Gord’s roommate Gavin had been freshly dumped by his now ex-girlfriend Carrie. They’d only been together for about three months and it had been mostly terrible. Gavin claimed to be distraught. That was why, apparently, he couldn’t manage to put pants on whenever he was home. It was also the reason he drank milk from the carton and listened to Taylor Swift’s entire discography for two days straight. Carrie had dumped Gavin on Friday at five o’clock, Taylor Swift had been introduced at six o’clock, and by Sunday, Gord was prepared to smother him in his sleep.
“You know, prior to this weekend, I used to not mind Taylor Swift,” Gord said to his other roommate Finch on Sunday evening as he was washing dishes in the kitchen, the chorus of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” blaring from behind Gavin’s closed bedroom door. “Now the very utterance of her name makes me want to light my own limbs on fire.”
Finch wrinkled his nose and stuck out his tongue, like he was going to vomit on the countertop.
“This is the dumbest song I’ve heard,” he replied darkly. “This is worse than the time that stupid girl with the gap teeth broke up with him and he listened to ‘All By Myself’ for eight hours in a row.”
Those had been eight very long hours.
“Better or worse than the ‘Since U Been Gone’ break-up?” Gord asked. Finch wrinkled his nose again.
“Ugh,” was his answer.
“Damn, he gets dumped a lot,” Gord mused after a moment.
“Well yeah,” Finch said. “You know him.”
Gord nodded in concession.
Half an hour later, Gord had finished the dishes and Gavin was still listening to Taylor Swift. Gord banged on his bedroom door five times before throwing it open and standing in the doorway, trying to look as threatening as possible. He employed all the techniques he’d learned from Finch over the years. There was a very good chance it wasn’t nearly as effective without the all-black ensemble and the shaved head, but Gord didn’t care.
“No more Taylor Swift,” he ordered.
“Taylor gets me,” was Gavin’s response. He was sitting in the armchair he had shoved into the far corner of his room. He was wearing a pair of boxers, of course, and a t-shirt with a cartoon pug eating a popsicle on it. He was reading a comic book and struggling to eat from a yogurt cup with one hand. Gord had no idea where the yogurt had come from because he hadn’t seen Gavin leave his room in at least two hours. It was slightly concerning.
“Yeah,” Gord nodded, like he was understanding. “I get that, but what you need to understand is that if you ever play ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ in my presence again, there will be a death. And it will be yours.”
Gavin said nothing for a moment.
“Noted,” he replied finally, reaching over to where his laptop sat open on his bed and turned off the music.
“Praise Jesus, hallelujah,” Gord said, throwing up his hands for dramatic effect.
“What do you suppose Taylor Swift listens to after a break-up?” Gavin asked thoughtfully. “Herself?”
“I don’t give a shit,” Gord answered and left.
Gord was a musician. That was putting it in the broadest sense. Truthfully, he worked several jobs to make ends meet. His most stable job was working as the organist and musical director of the presbyterian church two blocks from his house. He played every Sunday morning and ran choir rehearsals on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. His best vocalist was a seventy-six year old woman named Gladys, who was surprisingly sassy and had a warbly, high voice. The rest of them were honestly incredibly hard to coach, but it was something Gord simply had to deal with.
Gord’s other main job was as a freelance musician, hireable for wedding bands, bar gigs, and, the worst of the worst, children’s birthday parties. Those were Gord’s absolutely least favourite things. For one, he didn’t like children. They were always sticky and snotty, literally and figuratively, and at every party, one kid inevitably asked him why he looked so poor. Gord looked poor because he was poor. He didn’t enjoy having it thrown back in his face by children.
At one such party, two days after Gavin’s break-up and subsequent tumble down the Taylor Swift rabbit hole, Gord showed up to a six year old’s birthday party with his guitar and a repertoire of songs about various foods that he’d written. A lot of them featured ice cream. The kid’s mother, Brenda, pulled him aside as soon as he arrived, gave him a suspicious once over, possibly because he looked poor, and proceeded to outline the schedule for the party. Then she handed him an adult-sized unicorn costume. It was white with a shiny pink horn and a matching mane and tail. The tail had been braided and tied with a big, rainbow bow.
