I didn't really want to go to Disneyland. I didn't want to spend the money or force myself to have fun. I found myself drawn more toward stocking up at the dollar store, so I went. I rode the train alone, not feeling the least bit excited and not knowing what to expect. Two young girls with their grandma sat on the bench across from me, clothed in Minnie paraphernalia, not looking especially overwhelmed with anticipation. I took this as an ominous sign.
I stepped off the train and headed towards big friendly English signs (too big and friendly), guided along a boardwalk, passing mothers holding their little Snow White daughters' hands, in the other hand a bag full of souvenirs. I walked through the ticket gate, the guards smiling and beckoning me in like I was Walt himself, checking the contents of my backpack with one fell touch of a white-gloved hand, no sifting through personal items in the happiest place on earth. Sweet Eore autographing pages of custom made Disney autograph books for ecstatic little girls, happy little boys. I started to feel floating in my chest. I didn't try to stop it.
I met my friends Paola and Kevin and we waded through crowds, trying to get a glimpse of the Easter parade, we stood on a ledge, why wasn't everyone on this ledge? What a great view of Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum. "Ichi ni san, ichi ni san," they sang, I sang along until an employee gently guided us off the ledge, back down into the blinding masses. We wandered aimlessly, I collided into everyone, walking to a different beat, stuttering like my feet had a speech impediment. We rode Dumbo and furtively captured the airlifted moment forever. No pictures please on the Dumbo ride, said a laminated sheet handed to us by an employee, because, after all, we could drop our cameras.
In line for Splash Mountain, my second ride of the day, first if you don't count Dumbo, we heard a rumor that it was a three hour wait, but what else was there to do but wait in line for a few hours, for a few seconds of agony, a few of pleasure, this is life, this is progress.
In line: A circle of laughing young women with fuzzy leopard print Minnie ears, bleached orange hair and Harajuku-style floral pastel skirts; three preppy toddlers in navy polos embroidered with skulls, squealing with delight, playing jun-ken, rock paper scissors, with their grandma. Sugar highed kids swinging the line partition rope, whipping the back of my thighs; line weary zombie kids on a sugar crash, tugging absently on the rope, scraping the back of my thighs; screaming kids who've hit the ultimate low of fun, sun, walking, waiting, candy, decisions; kids with video games, families, friends. An American mom demanding an employee to tell her how long the line will take, she touches his arm and thanks him, he looks at me, he looks like he doesn't know what to think.
An East Indian man in front of me bathed himself in the plastic log drinking fountain, splashing excess water from his nose and mouth cleaning onto my leg. I was planning on getting splashed, but not like this. By the third hour we were friends with the Bangladeshi leg splasher and his eleven year old niece, let's call her Shoopie. I taught Shoopie a three step hand slap game, three different slaps repeated over and over, faster and faster, until hands synch into one fluid movement. Shoopie watched Paola and I catch each other's rhythms, our hands melding together into a circle. Shoopie tried, each slap seperate from the next, segmented into one- stop, two- stop, three-stop, counting aloud, stiff as a board, perplexed. Let go Shoopie, I wanted to tell her. She taught me chopsticks, a finger game of math and strategy, and beat me easily every time.
We asked her why she was at Disneyland on a school day, why there were so many kids in general there on a school day. "Today we have the day off of school because we have finished our sports competitions. For my international school they gave us a discount."
We laughed ironically. "Great," I said, "we came to Disneyland on kids-get-in-free day."
"No, no, I didn't get in free," Shoopie spoke up with her lilting speech, "it was only a discount."
We were a few people away from the entrance, Shoopie's uncle motioned to us and then at them and said, "together." I smiled. We were a group. I offered him some of Paola's Chips Ahoy. Shoopie read the label and sadly told us they couldn't eat it because they were Islamic and there was pork in it. I gave them Paola's Soyjoys instead and we officially became friends.
The five of us shared a log boat, snaking through caves of purple black-lit beehives, bees swarming around like heated molecules, maniacal foxes, barbequed rabbits, birds on crack, birds with some wisdom, zipidy-doo-dah in Japanese and finally down a waterfall shooting us back to daylight. We shuffled through the exit, wondering if it was worth it. We looked at our waterfall picture on the Splash Mountain screens. We laughed at Shoopie, so scared that she tried to hide in the bottom of the boat, the camera catching only the top of her head, shining raven feather black and blue hair.
We said goodbye, never asking names or e-mails, though we felt a closeness, we knew what it was, we shared time together and we shared a moment and no one felt like pretending it would be more than that.
More ice cream, food, parades, the lines thinned, kids-get-in-free day was nearing an end no more four hour waits. We rode Space Mountain, why is everything a mountain? I screamed myself horse, the laser lights played with my eyes, "Let's do it again!" I declared seven seconds into the ride. We skipped through the exit, chattering excitedly, high for a little bit.
We wandered around, looking for the next high. The princess' castle lit up the foggy night so other-worldly blue, but none of our cameras could catch it and we started to fade. We split up somehow and I found myself alone in line for the tea cups. Fireworks started. I ditched our place in line and soaked them in and soaked my face. I didn't realize how much I missed the mystery of fireworks, or maybe I was just getting tired.
It was time to go. We stumbled out of Disneyland, pulled into gift shops, copper disc press shops, candy shops, cookie shops, each on the verge of our own breakdown. We cleared the shops and the urge to consume. A feeling of satiated happiness infected us as we left the park, our legs tired, heads and cameras fuzzy with memories, stomachs sick from sugar and grease, faces aching from smiling. We walked to the train, filled with salary men.