Dancing On My Own

I am riding on the back of a deeply fried chicken, whose wings were clipped by dreams that never came true, toward a dark and loud discotheque where my two best glamour cats, Consuelo and Kiernan Shipka, are waiting for me. It’s going to be a night like every other night—Consuelo will tell me about her family hating her and Kiernan will eat hummus seductively while looking in a mirror. Meanwhile, Jake Gyllenhaal will be out on the dance floor standing perfectly stationary as women dance around him with tight vinyl dresses and enormous breasts; they will be offerings for a sex God stultified by the endless carousel of simplicity that parades itself in front of him. Jake Gyllenhaal has seen it all before, true, but eventually he will succumb to the temporal needs of the young man and select one of the Robert Palmer girls to slake his apathetic lust. Who will Jake pick? Which lucky lady will he take home tonight? I know it won’t be me, though it is what I long for more than anything in the world.

The chicken lands gently in front of the club. I climb down its extra crispy back and into the pulsating volume, heading straight for the bar. I order a Long Island iced tea that originally came from Kansas City but eventually settled in Massapequa after taking a job selling fire insurance to young homeowners. My drink tastes of longing and regret. I see Consuelo down at the end of the bar. I tell my drink that I will rent my apartment and don’t need fire insurance, and head over to meet my sad little friend.

I sit with Consuelo and she tells me of dreams she has of running free through magical lands with an ethereal goddess. She explains to me that she has been brought there by a snowy white egret named Johanna. She and the goddess go on long safaris and ride in giant pastel teacups as overgrown mice watch on. In her dreams she feels connected to the fantasy of happiness, and far away from the sadness of her reality. I have heard about these dreams before, and though I long to go to this world of fantastical and idyllic sorcery one day, I tune out Consuelo and focus on the night around me.

I look casually across the dance floor and I see him. Jake is standing perfectly still in the exact center of the floor, gazing with mild boredom as women who smell of desperation and J’adore Dior slowly and sadly gyrate around him. They each show him their assets and he turns away from each of them, one at a time, unimpressed with the night’s offerings. The muscles on his forearms tighten and he clutches his folded arms closer to his torso. I see him turn his head slowly toward the bar—toward the area where I am sitting with Consuelo.

His gaze lingers on me (but only briefly) as a new crop of buxom ladies of the night approach, willing to offer up their flesh in exchange for his affections. They approach like languid zombies, or like strange planets pulled into the rotation of this massive and effulgent star. They orbit him, each of them with 2 moons jutting out from their chests. Again, Jake seems unimpressed.

The music, an earsplitting decibel of indecipherable bass, thumps rhythmically and ritualistically as Jake continues to assess the room.

But swiftly the music switches to Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own.” The music calls to me and a force much more powerful than reality pulls me towards the dance floor. I begin to mouth of the lyrics, lip-synching while performing a dangerous breast shimmy, and locking eyes with Jake Gyllenhaal.

I slowly approach him, each step forward is a challenge of movement and lust. He doesn’t turn away. He has never been challenged on his home turf. He has never felt the heat of my sexual thunder.

As Robyn’s voice rings out, “I’m just gonna dance all night,” my shimmy becomes more intense, my challenge undeniable. You will take me home, Jake Gyllenhaal. You will show me your Brokeback Mountain of Love. The night will belong to us and we will take our rightful place in Xanadu—two Kings with righteous power, merciful and kind, but ready to except the gauntlet of a world that does not accept our love.

Jake Gyllenhaal holds my gaze. I can tell that he is intrigued by me and by my unparalleled interest in him.

“I’m givin’ it my all, but I’m not the guy you’re takin’ home. OOOOOOOhhhhhh. I keep dancing on my own!” cries Robyn. I have drawn to within a step of Jake Gyllenhaal. The women, who now realize that their pitiable attempts at seduction have fallen flat, now scoff at my moxie. They don’t understand the force of my desire or the undeniable warrant that  Robyn’s song gives me. I blast out a full-force shimmy and this intimidates the atrophied women. They slowly retreat, fading into the darkness of the club—the part where the wallflowers and morbidly pessimistic plot the dooms of those more successful than themselves. I know the atramentous perimeter of the dance floor well. It is where I have spent far too much of life, watching and waiting, hoping to come into the light. Now I am here and I will not waste this moment.

