Trapped by The Mouse
“Keep up, New York.” Valen called back to me.
I shook my head. He was way down the path in front of me. I ran to catch up again, all the while thinking one thing…I don’t want to be my mother.
I felt tears creeping up on me because, if I’m totally honest, looking around at all the normal people here, all I could think was, what a snob I am.
I followed Valen to a T-stop on the path. Our path ended and a new path ran perpendicular to it. There were several shops, restaurants, and a few vendors with carts full of paraphernalia.
There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to this place.
Let me be clear, this Disney Springs, it’s not a bad place. In all honesty, there was very clearly a lot of money invested here. I can only imagine they were making some play on the wealthy. An attempt to make regular people feel they’d stepped into a fancier world? Or maybe it was for people like me. Here, don’t take yourself so seriously, you’re on vacation?
I guess if you came here on vacation, there could be an appeal to the mockery. We do like to laugh at ourselves if it can be done while still keeping our superiority.
Not as much as we enjoy laughing at other people, but still. Maybe these Disney people were geniuses and I just didn’t realize it.
“Look, I won’t be more than an hour.” Valen reached in his pocket and pulled out his wallet.
His voice startled me.
I was looking around like a five-year-old lost in Times Square, a little in awe, a lot terrified.
“Take this and go get some lunch. Given your day, I’m guessing you haven’t eaten. You’ll feel better.” He smiled and pushed three twenties into my hand.
“I have money.” I tried to push it back at him.
“You need whatever you have.” He pushed back at me.
Truthfully, it was sixty bucks, I don’t even know what to do with that little. I imagine to him, though, that it was a great sum and I was touched by his generosity.
“Fine.” I exhaled and took his money.
How the mighty have fallen.
If anyone I knew could see me right now, I’d die. I’d be a laughingstock. The subject of pity and ridicule for years to come.
“The Hangar Bar, here—” He pointed at the establishment we were standing in front of. “—has some food, but mostly drinks. Down that way, there’s a steak house and a pizza place. Try to relax. Get a drink, shake off the day. I won’t be more than an hour, but I’ll come back here.” He pointed behind him to a concrete auditorium of sorts. “Waterview Park. If you get lost, just ask security how to get back to it. Take however long you need, I’ll wait here.”
He looked at me so intently I felt tears surfacing again.
“I won’t leave you.” He put his hands on each of my shoulders and looked me straight in the eye.
How could he even know those were the words I needed to hear most?
“I feel so dumb.” A tear breached the barrier.
“Don’t. You’re the bravest person here. I’d bet money on it. Let me go do this meeting, then we’ll get you to your friend’s place. A good meal and some sleep and you’ll find your equilibrium. I promise.” He drew me into a full hug, renewing my strength.
It was all I could do to keep from completely falling apart in his arms. It was the safest I’d ever felt in my life. It was the first time I remember not feeling alone since my dad left. But it didn’t last long enough.
“Hey, Valen!” A voice came across the courtyard and Valen released me.
He looked over and waved at a woman in some sort of costume, just walking by.
He looked back at me like a father sending his kid off to the first day of school.
“You’ll be okay. Waterview Park.” He pointed again.
I took a step back and drew a deep breath.
“I’m fine.” I found the ability to smile like I really was.
“Okay. But also…” He reached into his wallet and pulled out two more twenties. “Buy a t-shirt or something. You’re gonna pass out in that sweater.”
I gasped and was prepared to defend my wardrobe, but after pushing the extra funds in my hand, he turned and walked off, leaving me there with my mouth agape.
I watched him until he disappeared from sight.
I was half in love with him, and that was ridiculous.
Still… I was.
And I had enough on my plate, with no room to fight off crazy feelings for someone I’d never see again.
I turned towards Waterview Park and moved closer to the water.
Everything here was fake.
I turned in a full circle. Palm trees, shrubbery, people, birds, and buildings. From where I stood, I could see a teahouse, a wine bar, a boathouse, and back to the Hangar Bar. There were fall banners and decorations everywhere, too. But they seemed oddly out of sync since it was hot as summer. I mean, I don't think I've ever looked at a fall display and wondered if the dried corn husks weren't a fire hazard in the blazing sun.
Imagining the corn going up in flames made me think of popcorn. Valen had suggested I get food. But did I want food?
There’d been some kind of vendor back where I’d been standing with him. I could just grab something and sit here on one of the concrete benches.
I walked a little closer to see if they seemed clean.
That’s when I saw them.
A small group of women, dressed like it was Easter Sunday circa 1950.
