They told you it was the happiest place on earth, that you should come to stay. Old women paint your face on in beiges and pinks and tie the corset tight. In the mirror eyes bat colored contacts into place. Blink once for yes, two for no. Your reflection is not your own.
The wig is top heavy, the weight like a migraine, trapped and strapped to your head. An announcement warns visitors, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have now surpassed heat index three. Remember to drink plenty of fluids.” Sweat leaks through your gown, smile molded to your face. Shoulders back, back straight, straight ahead.
Under the castle, little girls come and pose, whispering, “I want to be just like you when I grow up.” You take a picture with a pregnant mother and imagine her unborn baby. She’ll probably name it something like Wyatt or Braedon or Jane. How you’d like a Jane. But they wouldn’t allow it. They’d cut it out.
Walking backstage you see a child on his father’s shoulders. “Alright up there, Shane?” he asks. You can no longer recall your own father’s touch. “Yes. I feel safe with you holding me.” As the sun goes down, the air starts to cool and you watch the crowd from a hole in your dressing room. It’s a slight chill, one that only requires a lover’s sweater, a parent’s warmth.
At night you sleep in parade floats on top of costume feathers that smell of body odor and gasoline, fallen princesses by your side. Your memory provides no evidence of life before this. I am a tourist to myself. Peering out at the families huddled together in the night, the first firework goes off. You shiver. The goosebumps alone are enough to make you cry.
Brittany Harmon is a writer and graduate student at Wesleyan University. Her work has appeared in The Philadelphia Review of Books, Dogzplot, and Sundog Lit. She lives on an organic farm in western Massachusetts with her boyfriend and a one-eyed cat.