his back and most of his rainbow tail was left on the convention floor. He had friends! The party- goers stared openly at the threesome high-stepping toward the door.
“Tell Pinkie Pie we have -the- Rainbow Dash. ” Rarity said to the unicorn Shining Armor manning the door.
Shining Armor opened the door to look for Pinkie Pie. Fabulous costumes filled the room, including a small man in a Rainbow Dash costume, perfect and sparkling like he had danced in from the TV show itself. Pinkie Pie bounced to them, his bright-red face matching his red hair and pink half-costume. In his red sparkling high heels he almost filled the doorway.
“Hey Rarity, Sunset.” Pinkie Pie said, and then turned to Sonam. “Who is this? My Rainbow Dash is already here…”
“Show him the magic dust.” Rarity said. Both Sunset and Rarity stepped away from Sonam. Sonam looked at Pinkie Pie, then pulled out his jar of rainbow glitter.
Pinkie Pie grabbed it, opened it, and then laughed.
“Maybe next time Dash. Not just anypony gets into my Party!” He dumped the glitter over Sonam’s head, pulled Sunset and Rarity into the room and slammed the door in his face.
Pain shot through his chest as if he had been kicked, shoving him back to when he was the only brown-skinned kid in middle school, forced to sit alone at lunch too different and weird for the other kids. His head spun with the disgrace, his true place pointed out to him again, loudly and publicly. Sonam stumbled down the stairs but the tears and glitter in his eyes made it hard to see. He turned a corner and entered a dark room with a spotlight on a woman singing karaoke on stage.
Sonam fell into a stool. An ache vibrated in his body between his feet and his heart. A man dressed as the purple dragon Spike, leaned over from the stool next to him. “What is your name. Are you all right? “
Sonam didn’t look up.
“You look like you were beat with a glitter stick. Let me get you a drink. This will make you feel worse tomorrow, but might help tonight.”
“I was Rainbow Dash, but I don’t know anymore. I lost my friends, even if they were my friends, and I don’t fit in anywhere-”
“I understand. “Spike said. “Us men, we’re supposed to drink beer, play football, treat women like trash or blow things up.” Spike said, and then took a sip of his whisky, carefully not to disturb his waxed and pointed handlebar-mustache. “That the culture we’re born with, what is on TV and the movies.”
Spike turned to look at Sonam. “For me, being a Brony is not about the animation or the characters. It’s because of the community, we support each other, wherever each one us comes from.”
“I don’t know if I can be a real Brony-” Sonam couldn’t look up from the floor.
“Screw that.” Spike held up his glass of the brown liquor. “I’m a Brony, you’re a Brony. Together we are an-”
Sonam lifted the glass in front of him to clink against Spike’s
“-Unstoppable force for good!” They said in unison.
“I don’t drink, but-” Sonam, took the first sip, and it was like fire all the way down his throat. He squeezed his eyes closed and drank the rest quickly. Instantly his face burned and his mouth filled with saliva.
Spike slapped him on the back. “I like you Dash. Another round! And DJ, put this man’s name in for a song!”
“No- I don’t think this is a good idea- “
Another whisky was set in front of Sonam. Spike, raised up his own, “to being yourself! “
Sonam, hesitant this time, took a sip, and it was not as bad. He drank the rest in one swallow. The warmth began in his stomach and flowed up through his chest, and tingled his back.
“OK, Spike- my turn! Another round, Barkeep!
Sonam’s head swirled, light and airy. He connected with his new friend Spike. Sonam put his arm out and around Spike’s neck and pulled him close. He had never felt a connection like this before. These men dressed up as ponies, unicorns and dragons were his people, his family. In this dark bar it did not matter that his costume was falling apart. It did not matter he did not have the hook-up for magic dust. Who needs drugs when the whisky was so good!
The third shot came and Sonam raised his glass in his left hand, his right still wrapped around Spike.
- “Friendship is Magic” he shouted, raising the glass and then drinking it all in one gulp. He slammed it down on the bar, hitting the bowl of nuts on the table, sending them shooting in all directions. Suddenly the warmth in Sonam’s stomach began to move up his chest into his throat, and still gripping Spike’s neck in the crook of his arm, Sonam threw up, the room spinning into black.
Sonam woke up staring at the ceiling, then turned to see Spike, using fistfuls of napkins to get the puke off his purple costume.
“Goddamn lousy drunk- who brought him here?” A man shouted, loud and sharp.
Sonam stood up carefully, wiping his face with the sleeves of his pajama onesie.
“Rainbow Dash to the stage,” the Karaoke DJ announced over the sound system.
Sonam looked around to leave, but all eyes were on him. He picked his way up to the stage, and whispered to the DJ, who nodded.
The first few bars of the ‘I'll Fly’ begin to play. Sonam felt the lyrics inside him, 'nopony's gonna bring me down...'
Echoing in the small lounge, his deep baritone reverberated in his chest and through his neck, taking him away from the walls closing in on him, the darkness which threatened to swallow him up.
“Bang, bang, bang!” thundered around him.
Sonam looked up and saw Spike slamming his hand on the bar, smiling and laughing.
“Sing it Dash!” He shouted.
Applejack joined him on the stage and began to sing into the microphone, his voice weak and tentative. 'When life gives you lemons...' Soon other voices joined in, and Sonam was surrounded by his song. He stepped up to the microphone and sang along with Applejack, his eyes closed, hearing the harmony around him.
Rainbow Dash stepped off the stage and Spike handed him a glass of water, the wild applause still ringing in his ears. They are cheering for me, just as I am. He looked around.
“Friendship is-.” Rainbow Dash shouted into the crowded Lounge.
“-Magic!” The crowd erupted, together.