Been a while since I’ve been writing, and it might continue to be. So much has happened in the last few weeks, and the work/life pressures only seem to grow exponentially. It’s funny, but back when I was waiting to hear from the Times–back when I thought Spiderman’s prophecy had everything to do with the blog, with my writer dreams and aspirations–Time seemed to move at the most glacial pace. I was waiting on so much, and hearing nothing from no one, and wondering why.
Then, about a week before my 33rd birthday, everything happened at once. I moved from a soul-less cubicle to an office with a fireplace. We close on the house of our dreams this Thursday (initially planned for Friday, which happens to be my nemesis’ birthday). I’m well positioned to get a salary boost, but only if I kick major ass at work (thus my limited time to blog). And we just returned from a week-long trip to Disney.
Disney. If there’s one thing this week has taught me, it’s that we are not Disney people. Not that there’s anything wrong with Disney. It’s perfectly fine, and not terribly overpriced (excluding $30 Minnie Mouse sunglasses; wtf). Disney magic just… feels… kinda… forced. And I believe in the real stuff.
Is there a relationship between magic and marijuana? Is it bad that I only experienced magic that one night I got high?
We drove to Florida–mostly to save on airfare but partly to bring the pot. I instituted a strict policy that neither of us could be high in the theme park, with its crowds and scary populace, because if there’s one thing that scares me, it’s Floridians. It seems like the weirdest shit happens there. A jilted lover drives cross-country in a diaper to assault an ex? Florida. A man does some super evil shit off bath salts? Florida. Something random and horrific? Gotta be Florida.
Fucking Florida. Not a place to take chances.
So we drove. 16 hours with stops; almost a full 24 with the overnight hotel. The only time I vaped on the way down was in South Carolina, as my shift ended and Mr. D took the wheel. It was a small puff, and I didn’t feel especially high, but perhaps I was. Or maybe the McDonald’s we encountered was just the strangest of strange. It had beautiful swivel chairs and large tables, but there was some quota on napkins and silverware–annoying me as a wasteful consumer and mother of two sloppy kids, but endearing me as someone who disdains our growing culture of disposability. The service was awful and slow. I ordered a $1 ice cream for the kids, and it was the yummiest damn cone I’d ever eaten. We left and drove through the night, and my high wore off long before we reached Georgia.
We slept in Jacksonville that night and drove two hours south to Orlando in the morning. We reached the hotel and Mr. D vaped in the bathroom, and I rolled my eyes and said, “How quickly you forget the rules.” We took the hotel shuttle to Epcot, and the kids were excited to finally be “at Disney.” (In the words of Little A, who made up this song as we went for ice cream just days before: “Oh yeah, we’re doing it!”).
We got there just in time for our first Fast Pass ride on Spaceship Earth, a guided tour through the history of mankind and technology, which ended on a journey through the stars and a quiz from our narrator.
For the first time in history, all of us can have a say about the world we want to live in, she began. The choices we have made for the past 30,000 years have been inventing the future one day at a time, and now it’s your turn.
Sitting together in the front cart, Little A and I answered our questions, choosing between things like “city or country,” “are you a planner or do you wing it,” “outer space or under the sea,” “journey or destination,” and so on. It ended with a glimpse into what the future may hold–flying cars, smart suitcases, etc. All sounded pretty cool.
We left, wandered the park, Soared across the world on what was easily my favorite ride of the day (perhaps week), and ate foods of the world. It was a lovely day, and the most magical part was spending it with my favorite people in the planet.
That night, we swam at the hotel and slept nice and sound. The next day, we took the girls to Magic Kingdom, thinking they’d lose their little minds in excitement. We saw the castle, met some princesses, rode kiddie coasters, took a great family photo, but they seemed to have the most fun at a little play area where Big A could climb the walls and sit on the top of a plastic tree house. We could have done that at a neighborhood park.
When we returned to the hotel that night, Mr. D asked Big A about the trip so far. She drew a smiley face to describe her thoughts on the ride, and then a frowny face to illustrate how she felt when she was reprimanded by the staff for climbing on the railings or rocks. “When I get in my monkey mood, I can’t do anything, and it makes me mad,” she said. She then drew a straight-lined mouth on her third face as the final rank for the day. Mr. D laughed, and then we vaped in the bathroom and headed out to find dinner at the hotel.
The grounds were large and leafy and jungle-like, and I was very high. “When are we going to get to dinner?” Big A kept asking. “This is taking foreeeever.” Her incessant wining was like a bad song with no end.
“Do you remember that quiz from the ride we took yesterday?” I asked. “The one where it asked us whether we liked the journey or destination more?”
“Well, I bet you picked destination, huh?”
“Of course. Wait… Did you pick journey?”
“What?? Why would you like that better? “Why would anyone pick the journey?”
