Devin had never been on Spaceship Earth. He had never been to Disney World as an adult either, but he seemed excited by the idea that we were old enough to drink around the world at EPCOT, to smoke weed in our hotel room and to wander around the park at the height of our high. I was excited because I’d never been to Disney World with a boyfriend. I’d only gone with my family until I was too old to roam the parks with them. Devin and I had been seeing each other all summer but it had been hard to find time alone since we were both living at home on breaks from college. This trip would be the culmination of our romantic relationship, a trip we could look back on and remember as our first.
He played the part and wore shorts and t-shirts instead of his usual slacks and button-downs. He wore camouflage Crocs that he’d owned since his summers at sleep away camp in North Carolina. Devin usually wanted to spend most of our time at my house. He liked swimming in the ocean at my parent’s condo and staying in my room with me at night. I’d suggested that it might be fun to help his little sister tie-dye t-shirts on the grass or help his mom arrange the flowers in their garden, but Devin always opposed. He sold it to me as wanting to spend more time in private, but I couldn’t help but feel so separate.
The one time I met Devin’s mom, she liked me enough to offer me an old American Eagle tank top she’d planned on donating. It was lime green and had lace on the straps, something I’d never wear, but I wore it on our trip to Disney to be nice. She didn’t even know we were in Orlando, that we had booked a room at Pop Century, a resort themed by the decades in Disney’s history, that we were staying there for a few days over the fourth of July weekend. She didn’t know Devin stole a bottle of her husband’s whiskey and it was in our room on the nightstand, open, drained a bit from shots he took before we left for the park.
It was Florida hot outside, almost a hundred degrees, and the weather had been crazy since we got up north. The first night it had rained the kind of rain that makes it impossible to stroll around underneath an umbrella, so we ran around in it, soaked ourselves then went back to the room to fuck and watch the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. My best friend, Nicole, was in London doing a summer semester abroad and had tried calling my cell phone a few times. I was still naked when I called her back, Devin’s hand occupying the space where my leg met my body, sticky and warm. Nicole was trying to tell me about some guy who she loved who didn’t love her back, or didn’t love her enough, something like that. I didn’t really want to talk to her then. I had Devin there next to me, ready to fuck again, and I didn’t want to have to convince Nicole that everything would be okay. I was so far away from her, Orlando to London is thousands of miles, and there was nothing I could do anyway. I’d never had a boyfriend I’d loved as much as I’d loved Devin, and I didn’t want to mess it up.
I’d met Devin through a friend of a friend. Our love had started out in secret since he already had a girlfriend. He complained about her to me on the phone for weeks until he finally drove over to my parents place in the middle of the night and we made out on the beach until sunrise. He wrote me poetry and letters and sent them in the mail so I could hold them and read them over and over again. He told me he saw a future with me, a house and babies and everything, and that he’d never met anyone like me. He said he loved that I was creative and confident and knew what I wanted out of life. The truth was I just always wanted to be in love. I had only dated stupid high school boys or college guys who just partied all the time and never thought deeply about anything. There was electricity between us that felt like magic, and I’d never been so comfortable being intimate with someone as I was with him. His fingers felt like magnets to my body, and I was addicted to the pull.
I told Nicole my service was bad and that I’d call her later. “But should I do it?” She asked and I had no idea what she was talking about. I told her, “It’s up to you,” and hung up.
The next day when the rain stopped we made our way to EPCOT. The bus was nice and air-conditioned and Devin seemed happy. He offered me sunflower seeds that he’d put in his pockets. “They’re in a shell,” Devin told me, “So it’s clean, kinda.” We ate them by the handful and watched the manicured Disney green landscape pass us by as the bus drove on. The bus was empty except for us and I thought it was romantic, like a movie. He was excited to check out the Norway pavilion, said his ancestors were Irish and that it was close enough. I knew it was a dumb association, but I loved him enough to ignore it.
When we got to the park, we took a picture together in front of the famous geodesic dome. We both had our sunglasses on and Devin’s hand grazed my ass so that no one could see. It shocked me and made my mouth open wide in the photo. He laughed and I tried to laugh it off too, but I had wanted a nice picture that I could show my mom, show Nicole, a picture I could post and show people that I didn’t even know so that they’d understand we’d traveled together, even if it was just three hours north to Disney World.
We rode Maelstrom in Norway and skipped out on the educational video. Devin looked at the swords in the gift shop and contemplated buying one, but I told him we needed to hurry to Future World so we could redeem our Fast Pass for Spaceship Earth. We shared a cronut and pink lemonade as we walked quickly around the park. We got in the fast line for the ride and played a game where Devin put his palms face up and I tried to slap them before he pulled them away each time. I skimmed his fingers a few times, but never got a solid landing on his palms. Before we could switch, we boarded the ride. I told Devin that my favorite part of the ride was the dark ages, the smell was something between burning firewood and barbecued meat. “I know it’s supposed to be all the books burning from the Library of Alexandria in Egypt,” I said. “But I just can’t help how much I love it.”
