A bead of sweat formed on the back of my neck as my cursor hovered over the submit button. The air outside became electrified as thunder began to roll down the mountains. The weather seemed to understand the intensity of this decision. Today’s the day, I thought to myself, I deserve this. 

After my 17th job application rejection, I recently decided that the first day of spring would be my deadline. If I didn’t get one of these last two jobs before the 19th I would switch to Plan B. 

Here it was, March 19th. There would be no turning back once I hit submit. I knew I had the qualifications, and my pageant and college volleyball photos would impress the boss. It was clear that I was strong enough to handle large animals, but I also had a look that would fit in with the current staff at the park. People always said I had an exotic look, so I might as well put that to use! This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I was tired of playing it safe with my mundane existence.

I hadn’t been to Oklahoma before, and hadn’t heard great things about it, but my new home would be an oasis in the desert of that red state. I could use a change of scenery anyway, I thought, giving a sideways glance to the rain drops running down my window. Maybe I’ve had enough of this northwest climate. At the animal park I would have a chance to dry out, and I’d be surrounded by the natural beauty of tigers, lions, monkeys, and other glorious creatures. I had always been fascinated by exotic animals but never had the opportunity to get closer than the 10-20 yards of fence-enforced distance at the zoos I had been to before. With this new job I would be handling and feeding dangerous wild animals. I would get to play with baby tigers! What a dream. 

It all started a few weeks ago with a Facebook post from someone I had gone to high school with and whose existence I had forgotten about. “Having a great time at the GW exotic animal park!” the caption read, with the old classmate holding a baby Bengal tiger in her arms. Her smile stretched across her face and she seemed to have a glow around her. Baby tigers have that special kind of magic that makes all the pain go away (unless the bite or scratch you, of course). It’s almost like touching the fingertips of an angel at the edge of heaven. Offering you a chance to pull yourself up there and learn what all the fuss is about. 

From there I jumped into the rabbit hole of online searches about the park, the animals, the owner, and the job opportunities. Are they really hiring? Could I do this? I thought with red-rimmed eyes. The clock read 3:05 a.m. next to me, but time no longer seemed to matter. I couldn’t look away from all those gorgeous cats and fierce outfits the women who worked there got to wear. It looked like an incredible experience. I finally closed my laptop and fell into bed. That night I dreamed of a wearing tiger-print leather outfit and holding baby cubs in the air, Lion King-style. A crowd of awe-struck families around me cheered as I began leading the cubs and their 500-pound mother through a series of impressive tricks. 

Six hours later I rolled out of bed and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. As I poured the milk into my cereal bowl I couldn’t help but open the laptop again. The website and photos were all still there, calling to me. 

The next few weeks flew by in a whirlwind of daydreams, tiger research, and browsing through animal print leggings online. I was still waiting to hear from two jobs, but sometimes companies didn’t bother getting back to the applicants they didn’t interview. I didn’t really want another meaningless job anyway. Why waste my energy clocking in and out of monotonous desk jobs when I could be out in the wild living a dream? How incredible would it be to wake up every day and go play with exotic animals? I could impress all the kids and adults visiting the park with the tricks I taught the cats. I wouldn’t have to worry about boring things like rent, cooking, cleaning, etc. I could be wild and free, just like the animals. 

“No, mom, it’s not like that, I promise!” I let out a heavy breath of exhaustion into the phone. We had been talking about this for an hour and it was draining the life out of me. Of course she didn’t understand. We had never agreed on what I should be doing with my life. “The boss is gay! I think he actually has two husbands. I guess it’s just that progressive of a place.” My mother was convinced that this was a cult where I would have to marry the boss, but she had it all wrong. “Yes, I know it’s Oklahoma but it’s kind of their own world there. I would have a family of coworkers protecting me.” She then went back to her original argument about tigers biting my arm off, but I had already sent her the website link so she could read the safety assurances. “That’s never happened before, mom,” I repeated with an eye roll she couldn’t see. “They train them really well and it’s very safe.” 

Our call didn’t end well, but I don’t know what I was expecting. While I was hoping for her support, I knew that I didn’t need her permission. I was an adult, living on my own, paying my own bills, and this was my decision, not hers. Besides, we only saw each other about once a year anyway. Our family was too small to feel like a real family after dad left, and growing up an only child was rough. I was an only child and I had lived a quiet and lonely life so far, but it was time that changed.

I glanced at the calendar on the wall to make sure it actually was the deadline day I had set for myself. I double checked it on my phone. March 19th. The big day was here. A brilliant flash of white streaked down from the sky creating a shiver up my spine. 

I tapped the keypad to submit my application and immediately turned to my closet to decide what to pack. My body hummed with excitement about what this new opportunity had in store for me. What could go wrong?

April 03, 2020 17:39

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