I didn’t know how to answer at the time, so we kept walking. The resort itself was modeled after various decades in American pop culture history, and as we strolled the grounds we came up on all sorts of fun memorabilia, such as a giant Twister game, which had us all contorting on the ground, or the massive foosball table near the 1970s section, which made for a fun climbing attempt for the girls.
“You know,” I finally realized as we made it to the hotel cafeteria. “Our walk just now was the journey. Wasn’t it pretty fun?”
I can’t remember now if Big A agreed. My only memory is of myself, very stoned, ordering a cheeseburger off the kids’ menu, and then telling the server what I wanted for my two sides as she was preparing the plates for the guests in front of us. Big A sidled up beside me and very loudly asked why I was buying three kids’ meals. In my sober condition, I would have had a very easy conversation about my dining options, but alas, I was high and feeling extra awkward and exposed, and so I cancelled the cheeseburger (which didn’t even look appetizing), and walked with the kids to find a table.
We reached one that had a pair of sunglasses tucked away in the corner.
“Someone must have forgotten them,” I said, as I began to sit down.
My four-year-old daughter tugged my arm. “Mommy? I think someone might be sitting here.”
I kissed her and silently thanked her, and the three of us wandered off to an unclaimed table as we waited for Mr. D. The kids ate well, and after dinner, we took a different route back to the hotel, passing another playground, this one with an American Ninja-like monkey bar . It was dark by then, but there were still a handful of kids playing, and Big A sauntered up and scampered across. An older boy watched, impressed.
“Yo, M,” he said to his brother. “That girl just made it all the way across. You can’t even do that.”
I felt proud of Big A. I want her to find her talents and be so good that she impresses the world with them. But that wasn’t it. My pride stemmed from the fact that her joy exists in the simpler things, that despite being surrounded by the glitz and glamour of mouse-made magic, her happiness was derived from the wonders that exist within herself.
The boys were slightly older than my girls, probably around 8, 10 years old, and I overheard another parent compliment them soon after we had arrived at the park. Their father replied kindly. “Yeah,” he said, and I could hear the smile in his voice. “They are good kids.”
I could sense that in the way his sons spoke with my daughters, how impressed they were by the fact that we had driven down, how they were enjoying the trip but missing their dog. The boys lived only a few hours from our own hometown, and I liked how when I asked where they were from, the older of the two just provided the general vicinity. Smart kid, I thought, and realized I needed to teach my girls to do the same if a stranger were ever to ask. I imagined them all 10 years later. When that time comes, I thought to myself, I hope my girls find good boys.
Mr. D drove to Jacksonville the next day to meet co-workers he interacts with regularly, but remotely. While he was networking and putting faces to names, the girls and I spent the day at the resort, swimming, playing, and eventually heading over to Hollywood Studios. The crowds were minimal, and I felt I could handle a vape or two, so I texted Mr. D to feel free to bring it when he joined us.
It wasn’t like I needed to smoke weed, or even really wanted to, but I figured it might make the Disney Junior show we were about to watch more enjoyable, or insightful, and since we’d all be together, hands held tight, I figured, what the hell. Mr. D placed the vape in my purse as I headed to the bathroom with Big A. As she was in the stall, I attempted to vape, but couldn’t figure out how. (For the record, I’m a pot princess. I don’t pack my own bowls, and I haven’t the faintest clue how to role anything. Vaping is easy, but that’s assuming I can get the pen out of the container, and that’s apparently assuming too much).
Mr D. unclasped the case and watched the kids as I returned to the bathroom, ready to inhale. I searched for a place to hang my purse and noticed the hooks were placed awkwardly (and ominously) beside the toilet. In retrospect, I should have sat down on the damn seat and then rummaged through my overcrowded purse to find the vape pen, but instead, I stood over the bowl, exhaled the herbal-vanilla scent into the potty, and flushed. I placed the paraphernalia back in its case, but I couldn’t get it closed, and as I was fussing with the zipper, the pen fell right into the toilet. I panicked for a quick second and then found myself in a complete state of shock—not yet high, but repulsed and scarred by the fact that I had just stuck my hand into a public toilet in Disney.
I sang the Happy Birthday song nine times as I washed my hands and pen with four million squirts of soap. I returned to my family thoroughly disgusted by myself and the messy situation I had caused.
“It fucking fell in the toilet,” I told Mr. D.
“No, the cartridge. The part you stick in your mouth. Which I will never do again.”
“Why didn’t you just leave it there?”
“Um.” I had no answers as we walked to the Disney Junior show. I was high by then and reminiscing on the time Mr. D and I went to see the Impractical Jokers. It was the night before our Colorado trip last year, and the Jokers–who Mr. D loved on TV–kept asking the audience to clap louder and longer, and we had a flight to catch at 2am, and it all felt so forced and phony.