Again, I felt my jaw drop. I couldn’t close it. I just kept blinking at them like they were a mirage in the desert. I was almost wondering if the events of the day had pushed me over some edge. If I’d had a break of some sort. They were like a vision, and I felt trapped in a moment out of time. I watched them walk from the teahouse towards the Hangar Bar, almost in slow motion the way my mind registered it. They were talking, laughing, and snapping photos with their phones. They had their hair done to perfection, makeup was flawless, their clothes… colorful and feminine and…
“That’s the ABCs. They’re sort of a legend here, but can be a shock if you weren’t expecting them. Wait ‘til you catch a glimpse of Eddy Maserati!”
A woman wearing some kind of costume and carrying a large box had snuck up behind me, startling me right out of my trance.
“I’m sorry, what?” I snapped as I turned to look at her.
She was shorter than me.
Her obviously box-dyed red hair was in a braid hanging over one shoulder and, it’s not nice to notice but, she was also considerably overweight.
“Eddy Maserati, also known as Sparkle Man. You won’t miss him. Now, those girls.” She shrugged, readjusting the box. “They’re The ABCs of Disney Living. They have a vlog.”
And that, I guess, somehow explained it.
“You okay?” She jostled the box again.
“Do you need to set that down?” I wasn’t sure why she was being friendly or why she was prying, but it made me extremely uncomfortable.
“No, I’m good. You just looked…” She stopped to consider her words.
“Out of place?” I was a little bitchy.
She just laughed.
“Your words, but… yeah.” She had a wonderfully warm smile, and for a moment I felt bad for being a bitch to her. “Come with me, I’ll get you some water. You look hot.”
The moment passed.
“I’m not hot. I’m fine.” I turned away and pretended I no longer considered her existence.
“The Florida heat is vicious. It’ll sneak up on you fast.” She continued to explain, despite my full-on snub that was a clear stop talking signal.
I huffed and looked back at her, scorching her with one of my mother’s looks.
“It’s just water.” She laughed a little, waved me towards her, but didn’t actually start moving.
“Oh good god, fine.” I started moving.
We walked to a small concession stand outside the Hangar Bar, she set the box down behind it, then handed me a cold bottle of water.
“It’s on the Mouse.” She smiled again, in that weird, overly-friendly way that I found unnerving.
On… the… mouse?
Was she serious?
“Uh…” I reached for it. “Thanks.”
“So where are you from?” The girl, whose nametag declared her to be Alice, continue to pry.
“Why do people keep asking me that?” It was a little infuriating.
“Well, you have on a lovely outfit, but boots and a sweater… in Florida… in October…” She made a face that said I’d made a grievous error.
For the first time I really looked around at the other people. Mostly wearing shorts, flipflops, sandals, hats, sunglasses, tank tops… and I’d never admit it, but I was dying. There was so much humidity, my hair was frizzing, my makeup was melting, and it was taking half my energy not to do the same.
But I’m a DuPont. I don’t melt.
“Thank you for the…” I’d planned to walk away at that point, but instead, we were interrupted.
“Alice, I need the money for the light bill and, once again, you forgot to give it to me.” The older woman pushed in front of me and held out her hand. Alice shriveled in front of me.
Moments before, she was friendly, delightful, definitely pushy, but still… now she looked… sad.“Mom, I’m at work, and I left the money on the dining room table last night.” Alice tried to keep her voice down as she managed the situation.
“I never saw it and I asked your brother when he came by this morning, he never saw it. God, Alice, you’re so forgetful. It’s no wonder all you can do is sell beer. Most of these people here probably have more sense than you. You can be damn sure they’ve got more money.” The woman sighed and rolled her eyes.
I was horrified.
I mean, my mother spoke to me like that all the time, but never in public!
“I’m not lying to you and I didn’t forget. I put it on the table. A hundred and seventy five dollars. Plus, I brought in groceries before I left this morning. Now I have to work. Please go.”
I felt... maybe I was just projecting my own history with my mom onto Alice, but I was beside myself with emotion over what I was witnessing. It was like a train wreck. I should have left, given them their privacy, but at the same time, I felt bizarrely protective.
“Alice, you’re always lying, to me, to yourself. Whatever, just, I need the money.” The woman held her ground.
“Here.” Before I had a chance to even think about it, I was pulling money from my wallet and handing it over to this awful woman.
“Hey, you don’t need to…” Alice tried to stop me.
I just handed the money to her mother, then looked at Alice.
“I’ve got an asshole for a mother, too. I get it.” Then I death stared her bitch of a mom.
“Excuse me!” The woman took offense.But she also took my money.
Alice looked a lot like I probably had when I saw the ABCs.
“Now go. She’s working.” I folded my arms across my chest.
I’d never in a million years be able to stand up to my own mother like that, but hers… there was no excuse for how she spoke to her, and I was pissed.
Trapped by the Mouse is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
We are not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with The Walt Disney Company, Disney Enterprises, Inc., or any of its subsidiaries or its affiliates. The official Disney web site is available at www.disney.com