I finally understand the phrase "so broke it's not even funny."
Maybe it was working an eight hour shift followed by six hours of babysitting. Maybe it was picking up last-minute babysitting on my first (supposed) day off in eight days. But as I sat in the gas station serious contemplating just sleeping there instead of spending half of the evening's babysitting money on gasoline to get home, I was not laughing. Not even an ironic chuckle.
Everyone makes the whole starving artist thing sound glamourous until you actually calculate cost-per-bite of your frozen pizza.
I sat morosely in the light of the Beverly Hills gas station, surrounded by BMWs and Porsches and people who could afford appetizers with their meals. I glumly flicked through my work schedule on my phone, trying to calculate how many days I could cut out my beloved Starbucks and/or food overall. Somewhere in the distance, a tiny violin played a sad, sad song.
I finally filled my car up (okay, a quarter of a tank) and gathered myself to leave... when someone pulled up right next to me - uncomfortably close for late at night and a gas station in general.
I thought maybe it was a Porsche, because all Porsche drivers are dicks. I'm not sure if the car begets the sense of entitlement, or the sense of entitlement begets you buying the car. I just wanted to begettin' out of there - but when I looked back, the car kept going. What's more pretentious than a Porsche? A glossy, black limo.
The tiny violin played a little louder.
But then, out of the limo stepped... a man (what where you expecting? A velociraptor?). This man totally had the whole old-world seen-it-all Eastern-European-wise-mystical-grandpa thing going for him. He was decked out in a full classic chauffeur outfit complete with DRIVING CAP. But all of that was far less interesting than what he held in his hands. He walked right toward me, extending a huge, white envelope.
The tiny violin switched its tune from pity to a lively 18th century waltz.
He knocked on my window and I rolled it down, subtly wiping caked-on baby drool off of my shirt. His wize, godfatherly face looked genuinely excited -
"I am so glad to have found you!" He exclaimed. Um, me too, dude.
He then extracted from the envelope an invitation so ornate the paper alone probably cost more than my frozen dinner awaiting me at home. Gorgeous pink marbled paper, embossing around the edges, gold script trailing the edges... I scanned the top to discover...
A PRINCESS BALL.
And suddenly it hits me.
I am Cinderella.
I've seen all the Disney movies and 90s Rom-Coms. Ever After taught me that the fairy godmother could be a clever old man. A Cinderella Story taught me that it could totally happen to just a girl like me. The Little Mermaid taught me that I didn't even have to speak the same language as my prince. I was ready for my big, magical reveal. Bippity-boppity-boo me up, captain.
"Map on phone? Can you find this address?" He pointed halfway down, to an address barely legible in all the swoopy script.
"Uh yeah... sure?" I fumbled with my phone. Maybe this was the modern-day equivalent of the glass slipper? I hope my future prince didn't expect me to be technologically adept. Wouldn't we have servant to update our twitter statuses and instagram our breakfasts? I anxiously typed the address in... and it was so close I could practically walk there! Obviously, I could quick change in the gas station bathroom, they could just drop me off at front, and then pick me up and take me back to the gas station by midnight...
"Oh thank you. Good." And then he abruptly shoved the invitation back in the envelope, marched back to the limo, and sped off into the night.
Wait! What about me?
I briefly considered following him and just turning up anyway, but then I surveyed my sorry estate. A half-eaten turkey sandwich and worn flats with a hole in the bottom sat shotgun. Weird yellow streaks wrapped around the front of my car from a run-in with some poles. I smelled like Desitin and my hair was matted in one place with milk.
I sat there a couple minutes just in case. The roaches skittering about didn't suddenly become anthropomorphic and commiserate. None of the sliced mangos at the fruit stand turned into a magical carriage. And my fairy godfather did not come back.
I drove off, trying to drown out the tiny violin with some awful sex-you-up-real-good song on the radio. Some day, my priiiince will come...
And then a Porsche honked at me.