I thought about the many times Doc McStuffins has babysat my children as I cooked dinner or showered or just enjoyed some precious time alone, and then I felt bad for finding the show forced and phony. Was I too high? Were my kids too old? Big A seemed more into it than the little one, who showed more interest at the flickering stage lights above us. That’s the real magic, I thought to myself. She sees it. The magic of lights and sound and science. The magic of the world, the secrets we strive to understand. My thoughts rollercoastered in my brain as Sofia the First paraded on stage, and I wondered if the Fox is right, if there’s a larger conspiracy to keep us stupid.
We left, and the high continued to wear off as we strolled the park. We ended the night watching the “Fantasmic” light show, which I found overcrowded and dimly-lit and kinda lame (although there was one cool part where flames engulfed the water). Mr. D remarked on the name before the show began. “I don’t get it,” he said. “A mix between Fantasia and orgasmic? What other word ends in ‘asmic’?”
“We already know Disney condones ejaculations,” I replied, alluding to my 102 Dalmatians blog post. “Maybe the water will spray all over us.”
Well, wouldn’t you know… it did. I felt quite proud for having predicted it. We left after the show and met a family from Australia on the shuttle back to the hotel, and I decided my favorite aspect of the trip (besides family time) was the collection of people from all corners of the world.
We went to Animal Kingdom the following day, and it was lovely, my favorite theme park by far. Big A agreed. My brave girl rode Expedition Everest (which features the highest drop in Disney), and both kiddos had fun exploring the park and collecting stickers each time they learned something new.
Our resort stay ended that night, and as we headed to our second and final Orlando hotel, we decided to skip our fifth day in Florida and just head home. If we could make it straight through, we’d still have the weekend to enjoy.
Big A whined again that night, something about not going back to the park the following day or not being able to watch a show on the iPad. The details are inane and easily forgotten, but the ensuing fight between Mr. D and me is not. He claims I made a comment I don’t remember making, something about Little A’s laid-back attitude, to which he responded that Big A is just high-strung like me, which I took as a personal (and completely random) insult, and said, “So she’s an asshole just like me?”
That’s how the fight started. It was one of those fights with a lot of harsh words and confusion, and I don’t fully know what we were fighting about. My mind was on an email I had sent earlier in the week that had gone unanswered, and Mr. D’s accusations of my “constant negativity” didn’t help.
We went to bed angry, and he smoked up in the bathroom as I cursed him in my head. That was our 4/20. The fight lasted into the morning. I told him I was over his nasty attitude, and he told me he was over the marriage, and I said “You’re over the marriage? Me-the-fuck-too.” Then I slammed my wedding rings on the ground as he said, “Look at you. You can’t even keep the promises you make to yourself.”
We continued to pack our suitcases. I later asked if he had picked up my rings or if we were just going to leave them in the hotel. “I have them,” he said, and we packed up and drove off. We were only a few feet outside of the hotel when he reached into his pockets and noticed their absence. “I don’t have the rings,” he said. “They must have fallen out when I grabbed the car keys.”
I began crying immediately, and he pulled over, kissed me, held me and said, “Look at us. We’re such a mess.” We drove back to the hotel and searched the parking lot and room in vain. The rings were gone.
“Are you still crying, mommy?” Little A asked, and I told her yes, I was sad I had lost something so important.
“There are worse things that could happen,” Mr. D replied. “It’s okay”
But with the new house and the expense of the vacation, there would be no replacement rings in our future. My finger felt empty and naked as the tears continued to fall.
Big A drew some rings on a paper. “You can have whichever one you like the most,” she said, offering me a sheet of her beautiful, priceless works of art.
We drove on, and on. We stopped in Georgia, but it was too soon for peaches, and so we ate our sandwiches at a Savannah restaurant while I checked my email and noticed a particularly nasty one sent not to me, or to my boss, but to the company CEO. The email went to great lengths to malign the project I am responsible for, calling it a complete waste of money and resources. It was a cunty email, written by a relative nobody and offering nothing constructive. But it came at a particularly bad time, as I’m in a bit of a new role (trying to ask for a raise and be worthy of an office with a fireplace). I’m also set to present before the CEO in just a few weeks, and it will be my first time meeting him, so this wasn’t the impression I wanted him to have of the work I do. (In addition to this nasty note, there have been a lot of nice ones, too). But still.
I talked to Mr. D about it, telling him what I’d recommend saying as a response, and we drove on, and on. We took bathroom breaks in South Carolina, and although I wanted a bottle of water, I said I’d wait until we stopped for dinner, where I could just drink tap, but Mr. D said no, we have plenty of change, and as he went to grab the quarters, he noticed something sparkle atop the metal coins. My rings. I cried again as he handed them back, and then laughed when he joked of getting down on one knee to ask, “Will you… keep this on your finger?”
