Why? because we like you.
She has been, as Leonard Cohen suggests, oppressed by the figures of beauty. Waiting for perfection before engaging with the world and her friends at the Playground that is A Word with You Press.
We missed you, my dear. Glad this contest has brought you out of a premature retirement. A lovely story, poignant, and clearly heart-felt when you wrote it. I suspect your fans will second that devotion.
by Claudia Barillas
The tiny tiles on the floor of San Francisco restroom blend together into long colored lines that make it seem endless. And it almost is. Twenty-eight stalls. The largest in the park. But it’s better that way–I can stay in one place for the most part. More work is less running around, and believe it or not, less stress.
I don’t handle stress well. Never learned how, or just wasn’t built for it. I’m so afraid of trying to catch up that I refuse to let myself fall behind, and the further ahead I stay, the more the threshold of what counts as ahead moves, until I’m moving twice as fast as anyone doing the exact same job, and still making the same amount of money.
This isn’t what I wanted to do with my life. It’s not what anyone wants to do with their life. My department is full of students, retirees, and women whose husbands have everything covered, and just want a little extra spending money. That’s not me. I’m a college graduate looking to move out of my parents’ house and trying to find direction in life. Sometimes I ask myself what I’m doing here and then I remember: applying, here, there, everywhere. No one else so much as called me back. It was this or nothing.
I used to have dreams, which may have included having enough money to visit Disneyland once every couple of years, maybe even stay at the hotel. They did not include cleaning toilets, even the ones at Disneyland. Now my only dream is to get out. To work in an office so I can get paid to sit down. To work in a store so that if I do have to clean a toilet it’s maybe once a day. To work somewhere small, where I know where everything is and how everything functions, so that I don’t want to die every time someone approaches me to ask a question. I thought forcing myself into a crowded place where people would come up and talk to me would make me stronger, help me fight my anxiety. It’s made me weaker, more afraid of people than ever. I’m tired of staring at the ground all day hoping the guests don’t see me. I’m tired of pretending I don’t see them and skittering off the other way. I’m tired of crying in the back every time someone is mean to me.
I look out at the water of Paradise Bay and wonder how deep it is, wonder if it’s possible to drown in it. I hate myself for wondering. And when I finally ask someone, I hate him for not asking why I want to know. I change my location preference, putting Paradise Pier at the bottom of the list. No need to be tempted. No need put myself where the chains that hold our trash cans in place after hours sit freely in a pile such a short walk from the water that’s so dark at night.
Sometimes I think of Walt Disney as my father. He was more a part of my childhood than the man that title should belong to, and now in my adulthood, he provides for my needs. Maybe if Walt really were my father, I would have it in me to be someone better.
I’m not the same kind of person Walt was. I couldn’t pack my things into a single suitcase, get on a train, and put all the money I had to my name towards paying rent on a studio that might never pay off. I don’t have the talent to back up a move like that. I don’t have the courage. All dreams and no drive.
A person like me can’t be ordinary. My only options are spectacular greatness or spectacular failure, and I’m running out of time to be great. Twenty-six is too old to become special. I should already be there.
There’s a statue on Buena Vista Street, in Carthay Circle. Walt and Mickey just off the train. The Storytellers’ statue. Even on my days off I come to work, give my money back to the man who gives it to me. I approach the statue, not caring for the cast members and other guests that mill about. “Can I do it?” I ask. “Is there still time? Can I still be great?”
Father Walt, too long dead to answer me. Father Mickey, too long soulless to care for my inquiries. But the true Father, the one who always lives and always cares, the one who was always a part of my childhood and now in my adulthood provides for my needs says. “It’s not too late.”
I believe him. If he says it’s not too late, then I swear, it’s not too late.
I leave the statue, the park, the resort. That monster of someone’s dream gone too far when other dreams can’t even start. I find a quiet place. I sit. I write.
Even if no one else ever knows it, I am great.