Suddenly, and rather too loudly, I am made awake. Fibro is on my chest, his little black eyes peering at me, his nose pressed right up to mine.

“Yo, Jeff, you awake?”

“Yes, asshole. You’re sitting on my chest. Get off me. Why did you wake me up?”

I roll over and Fibro topples off of me and over the side of the bed. He lands with a little thud. He stands up on his hind legs and peers over the top the bed.

“We got any BagelBites? I want pizza.”

“Do you see any in the freezer?”

“No.”

“Then, no, we don’t have any. Where the hell else would they be?”

“Oh, I… huh. Yeah that makes sense.”

“Are you stoned?” I ask this rather pointedly, since the raccoon had been stoned and eating pizza since I first let him stay with me.

“Yeah,” he says, looking away sheepishly.

“Jesus, stop being such a stoner. No, we don’t have any BagelBites. I don’t eat foods that are registered trademarks.”

He jerks his head back toward me. “Registered trademark? Registered trademark. Just like the rhino.”

I have no idea what he means by this, but I don’t care. I was so close to being with Jake Gyllenhaal, even if only in my dream. That feeling, of being close to the things you most desire only to have them yanked away, is an assassin of dreams though. When you want something, most desperately want something, and don’t get it… there is a lingering effect. It is the bitter aftertaste of a life that feels unfulfilled. Perhaps a crush on a Hollywood celebrity is not the thing that triggers this acerbity, but the long list of life’s little disappointments may be enough to add up to dreamless sleep, or worse—a dreamless life.

I roll over in my bed, away from Fibro, even as he is furiously muttering something about polar bears, pirates, rhinos and cheese. I don’t know what he was smoking that night, nor do I care. I want only to return to that club, to fly on the wings of a deeply fried chicken, to drink a Long Island iced tea from Kansas City, to shimmy and shake, to dance with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Instead I fall into a dreamless sleep in which I am dancing on my own.

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Consuelo In the Treehouse

Consuelo and her family were leaving the Magic Kingdom. Consuelo did not get her hug from Merida, and she did not have any fun. Mother and Aunt Lola had made her ride each attraction alone. Consuelo was happy to do this, since she really didn’t want to be around them, or Father, or her brother, Juan. She sat rather dejectedly on Buzz Lightyear, Space Mountain, and Pirates of the Caribbean and let each moment pass her by. She just wanted to go home. She was going to wait patiently for this vacation to be over, then go home and sleep in her own bed and dream of being anywhere other than with her family.

This was their last night in Disney World, and tomorrow she would happily get on a plane and return to her normal, hopeless life. There would be no more dreaming of a hug from Merida. There would be no more believing that she had even one single friend in this world. She would go back to being Consuelo, the sad girl from Brookfield, IL.

But first she must endure one last night of this cruel journey. Consuelo and her family stood on the boat launch outside the Magic Kingdom, waiting for the little motor boat that would take them across the lagoon and back to the Polynesian resort. A little down the dock, Consuelo noticed an egret resting standing on a wooden post. It was slender, tall, and an almost shimmering white. She walked toward the bird, a short way away from her family.

As she approached, the egret spoke to her. “Why are you so sad, Consuelo?”

Now Consuelo was quite surprised at first that the animal spoke. But she quickly reasoned that she was in Disney World and if Mickey and Donald and Goofy could all speak, why not this magically white egret as well? She blurted out the full story of how she came to Disney World with her family and hoped to meet Merida and get a hug from her and how her hopes were now tragically dashed.

“My name is Johanna,” said the egret, “and I know of one Scot in this magical place who loves you and would like to meet you. Would you like to meet her, Consuelo?”

“Yes, very much!” Consuelo exclaimed with hope in her heart. Could there really be somebody out there that would love her and give her a hug?

“Then you shall meet her in your dreams,” said Johanna. And with that, the great egret spread her wings and flew off, back into the Magic Kingdom, over the train station and far out of view.

