My partner and I had plans to drive to his friend’s house for his birthday (note, it turns out it was his birthday per my partner the next morning, I had not memorized it). However, when we get to my car, the car had been switched with a jeepish vehicle without a roof, doors, or seatbelts. I busied myself using sheets, ropes, and anything else handy trying to find a way to secure ourselves for the drive, without much luck. He eventually found another way to get there himself while I worked out the problem to join him later.

Seemingly before that, non-linear jump back, he and I were at my sister’s house, in the office specifically, where I discovered some of my missing paintings. Apparently my sisters’ were hoarding them and hadn’t told me they were there, but as soon as I saw them, I remembered creating them, though I had long forgot them, and knew they were mine, so we packed up what we found.

Driving by myself at some point after Joseph had left, non-linear jump again, I was getting lost, or it seemed the path was taking far longer than estimated. In frustration, seeing an entertainment park, I pulled in to take a break from driving and ask for directions. Walking up to the entrance, a middle aged woman in pink asks for my ID, but apparently I do not have the right form of ID for the area. She insists I sign in triple triplicate various waivers to enter. Frustrated, I comply, and attempt to ask her for directions, but she claims not to have knowledge of such things.

Inside, I attempt to play miniature golf, but am subverted by the appearance of a camera before me. Prompted as such, I start a sermon of sorts as if I was recording a Youtube video, seemingly oblivious of any number of commotions and frivolities going on around me. Once the video is done, the camera disappears, and I find myself questioning why I’m playing a damned game of miniature golf. I don’t even like miniature golf, and I do not have time for such things.

A number of sizable boxes appeared before me, assumedly the same packages packed in my sisters’ office, but they had all grown in size and weight by about 400%. This seemed normal, though I didn’t remember bringing them inside. Some were in the way of other’s delights, so I endeavored to start moving them to the entrance so I could get them back to the car. I didn’t want to consider how I was going to fit them now that they had grown so much, nor whether I might have to abandon them, I simply moved them out of the way.

While moving the boxes, a soft-spoken but bubbly young woman popped her head out of an adjacent wall and asked curiously what was in the boxes. My former life, in so many words and images. She found it funny that I still carried such things around with me, especially in a place where I was supposed to be having fun. She worked there, it turned out, and I felt kinship with her. A young man with a chronic sarcastic attitude broke into the conversation, her boyfriend it was apparent, with a playful quip regarding her hanging out of walls again. It didn’t seem odd to me that she was hanging horizontally out of a wall, but he thought this was just silly. I found him somewhat intimidating, if still familiar, if still kin.

In a moment of exhaustion, I ask myself how I even got all these boxes inside to begin with. “Adrenaline,” he provided an answer I hadn’t asked him for, and turned to him with a question on my face. The woman was holding him, head to shoulder, in a loving and somewhat vacant manner.  “You push yourself, then forget the pushing. Dangerous game that. I avoid pushing anything but buttons,” he explained further. She made her fondness for buttons clear in response. I suggested button pushing is also a dangerous game. “Not for me.” It occurred to me that while both of these people worked at this place, I hadn’t seen either of them do any work. Meanwhile, I had been working nearly the entire time, when I came here for directions and to have a break. And I was on my way to a party to have fun.

I resolved to have fun, and endeavored to push their buttons, belly-buttons that is. A game of tag pursued with the three of us dashing around the establishment, a strange establishment with a lounge bar one room over from the tiny miniature golf course (1 hole, it would seem), some strange dinosaur attraction, and a seedy looking club I could only assume was intended for those of bondage interests from the apparel of those walking in. This felt like an island of misfits, like in Pinocchio, or a scene from Alice in Wonderland. Novelty and pleasure were the names of the game, and for awhile, I indulged in our relatively innocent game of chase and poke.

I resolved, refreshed after a bit of legitimate silliness, to make my way to the birthday party I had set out for. The man and woman were off of work and on their way to do whatever it is they did in their off hours. I had my guesses what that might be, and judged them somewhat for it, but chastised myself for doing so. Who am I to deny them their enjoyments. As I walked away, I said to hell with it and turned back to trade contact info. The man responded by handing me his phone, only the screen’s prompts did not make sense to me. I wanted to add myself as a contact, give him my phone number or email, but there didn’t appear to be a way to do so. I asked him how to do what he wanted, and he turned it around on me that it is what I had asked for. “Don’t you have a GoogID?” No, I didn’t. I guess that was the ID I was missing when I arrived. He walked away, leaving his phone with me which I could do nothing with.

Near the entrance now, I saw the woman in pink had left for the moment, leaving a pad of paper for her records and pens behind. Aha, I tore a piece of the paper off and endeavored to write down my name, number, and email to leave with the man and woman of kin. But the pen didn’t work. I grabbed another, but it also did not work. I went thru another 8 and none would work, even though I could’ve sworn the ink was practically overfilled when completing my signature 10 times earlier. I scratched my name and number onto a nearby wall. The wall was pristine, but I did not care at this point. I then left the phone against the wall, since the man and woman had disappeared somewhere, hoping they would see my message and get in contact someday.

Now at the entrance, outside, I stood, staring at the packages which had now grown another 400% in size, now the size of small buildings. Why did they keep growing? How in the hell was I going to get where I was going? “This place is hell” I said out loud. The entrance woman had reappeared, now appearing even more rounded out and sultry than ever, reminding me of my mother when at her most belligerent and flirtatious, laughing at me as if I had said the most hilarious joke. I failed to see the humor as I recounted my day thus-far. My paintings had been sabotaged, my car switched out for an incompetent version, my directions had proven incorrect, my break had turned into more work, my potential friends had left before I could ensure another meeting, the packages filled with cherished works of the past which once were so easy to carry now stood taller and heavier than myself, and to top it all off, this vivacious woman who forced me to sign in triple triplicate due to a lack of GoogID earlier now cackled at me like some demented villain in an anime. This clearly was hell. Where is the lesson in this?

Things changing on me, because I change on me, tripping myself up, maybe?

Packages growing over time, because I hold onto the past too dearly until the sheer weight of it dwarfs my ability to move forward?

A car without safety, because I don’t feel safe moving at all, as much as I might want to?

An island of fun, where I can’t have fun unless I’m playing the game of a child, why is that?

Why push myself so hard? What was I even trying for? It wasn’t fun. I wanted relief, not more burdens, but my burdens grew regardless of what I wanted. Is that life?

Did I even want to go to the birthday party? I don’t think I did. But I didn’t want to come here.

I let the packages disappear. I let the woman disappear. I let the entire fun park disappear, and even my ridiculous replacement vehicle. I stood now in a desert, flat and still with nothing on the horizon. This was where I really was. And it was hell. But somehow it was easier to stand alone beneath a beaming sun in this desolate and painfully bright place than it was to play pretend with mirages anymore or try to correct another broken plaything. I knew I would soon wake up. But I also knew this is still where I would really be. But even though I didn’t know where I would end up, or what more mirages might appear before me to distract my progress, I did the most difficult thing I could imagine in that moment, and took one step forward toward… the north. Because that is who I am. And that is all I can really do.

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