You walk to an amusement park. The colors of the lights on each ride force you to squint even though it’s night. As you walk through the gate you give the ticket office your money another kind person stamps your hand and you are suddenly filled with the most thrill you’ve had since your 7th birthday when you got the toy you wanted so badly. You know what that toy is. Certainly no thrill on any of the rides could match what you feel in this moment when that ink marks your hand.
You blow on the stamp to make sure it’s dry and you don’t smudge the perfection of it. Even though it’s not perfect. In fact, the ink is quite illegible. But, to you it’s perfect. It’s possible that you actually do feel like you’re seven years old again playing with that new toy. But, today you are twenty-five.
The rides all glimmer before you and you can see them so much more clearly now that you are inside the park. Nothing can stop you from the thrill of these rides. They seem to stand so tall before you and you wonder if they’re actually safe. But, you only wonder that for a moment. You’ve never actually heard of anyone getting hurt on a ride.
Are those your friends you see? Yes! There’s Margaret, Ben and Mark. They all stand there with expressions as gleeful as your own. Except for mark. Amusement parks don’t seem to hold much joy for him since the incident on his own seventh birthday. His was not as great as yours. Some people still talk about Mark’s incident. They say the park had to shut down the ride to be cleaned.
You look at Mark and bite your lip remembering the story. You were there, and though you didn’t see them shut down the ride you know it was a definite possibility. As you make your way towards your friends you see Mark shake a little white bottle in his hand and smile back at you with an expression that says, that’s not happening again.
“Hi!” Margaret says to you. She looks as though she may burst from the excitement and it feeds your own.
“Which one first?” you say.
“All of them,” Ben says in his gruff voice. Ever the enthusiast. And also that one friend who just doesn’t know where or when to stop.
“I say we start at that one,” Margaret says pointing to a gigantic structure to your right. She’s jumping up and down now, her blonde curls bouncing and dancing in the lights of the park.
You take a deep breath realizing the immensity of the ride. It’s massive and seems to touch the sky. Suddenly you feel as though you will burst as Margaret looks about to. “Race you there,” you say and dart off toward the line.
You hear their footsteps behind you, but you don’t look back. You’re not the best runner after all. Steadiness on the feet is how you win the race. Somehow you make it there first and the ride is even bigger than it looked before. The line isn’t long and in just a couple of runs it will be your turn.
“Oh I’m so excited!” You don’t have to look at her to know who said it. It’s possible she hasn’t stopped repeating the phrase the whole time you’ve been in line.
Watching the ride take off with a bundle of passengers has made your heart race and you almost feel like you are in the car with them ready to take off. Then you hear their screams. The shrill scraping of their voices ripping through their throats. Yours feels scratchy now too, even though you didn’t scream.
Beads of sweat appear at your hairline and suddenly you don’t know if you could really do this. What if you end up in the small percentage of those who actually die on the rides in the amusement park? What if the car you are strapped to with no hope of release is suddenly rocketed off into the never-ending blue sky and only falls back down after it has touched the balance of earth and space?
Your line inches forward and you don’t think you have the courage any longer to face your friends. They will see the sweat and the watering eyes and now is not the time for panic. You’re not even on the ride yet.
You watch the next car full of people with joy spread across their faces and wonder why none of them seem afraid. Wait! There is one girl with long dark hair who appears as terrified as you feel. You almost shout, “Wait! She doesn’t want to go!” Somehow you are able to restrain yourself, though you feel the words attempting to escape the back of your mouth. Then you realize she’s just a young girl. If you were to yell that out everyone would know that you are afraid to ride the ride that children are allowed on.
Suddenly, you’re standing at the gate. You know you’re going to be next and silently pray the car will never return. Maybe they will be the ones who get stuck up there and you will not longer have to go! Then you hear it. It screeches a low moan. Your vision is fading, your heart collapsing.
The passengers, full of smiles and grins and giggles, push up on the restraint in front of them. How could they? How could anyone be so willing to ride something that would put them in danger? You can’t do it. Then the gate swings open and you feel your legs moving toward the car.
The seat is awkward and low, but you sit in it anyway. What are you doing? The restraint comes down on you and the worker comes to check if the restraint is in place. You wish he hadn’t done that. Now you know there is a little bit of space between you and the harness. You were blissfully unaware of it before now. Maybe not blissfully, but more so than now.
You feel the car lurch forward and you feel as though you may scream as you heard the other passengers do. But, you keep it inside you. Before you realize what’s happening you are hurled forward at the most incredible speed you’ve ever before experienced and you can’t help yourself. You scream a cry that could wake the graves of the next town. You flip this way and that way. Your hands cling to the bar in front of you and you feel yourself weightless for seconds at a time. Beautiful exhilarating seconds.
Your hands release the bar in front of you, the wind on your face is intoxicating and you cannot help the laughter that escapes.
In one swift second it’s all over. Your car is pulling into the blackness of the tunnel you started in. The restraint is lifted and you feel heavy. You stand and stumble slightly, but the grin is still on your face.
When you turn around you see the same expressions on your friends’ faces. You say, “We gotta do that one again.”