Consuelo was confused and a bit upset. She did not want a make believe friend in her dreams. She wanted a real friend she could hug and laugh and joke with, just like everyone else she knew had. Why had the bird taken off like that? She had many questions, not the least of which was how she would find this magical friend. Soon the boat arrived and Consuelo’s family climbed in. There wasn’t enough room for her, so she had to wait for the next boat. She knew her family well enough to know that they would take the time without her to run off to dinner, leaving her behind. But Consuelo was okay with this, since she hoped Johanna would return and answer her questions. Johanna didn’t reappear though, so Consuelo boarded the next boat and sailed off across the lagoon, quite puzzled by the entire situation with the egret.

She returned to the hotel room and sure enough, her family was nowhere to be seen. She popped on her headphones and cranked Three Dog Night and waited, and waited, and waited. She was growing quite tired and while she listened to her favorite song, Shambala, sleep washed away her sorrow…

Consuelo dreamt…

Johanna greeted her on the balcony of her hotel room. Johanna spread her wings and Consuelo knew she wanted her to do the same. But Consuelo didn’t have wings, or did she? Yes! She had a pair of hot pink, glittery wings! She spread them and, having never flown before, nervously jumped off the balcony with Johanna. But she soon realized there was nothing to be nervous about—flying was as easy as breathing to her now. She and Johanna sped across Seven Seas Lagoon toward the Swiss Family Treehouse in Adventureland. Johanna motioned for them to land at the base of the tree.

“Climb to the top of the tree, Consuelo. There you will find her,” said Johanna.

Consuelo was a bit hesitant—after all, it was night and she didn’t know what exactly she would find a the top of the tree—but she did as she was told and began to climb the steps into the tree. The impeccably themed staircase seemed impossibly high.

Consuelo climbed and climbed and climbed. She was unsure of how far she had gone or how far she had to go. She stopped briefly to take in the view of the castle and Space Mountain. Consuelo found herself aching to stay in this magical place forever. But she knew that this was only a dream and that dreams can only endure if you sleep through life. So, Consuelo began to climb again. Finally, she reached the top of the tree and waited. Where was the friend Johanna spoke of?

Rather slowly, the tree began to pulse with light. The leaves became a white and soothing glow, the branches radiated with warmth, and the floor grew brighter and brighter until it was finally a blinding light. Consuelo had to close her eyes. When she shut her eyelids she heard the sound of a woman.

“Welcome to my home, Consuelo,” said an ethereal, soothing voice from behind the downtrodden girl.

“Who are you?”Consuelo asked, her eyes still clamped shut, though she could sense that the light had diminished.

“My name is Tilda—Tilda Swinton—and I am Mother of all creatures that call Walt Disney World home,” said the woman.

Consuelo was confused and curious and opened her eyes slightly. Standing before her was a slender woman dressed in white with piercing eyes and a very… modern… hairstyle. She wore a long, flowing nightgown that shimmered and sparkled just like the egret, Johanna. Consuelo knew immediately that she could trust this woman named Tilda.

 “Johanna brought me to you, but why am I here?” asked Consuelo. “Why aren’t we awake and sipping tea or playing with beach balls like the girls in my school?”

“You are here because you are unloved, and I am love. I love all unloved things, like Stitch’s Great Escape, George Clooney, and Consuelo. But we are here in your dreams because that is the only way you have to reach me, Consuelo. I exist only here, in Disney World, and in the beyond,” Tilda replied with a graceful wave of her hand.

“The beyond?” Consuelo asked.

“That place between reality and dreams. That is where we are now, Consuelo. You aren’t actually dreaming, though I’m sure that is what it may seem to you. We are here, in that space in between, where the things that you wish for so hard become very nearly real. So what is it, Consuelo, that you have wished for so much that you have spun into reality?”

“I… I think… maybe… I think maybe that I’ve wanted a friend so badly that I am here because you and Johanna are now my friends and this is the place where we can be together.”

“Yes,” said Tilda with a knowing smile. “Yes, I do believe that is the case. You are here with friends now, Consuelo. What would you like to do now?”

“May I have a hug, Ms. Tilda?”

Tilda nodded and opened her arms wide. Consuelo rushed forth into the loving embrace.

“Now listen to me, Consuelo. You are beautiful and wonderful, and if you ever need love, simply dream of this happy place and I’ll be here.”

Tilda kissed Consuelo on the forehead and vanished into white light.

Consuelo woke up and smiled. She had a friend at last. Consuelo found love. Consuelo found Tilda.

