My marriage fell apart on a Friday. My dad begged me on the phone from three states away, not to drive anywhere for the weekend but I promised the children we'd go to the Bayou City Art Festival. I didn't want to sit home a mushy mess letting the children have the run of the house. I insisted we proceed as planned. I packed a diaper bag; five diapers, wipes, three waters, a few gold fish snack bags, a couple of match box cars, sunglasses and sun screen and we left. It was 90° at ten in the morning when we parked the car at an outlying mall in the suburbs and got on the shuttle to the down-town festival. I wrestled an umbrella stroller, a diaper bag and two children onto the bus filled with families and did my best stiff upper lip for the kids.
We walked among the arts and crafts and paintings and sculpts and pottery, the sun beat down on us, the stroller kept getting stuck in the cracks of the walkway, the baby kept trying to crawl out of it, the kids were simultaneously bored and wanting to touch everything. They were unhappy and I didn't have enough arms. We were all thristy and hot and everyone was in our way and we didn't know which line was for tickets or how many we needed for ice creams and water and chips. Happy couples with no children in tow filled the walkway sipping wine and avoiding our stickiness, but not so much as to make an extra inch of room for us on a bench or a side-walk and certainly not in the shade. I reapplied sunscreen and forced myself to eat two bites of the sixteen ticket gourmet macaroni and cheese I bought for the kids, that they hated.
Then the children were doing crafts under a bustling tent with a hundred other children. I started to think of all the days ahead of me with not enough arms to hold the diaper bag and stroller and shaving cream on a paper plate, and waters and a toddler. It was hot and I was hyperventilating and the children were glitter gluing things with some lady and I was was on the phone with a friend who was reminding me how to breath and then I realized I was in the middle of a crowd in the middle of the fourth largest city in the nation with my entire family standing inches from me and my best friend on the phone and I felt alone. I wished I had listened to my dad and not driven anywhere.
I packed all the crabbiness and glitter up into the diaper bag and a random plastic bag I liberated from on of the craft booths and started towing the children back across the span of the festival back to the shuttle bus. We had to pee. There were only the squat, green, plastic boxes of portable outhouse to be found. I slogged on to the least used box and parked the stroller along with everything I had, next to the outhouse. I put the baby on my hip and went in to the small space with the kid while bellowing "Don't touch ANYTHING!" and "I know it stinks, but it's this or pee your pants!" and "Don't open the door now, my pants are down!" and "I know you're hot, I am too!" We made it out relieved and surely covered in a bazillion germs of hauty art patrons' piss. While I was trying to wash it all off with the trickle of portable sink water pumped by my foot, the baby stood up in the stroller and everything tipped over. The bags emptied onto the pavement, the baby went face first into the back of the stroller the water bottle rolled down into a gully and people gasped and looked towards the horrible crash.
I grabbed everything in my arms, stroller, crying baby, child's hand, diaper bag, plastic bag, sparkly crafts, sunglasses, all of it. I held it all together weaving through the crowd faster yet, towards the shuttle buses. I was looking for a first aid tent. The world was spinning, I was going to go down and be laying on the ground while my one year old ran crying into the sunset and my eight year old cried her legs hurt and the art lovers would drink their wine and discuss the merits of Mark Ryden's pop retro influence on the festival. I couldn't find any first aid tent. I walked on. We finally rounded the last mound of sculptures and tents and I saw the line for the bus snaking back and forth between long ropes. The sign in my head said "Your wait is now 50 mins." I just stood there, not knowing where I was going to get the energy wondering if we could even survive the wait.
From nowhere a man walked up to me and asked "are you going to the mall?" I nodded. He held his hand out to me and said "Here take this over to the line on the left." I took the small ticket and read it "fast pass." I looked back up to thank nobody, he had already walked away. We walked up to the line on the left where the bus driver swiftly folded up my stroller, stowed it and offered me an arm to steady myself as we quickly boarded the bus. We plopped down; a glittery, sad, sweaty mess in the second seats just under the air conditioning vent. I pulled the last bottle of water out of my bag and Alabama Shakes came on the radio.