My friends wave goodbye as they join the lengthy queue for the tall ride I can’t conquer. I have some time to kill and my inner child sees me on a mission for Mickey Mouse ears. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t take long before I’m standing in front of an array of them and as I try one on and turn to find a mirror I catch a glimpse of a pair with a rainbow bow. I approach them, looking around cautiously before adorning them and I know these are the ones. I mean I was in the happiest place on Earth after all.
I last maybe two minutes outside the store before I start shaking and have to sit down. What if they ask? I’m a terrible liar you see. I’ll say I just liked the rainbow? Or that I wanted to support the community? The Mickey ears are far too big to fit in my bag so I have to commit. I take a deep breath and bear a strained smile.
Walking down the pier I feel a rush of adrenaline and I feel good. Somewhere deep down I think I want people to know. I scan the crowds, trying to tell if people are looking at me funny but it’s hard to tell since I naturally look pretty goofy. Lost in thought, I bump into some of the others from the tour group. In the midst of hellos, I catch one girl look up at my ears and say “oh”.
My cheeks burn in fiery reds and pinks and I can’t lift my eyes off the floor. I point them in the direction of the nearest bathroom and hurry the other way. The floor pools with water as an ocean of memories threaten the flood gates. Before I’m swept away, my friends message me that they’re finished, waiting. These are some of my closest friends and I have to face the music.
Excuses at the ready, I walk with anxious anticipation. I see them in the distance and question if it’s too late to turn back, but they move towards me and in the blink of an eye I’m stood in front of them, their eyes naturally darting to the colourful bow atop my head. They say they like it and say nothing more as if it was just another pair of Mickey Mouse ears in Disneyland but I feel awkward. I can’t tell if I can see the cogs turning in their minds as they try to solve the puzzle of my sexuality or if I’m just overthinking.
Waiting in line for a water ride, my friends debate which side gets the wettest, peering over the balcony to see those ahead of us and compare the dryness of their clothes. As they bicker, Ethan turns to me and asks “Did you pick those ears specifically? You know… or was it at random?” Panic. My eyes glaze over and I muster a response in the calmest voice I can “I uh, guess I liked these ones”. He nods and I fall silent, hoping he didn’t notice the crack in my voice. Deep down I know he means well and probably just wanted to test the waters to see if I was in the mood to share but I can’t shake the thought of his perception of me shifting for the worse. I overhear the others. “There can’t be an edge that gets the least wet if the ride is a circle, there are no edges” I pipe in. Chaos breaks out with this new information and as the argument continues I can’t help but smile.
We queue for what is to be our final ride, my nagging fears dissolving as I forget about the Mickey ears resting on top of my head. “Wait a minute,” a heavy hand grips my shoulder from behind and I turn, my eyes tracing the hand back to Luke as he gestures up to the ears. A wave of confusion and nerves hits me and I feel as weak as uncooked pasta. Out of the group he’s said the least about them, nothing in fact. “The tag’s sticking out” he adds, stepping forward and tucking the tag away. We exchange smiles, genuine, overcome with relief mine says a thousand words.
I like to tell myself that if someone asked me I’d tell them. That I’d be honest. I like to imagine being drunk, without inhibitions, answering that one question with the ease of spreading butter, as if it meant nothing. Disneyland saw me out of the closet but with a safety net. I won’t ever forget the reactions I’ve had from some of the few I’ve told, the pity in their eyes and the harsh words they spoke that have rendered me petrified of saying the words aloud. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be ready to come out now that I expect the worst. But Disneyland was a step towards reaching the promised land of out and proud, as was writing this.