Consuelo Rides the Tea Cups

It was the day Consuelo longed for—the entire family was going to Walt Disney World. Mother had joked that she would make sure to leave Consuelo behind, that they would “Home Alone” her. Consuelo wasn’t sure if she was joking or not. One time mother had promised her that she could come along on the family trip to IKEA and pick out her very own spegel for her room. But when the time came to leave, Mother told Consuelo that she left her purse in the attic and told Consuelo to go get it for her. After looking for over an hour in the dark and dirty attic, Consuelo gave up. When she came downstairs the family was gone. When they returned eight hours later, Mother told Consuelo that she left her behind for her own good.

“If you had a spegel in your room, Consuelo, you would see your own reflection and then you would dislike yourself as much as we all do,” said Mother.

Consuelo was confused by this logic, since she looked in the mirror in the bathroom every morning to brush her teeth and comb her hair, but decided not to press the matter in case Mother became angry and did something mean to her.

So Consuelo, determined not to be left behind again, decided to sleep in the bathroom the night before the trip so that the family couldn’t forget about her.

Consuelo awoke to hear Mother whispering, “Just leave her. We’ll shower when we get there. We can freshen up in the airport baño.” She jumped up, immediately alert, and shouted, “I’m awake, everybody! I’m awake! Is it time to go?” The family groaned.

Father placed Consuelo on the scale in the bathroom. “Dammit, Maria, she’s more than 50 lbs. We can’t check her with the luggage!” Consuelo couldn’t believe her luck. She was going to Disney World and got to ride in a seat on the plane? Maybe they would even fly JetBlue! She began to dream of Terra Blue chips and her own little television with 36 channels of free DirecTV.

The flight was Delta.

No matter—Consuelo‘s excitement continued to build. She wondered if Merida would hug her like in the commercials. She had seen this on television: happy heteronormative families being embraced by dewy-eyed Caucasian girls dressed as princesses. Consuelo couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful.

“You know Merida won’t hug you like in the commercials, right? Nobody likes you, Consuelo.” said her brother Juan as the family prepared to board the plane.

The family took their first class seats, and Consuelo managed to get a seat in the last row via standby. Consuelo put on her headphones, cranked “Slow Ride” to full blast, and imagined herself in the warm, Scottish embrace of Merida, princess archer extraordinaire. When the plane landed at MCO, Consuelo asked people to please let her pass, since she knew the family would leave her behind. Consuelo sprinted with all her might to the Magical Express desk to catch up with her family. She had to pee real bad but ignored the pain.

Consuelo spotted her family just as they were boarding the Disney Magical Express to the Polynesian Resort. She hopped on the bus just as the doors were closing. The family groaned. “Our vacation is ruined!” said Mother. Consuelo didn’t care. She was going to Disney World.

As the bus pulled into the Polynesian, Consuelo gasped. It was a tropical wonderland. Consuelo smiled for the first time in forever. Will I finally know the pleasure of a virgin pineapple daiquiri served to me by a sexy pool boy? Consuelo dared to let herself hope.

“Isn’t there a broom closet or something you can put her in?” Mother asked, jerking her thumb in Consuelo‘s direction when they arrived at the check-in desk.

“I’m sorry,” said the cast member. “Everyone in your party must stay in a guest room. Are you ready to set up your MagicBand, Consuelo?”

Four hours later, Consuelo’s MagicBand was activated and the family headed to their rooms. Consuelo looked across the Seven Seas Lagoon toward her destiny. Consuelo was going to the Magic Kingdom and Merida was going to hug her and Consuelo was going to be happy.

The family decided to take a nap because they are the kind of annoying, horrible people who take a nap as soon as they get to Disney World. Consuelo did not want to sleep though. Instead she went out to the balcony and watched as happy families played on the beach. She wondered if she would ever get to be happy like them.

When the family awoke, Father decided that they would start their vacation at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, “Disney’s best park!” Consuelo’s dad sucks. So the family went, begrudgingly towing Consuelo along. They arrived and rode the handful of rides there—Tower of Terror, Rock & Roller Coaster, Star Tours.