“Oh, fuck,” Devin said, and before I knew it, he was kissing my neck and pinning me down in the boxy blue ride car. I was wearing shorts and felt his fingers trying to creep through the leg hole. “Wait,” I whispered and unbuttoned the shorts completely. He slid them down along with his own and put himself inside me. I could feel lines forming on my back from the grooves in the seat, meant to keep riders upright when the seats spun around to face the dome later on. I could no longer hear the narration voice coming from the headrest speakers. “Let me know when the guy says something about Michelangelo because that’s when the lights go back on!” I said. But he didn’t respond. I couldn’t see anything above me, just the shine of the blue seat to my right and my backpack on the floor that I grabbed for some reason. I held the strap as if it would comfort me somehow. I was scared there might be cameras and we’d be banished from the park, or that another rider might see us. I was scared my mom would find out somehow. We weren’t teenagers anymore, but it felt like something I should know better not to do at twenty-one. I tried to think of ways I could lie, saying that I had a bug bite on my leg and that Devin was just inspecting it, or that I’d felt sick and needed to strip. Before I could figure out a lie, he came inside me and stayed on top of me for a few seconds after so that nothing would leak out. I pulled the strap of my bag and fished around for Kleenex. We used an entire pack getting ourselves clean. Devin threw the used tissues off the side of the ride and when I looked around, I saw the scene of the man in the garage building the first computer. Just then, our seats flipped around so we could marvel at the inside of the dome, moon and stars projected to twinkle and spin just like the real night sky. Our ride car turned around again and we descended while an animated movie played on screen about ways to help the environment and the future of travel.
“Shit, the sunflower seeds spilled everywhere,” Devin said when the car door opened and we slid out. We started running and laughing and hoped no one would notice. We walked through all the countries and he kept complaining it was too hot. When we passed through the United Kingdom I thought of Nicole, how she must be laying in bed crying, sad, maybe even mad at me because I’d been a bad friend. I asked Devin to take a picture of me in front of one of the big red phone booths so I could send it to Nicole later, a little “thinking of you,” message.
We kept walking and Devin suggested that maybe we should go back to the hotel, go for a swim and a nap. “But I want to see the fireworks,” I said. “Yeah, but it’s so hot and it’s only the afternoon. We’d have to wait hours for that.”
I wanted to stay and Devin wanted to leave. He suggested taking the bus back alone meeting up with me later, but I didn’t want to be alone in the park. “We drove all the way up here,” I said. “But this is really just a place for kids,” he said back. “But we can go get a drink or have dinner or something.” “Everything is so expensive here,” he said and I wondered if he’d ever pay me back for the tickets I’d fronted the cash for. I wondered if he’d just used this trip as an excuse to get away from his parents for a few days, to get away from his life, his first summer not at that stupid camp. Was I just the stupid girlfriend that was happy to take him on a trip and charge the room, the tickets, the food to her credit card? And he never would pay me back, not a cent. But as we sat on that bench I tried to recall the love we had, the many times we’d fucked, the seemingly endless conversations we’d had about life and our future and how we’d wanted to get married and have babies and be together forever. I thought about the way Devin knew how to touch me so well and how he held me when we slept. I thought about how comfortable I was with his body, the tattoo of the purple Volkswagen on his arm, the doves on his hipbones, the green shamrock right above his cock.
“I’m going on a picnic,” I said, “And I’m going to bring applesauce!” “What the fuck is that?” Devin asked. “It’s an ABC game. You go next and you have to bring something that starts with the letter “B” but then also say mine first.” “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring applesauce and…breasts!” Devin said. “I guess that works,” I rolled my eyes. We played the game until the sun went down, only stopping around “S” for “strap-on” so I could buy a Diet Coke. By the time we finished, the fireworks were set to start in thirty minutes.
“I’m so fucking hungry,” Devin said, and I suggested we go get something to eat quickly so we could see the show. “I just wanna go back and get some pizza,” he told me and got up and started walking. I followed him in his Crocs with my insides spilling out of me into my underwear, the wetness forming between my thighs no longer of excitement but of dread, of disgust, of wanting to die. I followed him, just like I would for eight more years.
I had imagined us holding each other and watching the fireworks, how he’d be amazed at the colors, the huge shapes in the sky, to hear which one was his favorite. How he would be happy we’d stayed and how he’d thank me for planning such a great trip. But eventually we got so far as the bus stop and boarded, but this time there were others seated on board. We rode in silence until we felt a boom. “There you have it folks,” the driver said over the loudspeaker. “EPCOT’s IllumiNations, Reflections of Earth has just begun!” We watched out the window as yellow and green and pink fireworks exploded in the sky. I put my hands up on the glass like a kid and watched open-mouthed. “We got to see the fireworks after all,” Devin said. But I wished I could have heard the music, that I could have been in the park watching from up close.
I took my phone out of my backpack and looked at pictures from the day. I scrolled to find the one in London but couldn’t find anything. Instead, I saw that Devin reversed the camera, his face contorted and his tongue sticking out of his mouth. Instead of letting me take my picture, he just had to make a joke, and now we couldn’t go back, ever, to make it right. I hated him then, more than anyone or anything. I thought him to be evil, that I would leave him in the morning, make my way back to South Florida and never call him again.
But then Devin took my hand and told me to make a fist and squeeze as hard as I could. I did so and he rubbed his hands all around my fist over and over again for a whole minute. He told me to open my hand, slowly, and tell him what I felt.
“It feels a little numb,” I said. “Does it feel like there’s a giant rock in your hand?” He asked. “Yeah,” I said, just to be nice.
He placed a tiny pink fake flower in my palm and smiled.
“Where did this come from?” I asked.
“I grabbed it off a display in the park,” he said, proud, as if it would make everything okay.
Ten years later, I would travel to Italy for real, not just a fake Italy in an amalgamation of countries in a theme park. I will look for my passport before the trip in my box of important things and find the fake flower, bright pink and resembling a hibiscus. The flower will be a message from the past, a time I try to forget but sometimes dream about. I will throw away the flower and not mention it to my husband, the love of my life. In Italy, we will drink Sangria in the Piazza Navona in Rome. We will tour the Colosseum and stay up late making love when the jetlag keeps us up at night. We will be hours ahead in time, all the way on the other side of the world.