Once upon a time I went to work in a hostel in Füssen in exchange for free accommodation and food.
Füssen is a quant Bavarian town nestled in peaks of the surrounding mountains and inhabited not only by some ten thousand people, but also a healthy population of cows, sheep, chickens, birds, and wildflowers. The verdant hills within and surrounding the town center gush effusively with cool streams as the alpine air blows steadily even in late June.
The Neuschwanstein Castle is perched in a valley in the mountains overlooking the countryside, a glittering lake, and, of course, Füssen itself. I can see her now from my window…
It’s 7:00am, and I, too am perched, not in the hillside, but on a chair in the little kitchen/bedroom I share with Christine, my roommate/evil step-sister. My legs are folded under me so I don’t have to touch the icy floor with my feet. Christine is banging around making breakfast (read: warming bread rolls and brewing coffee) for the guests, and, much to my discomfort, she has already opened the window in our little room to let in the crisp air.
I’m still sleepy since I’ve only just woken up five minutes ago but I’ve been excited about this cereal since falling asleep last night, so at least there’s that. It’s chocolate-flavored muesli with chocolate bits in it. Mm, the little things.
Christine asks me if I’m ready to work.
“Yes, of course,” I reply while chewing.
Cereal bowl in the sink. (No – better I hand-wash the thing now so I don’t look lazy.) I brush my teeth, grab my iPod, and, still clad in my pajamas, gather the materials to begin my daily four-hour floor-cleaning ritual.
I have thirteen bedrooms and seven bathrooms ahead of me.
Christine isn’t so much evil as she is a perfectionist control freak, which is kinda the same thing when you have to work for her. She comes to room 6, where I have just mopped, levels her eyes with the floor and pinches gloved fingers over a neglected speck of dust. She tells me I need to use more water on the mop. She stands up and turns to go, but just as I’m reaching for my iPod to turn up the La Roux (best mopping music there ever could be), she reestablishes eye contact with me. I pull the earbuds from my ears.
“Did you mop the kitchen already?” she asks.
“Well next time can you please try harder?”
Every day I vacuum and mop and every day it’s not good enough.
All I hear is Cinderella, from the moment I get up
till shades of night are falling
There isn’t any letup, I hear them calling, calling
“Go up and do the attic and go down and do the cellar, you can do them
“Can you check room 8? The floors are white in there so you have to be extra careful.”
“Make sure you wipe the tables clean in the kitchen before putting up the chairs to vacuum.”
“Don’t forget the steps and the hallway.”
“When you’re doing the hallway, make sure you vacuum under the computer desk.”
“Get all of the hairs in the bathroom.”
“Did you do the floors in the attic bathroom yet?”
The castle is calling to me. I rub moisturizer into the cracked, red, irritated spaces between my fingers. The palms of my hands are starting to flake from the chemicals I use on the floors but maybe just a little nailpolish will do… Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo! I pull on the only dress I own, watch myself transform as I line my eyes and put on some shiny earrings for my big day out. I escape to Neuschwanstein, but I have to be back by 7pm sharp.
The castle enchants me. I’m in Disney World, but actually I’m in a real magical fairytale land! The waterfall tumbles down the mountainside and I stand above it on the bridge staring into the castle’s crown of towers. The wind whips at the hem of my dress. I can see for miles.
It’s nearing evening, so I start the walk back out of the mountainside and into the town. I’m daydreamy and peaceful; my imagination blooms in the wildflowers, resounds with the clanging of the cowbells as the cows chew and chew.
Wait, there’s something missing. It’s my fairytale and I’m Cinderella, but where the hell is my Prince Charming??
Christine ignores my loud, piercing vibrato over the hum of the vacuum cleaner the next morning:
“Some day my prince will come…”