We had dinner that night at the Fayetteville McDonalds, and Quiana, the woman taking our order, was so efficient and on top of things that I wanted to compliment her without sounding condescending. I finally got my chance as Big A and I left the bathroom stall and saw her walking behind us. “You’re really impressive and efficient and a good worker,” I told her. “You’re a boss bitch.” She chuckled and said, “Thanks, I try to be.”
It was around 9 when we left. Little A fell asleep as we got back on the road, but Big A was awake when I noticed the tire pressure warning. We headed to a gas station as the rain came down, and I wondered if the problem was fixable. Mr. D hopped out and noticed a screw in our tire, the air leaking slowly, but audibly. We were 400 miles from home.
The gas station clerk suggested we make it to the Love’s Truck Shop 30 miles down the highway, so we hopped back on I-95, and I kept thinking of the many burst tires I noticed on the side of the road, back when I was ringless. “Will you hold my foot?” Big A asked, and I thought of all the times I’d hold it on the jumpy roads that scared her as baby. I felt it twitch in my hands as she drifted to sleep, and I thought of the iconic Michelin commercials. Because so much is riding on your tires.
“Are we okay?” I asked Mr. D, who pulled over to the side of the road to check. He said it looked fine, no different than it had been at the gas station, and so we continued on. About 15 miles later, he stopped again to check, and almost immediately, blue lights flashed behind us.
“You folk okay?” the police officer asked as he approached my window. He was tall and black, and I was grateful for his complexion. Mr. D related our predicament, how there was a nail in our tire, and how we were hoping to make it to the next truck stop. The only one the cop knew of was near the Virginia border, many, many, many miles away. Even then, he said, he wasn’t sure they’d be able to fix the tire. “But I actually just met someone who said he can help with this type of thing. Stay here, and I’ll call him.”
As the cop made his calls, I finally responded to the email from the cunt. By then the thread had grown to include about a half-dozen big wigs from my organization. I apologized for being so late to the conversation and then suggested a response, which I’m proud of. Almost immediately, my former boss’ boss responded, her timing so quick I felt like my email must have been a good one. We chatted back for a minute, and I asked her to thank her husband, also an officer of the law, for all the work he does. “I know this must be a tough time,” I said, “but I am so grateful for the help we just received.”
By then, the officer had come back, and we were met by the man he said could help fix our car.
“You guys think you can make it to the exit?” he asked in a thick Southern accent. He was old and black, and again, I was grateful for that.
“I think so,” Mr. D responded.
I never got the officer’s name, but I thanked him as we drove off and followed the silver Corolla in front of us. The exit was close, but the roads that followed were long and winding and unlike any back roads I had ever seen. They were endless and confusing, the kind of rural remoteness that exists only in horror movies.
“What the fuck is this,” I asked Mr. D. “Do you think the cops and him are in cahoots? Like why were we waiting so long? Do you think the cop wanted us to lose air in our tire, and is this new guy taking us on a long road just so we’ll lose more? Could he hurt us? What do we do if he tries to kill us?”
My thoughts started racing. It was so dark, so deserted, and as we made another turn, the old man hopped out beside a dilapidated building and told us he was picking up his son-in-law.
“Now there’s two of them? We have the girls. Really, what do we do if they try to hurt us? Can we even drive far?”
Mr. D didn’t show his fear, but I felt it. He turned our navigation back on and said he felt reassured that the cop recommended the guy, but also concerned because the cop didn’t seem to know him very well. “If it seems shady, we’ll leave.”
We continued to follow them and the streets became less desolate. I saw a person walking, and then another, and I started breathing again. When we reached their shop, Mr. D told the man, “Our kids are sleeping in the back,” to which the mechanic replied, “No problem. Ya’ll can just stay right in the car.”
He hoisted up the car as the kids snored softly behind us, removed the nail, filled up the air as the emergency light disappeared from our dashboard, and then wished us safe travels. We thanked him, tipped him an extra $10 (the last of our cash), and then got the hell out of there.
On the ride back, we joked of an opposite version of Get Out, where Black people capture White people. “It would be called Come In,” Mr. D said as we cracked up. Later, we joked about the massive cooler by Big A’s feet, the one we carted through our entire trip. It held cold cuts on the ride down, but for the majority of the week it was filled only with strawberry jam and red sandwich peppers. “If they decided to kill us, we’d yell, ‘Noooo! We have jelllllyyyyyy!’ And in their split-second of confusion, we could make our escape.”
I laughed and laughed and told Mr. D that there’s nobody in the world I’d rather journey through life with, that nothing in the universe matters more to me than the life in our car, that despite embarking on such an exhausting and occasionally overrated trip, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
When we arrived home at 4 in the morning, I realized Big A might be right, after all. The destination can be pretty damn great.