Consuelo smiled briefly during the Beauty & the Beast show as she realized that Belle was wearing her dead mother-in-law’s dress to dinner. The day ended with dinner and Consuelo’s aunt allowed her to have a sip of her Sprite, an uncommon act of kindness.

“Mom, make Consuelo stop picking her scabs during dinner!” cried Juan. Consuelo could twist the knife just as well as her family could.

That night Consuelo dreamed in restless sleep. She was spinning around too fast in a giant tea cup, Merida’s flaming hair a blur in the background. Consuelo awoke with a gasp. She got up from the floor and went to the balcony. Across the lagoon, the sun was rising on the Magic Kingdom. Consuelo knew that today she would finally get her hug and feel loved by somebody.

She showered and dressed then waited patiently for her family to up. She popped in her favorite cassette: War’s Greatest Hits. Just as “Low Rider” finished playing, the family woke up and got ready for breakfast. Mother told Consuelo she had to stay in the room and wait for them while they all went upstairs to the restaurant to eat. Consuelo did as she was told because she didn’t want to risk making Mother angry and being left behind while the family went to the Magic Kingdom.

Eventually the family returned from breakfast and they all went off to the park. Consuelo was so filled with hope and happiness that she thought she would cry. They sailed across the lagoon in a little boat, with the castle getting nearer and nearer.

The day was glorious. Consuelo got to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, and Space Mountain. Consuelo was even allowed to get a popcorn along with the rest of the family. Juan only tripped her three times over the course of the day. Father called her the worst only once—when she piled into a pirate ship with him and Juan on the Peter Pan ride. Even Mother was kind to Consuelo; she ignored Consuelo all day.

As the day wore on, Consuelo began to get anxious. When would they meet Merida? The park was only open a few more hours and nobody else had mentioned meeting another character.

“Auntie Lola, can we please go visit Merida before we leave? She’s my best friend. She loves bagpipe punk just like me.” Consuelo asked this innocently.

“Merida is lame. Of course you would want to meet her. Honestly, Consuelo, you are the worst,” Aunt Lola replied.

Consuelo was heartbroken. She had dreamed of meeting Merida, of getting a hug from her best friend—her only friend—in the whole world, of momentarily feeling like somebody cared about her. Consuelo began to cry.

“Ugh! Consuelo, what’s wrong with you? This is why we can’t take you anywhere. Why the hell are you crying?” Mother demanded.

“BecauseIWantedToMeetMeridaAndAuntieLolaSaidWeAren’tGoingToMeetMeridaAndIWantedToHugMerida!!!!!” Consuelo choked back sobs.

“Oh, Consuelo, honestly! No! We are not going to see your stupid princess friend. C’mon, let’s go. NOW!” Mother grabbed Consuelo’s wrist hard and dragged her forward. Father, Juan, and Uncle Jorge ran off to ride Space Mountain again, leaving Consuelo with her mother and aunt. The three wandered over to the tea cups, with Consuelo still crying and Mother and Aunt Lola ignoring her the whole time.

As they waited in line for the tea cups, Consuelo slowly stopped crying. Why should she be surprised that she wouldn’t get to meet Merida? Why should today be any different than any other day in her life? She was an idiot to hope for a hug, right? Consuelo just wanted to go home now. She wanted to lay in bed and listen to Led Zepplin and read her collection of Martha Stewart wedding magazines (that she swiped from her teacher’s garbage bin at school). She resumed her normal placid inexpressive face and followed Auntie Lola and Mother onto the tea cups.

“No, Consuelo. This cup is for Auntie Lola and me. You can go get in one of your own,” said Mother.

Consuelo turned and got in a big pink teacup all alone. She sat silently and patiently waited as the ride swirled around and the happy music played. She disinterestedly looked around at happy families in teacups, smiling and laughing, with their hair whipping around. The music stopped. The ride slowed down and ended. Mother and Aunt Lola had already walked ahead to meet with the men, not waiting for Consuelo. She walked quickly to catch up with them.

Consuelo’s fun in Walt Disney World was over.

Across the path from the tea cups a slender, tall, white egret stood. It watched the sad chubby girl as she trailed behind the two women who wouldn’t let her ride with them. The egret shed a silvery tear, raised its head to the sky and chirped. Then it flew off toward Tomorrowland as a wild caterwaul from far, far away grew ever nearer…