“So you can get changed and go up on the stage,” Brenda told him, continuing on as if she hadn’t just handed him the most demoralizing thing he’d ever seen. She waved a hand at the “stage”, which was in fact just a slab of wooden planks about a foot off the ground. The kids had already been gathered around it, nattering to one another, most likely sticky. One of them had pink frosting on her nose from the cake. Gord could tell that, no matter how hard he tried to avoid it, that frosting was going to end up on him.
“You want me to wear the costume?” He checked, hoping he had somehow spectacularly misunderstood. Brenda looked at him like he was a moron.
“Yes,” was all she said, before walking off, leaving Gord holding his guitar case in one hand and the unicorn costume in the other. He wanted a drink.
After twenty minutes and some serious personal pep talks, Gord took the stage in his costume, his guitar slung over his shoulder. The kids cheered excitedly. The one with the pink frosting on her nose shrieked “Prince Sparkles Unicorn!” at the top of her lungs, apparently meaning Gord. The other kids joined in. Gord stood in front of twenty-five six year olds hyped up on artificially coloured sugar and let them chant “Prince Unicorn Sparkles” at him until they settled enough to allow him to sing them an original song about sharing ice cream with a bunny. To say the least, it was humiliating. He could practically feel his own will to live slowly ebb away. He was going to collapse on the stage in a pathetic heap of despair soon and the children would probably continue to call him Prince Unicorn Sparkles, unaware that they had decimated his soul.
The only upshot to the whole thing was that Gord knew he could play his peppy, horrible songs about desserts, collect his seventy-five dollars from Brenda, and leave with whatever remained of his dignity. He assumed there wouldn’t be very much left, but he would cling to what he managed to preserve nonetheless. But then the birthday girl, Sage, began shouting requests. Gord tried to explain that Prince Unicorn Sparkles didn’t take requests, but Sage’s bottom lip trembled and Brenda looked like she was prepared to rush the stage and hang him with his own guitar strap. So Prince Unicorn Sparkles took requests. Sage requested “You Belong with Me” by Taylor Swift. Gord lost the will to live in one swift moment.
At the end of his set, Gord was hugged by every single kid. Sage was delighted, the frosting-faced kid did in fact get frosting on his unicorn costume, and Brenda paid him an extra twenty dollars to get it dry-cleaned and return it to the costume store. She was concerned about losing her deposit. He didn’t bother telling her that he probably wasn’t going to return it at all. It mattered very little to him.
He walked home still in the costume. When he got there, he sat down at the kitchen table and stayed mostly in one place for the following three hours. Gavin was out, having gone to the gym earlier that day as he was apparently now over his break-up entirely. Finch was at work, probably glaring at customers until they left. He was the first one to return to the apartment. Gord was still at the kitchen table, still in the unicorn costume, eating cereal and pretending to sob as loudly as possible. Finch ignored him, threw himself on the couch, and took a nap. Gavin came home two hours after that.
“What the hell?” He asked as he walked through the front door. Gord had taken off the top part of the costume by that point, but he was still sitting at the kitchen table in front of his now empty cereal bowl. Finch was sprawled on the couch, arm slung over his eyes.
“When I got home, he was wearing a unicorn onesie and crying into a bowl of Frosted Flakes so it’s possible things are not going well,” Finch said without moving.
“Twenty-five six year olds called me Prince Unicorn Sparkles today and I had to sing a Taylor Swift song,” Gord explained darkly.
“You should not have shared that information,” Finch replied with a worrying hint of glee in his voice at the same time Gavin said, “Ooh, which one?”
“Fuck off, both of you,” Gord ordered bitterly.
“It’ll be okay, Sparkles,” Finch told him, pulling himself into a sitting position so he could look over the back of the couch at him and Gavin in the kitchen. “You make a very majestic pony.”
Gord definitely wasn’t going to return the unicorn costume. Instead, he was going to set it on fire and purge it from the earth.