We met on a haunted elevator inside one of Disney’s most iconic attractions — the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a facsimile of a historic Hollywood hotel viewed through an escherian lens.
Her name was Christine and she was at the park with friends. I was there alone.
We waited in line outside the Tower an hour before being ushered in. By chance or by fate, she was seated in the seat next to mine, a stranger I felt at first glance that I had known all my life. Seeing her for the first time, against a backdrop of the docent tones of Rod Serling’s narration, I felt truly transported to that outer dimension — the Twilight Zone.
Steel safety bars clamped across our laps, and when the cable let loose and the elevator fell, she grabbed the knee of a stranger and squeezed. Sometimes I wake from dreams of her fingernails still digging into my leg.
It would become a ritual of ours, returning to the Tower every year on the anniversary of our meeting. After all, it’s what brought us together.
I’m back here now, the first time I’ve been to the Tower alone since the day we met. I wish I could say it was only nostalgia that brought me back, that I’m here to honor the memories of my time with Christine and nothing more. In truth, there was a flickering candle flame of hope in my breast as I drove down from Jacksonville. And when I woke in my hotel this morning, that hope surged with the brilliance of a sun.
By the time I made it to the Tower, my skeptical nature had won out. My shoulders slumped and my pace became a shambling zombie-walk as that glowing sun collapsed into a sucking black hole. Of course she wouldn’t show.
If this had been one of Serling’s teleplays, I would have spotted from amongst the throngs of people that familiar neon yellow, purple polka-dotted blouse, the one she was wearing on both the first day I saw her and the last.
There would be some tragic twist involved, of course. She would show up with a strange man, holding the hands of two small children who looked curiously like them, and she would have a gold band on her finger and no memory of the five years she and I spent together.
Or she would show up alone and we would spend the evening with one another, and at the end of the night she would confess that she couldn’t leave the park. She would hug my body to hers and then dissolve in my arms, only a specter of the girl I’d once loved.
As painful as such an ending would be, I began to wish for such a thing.
On television, every story is tied up in a neat bow by the end. It may be a ghoulish bow tied with black ribbon, but a bow all the same. In life, there is no bow. Questions are often left unanswered, plot threads left to dangle, and we, alone, are left to wonder.