You know that moment when you’re going up a roller coaster, heading towards the first drop?
Your heart’s in your throat and your pulse beats with each click of the track. You can’t help but try and look down even before you know you can see. You’re ready for the rush, ready for the fall and the anticipation rises. Your hands grip the handle as you test the limits of the harness and restraints.
It’s fantastic isn’t it?
The palpitating stillness. Like everything is moving in slow motion.
My family went on a mini vacation this past weekend to an amusement park. Ending the holidays with a bang. Or a plunge – whichever you prefer.
My mother had some time off (which she never does) and we took advantage of it.
By “we,” I mean my father and sister.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m generally a hardcore roller coaster aficionado. Drops, twists, turns, – strap me in and I’m good to go! I just…wasn’t really feeling up to it this time around. Of course, I went anyway. If my mother managed to get away from her writing desk for even one minute, I was not going to be the one to spoil it.
My mother is usually very busy, mostly because she’s got two very time consuming jobs. In fact, I’m not entirely sure my mother would know what to do with free time if she had any. She’s a magazine and freelance editor and part time journalist for various professional journals and newspapers. The basic rules of grammar and the effective use of pronouns and adjectives were my lullabies. Along with the importance of ethics in the workplace.
…This could be the reason why I can never sit through a normal English class without humming random tunes to School House Rock.
In any case, to celebrate the end of winter break we went with tradition. The tradition of families everywhere with kids on vacation to go to an amusement park, spend the day gorging on junk food, attempting to beat rigged games and going on as many head twisting rides as possible until you’re no longer sure if it’s the world spinning or just you.
The sugar high alone is usually worth it.
Normally, I’d invite Angie to come along. She likes roller coasters and amusement parks as much as I do. Not to mention we have this awesome game we play where we each insert math terms randomly in our sentences in front of strangers. We are loud enough for them to overhear us and have absolutely no clue what we’re saying. Like we’re speaking a foreign language with English words. It’s even funnier when you get someone who does understand math lingo because sometimes those people are even more confused than others. They’re the ones that usually “discreetly” turn towards us to make sure they’re hearing things right. For some reason, people can get confused when you use terms according to their mathematical definitions instead of their common English ones.
What’s the difference between zero people in a line segment and no people in an infinite line that’s so straight it wraps around three posts or a garbage? I’ll tell you, the amount of time it takes to get on a ride, that’s what!
Usually that’s how it goes.
This time I didn’t invite Angie, and no it was not because of Dan. Entirely. I actually haven’t seen much of her this winter break. I mean, we spoke on the phone a bit. Kind of. She told me her plans, invited me along, I turned her down – stuff like that. I wasn’t feeling very social and anyway it’s not like I’m her only friend, she’s got plenty of other friends to hang out with. And if I had invited her along then I would have had to pay some kind of attention to her. Socialize a bit or something and really, like I said, I wasn’t so much in the mood for that. When it’s just my family it’s easier to fade into the background because they all have such strong personalities. They won’t always notice if I’m more quiet than usual. It’s better that way because then they have a good time and I don’t rain on their parade. Nobody likes being around a noticeable wet blanket.
Honestly I’m not always so antisocial. No, seriously I’m not. But…everyone’s got those times when they just don’t feel up to doing those things they usually like doing. School is starting soon and I’m going to have to deal with classes and tests and papers and people and teachers so the fact that I just wanted to lay low for a bit is totally normal. Y’know, get my bearings again.
And I did end up having a pretty good time. With all the cacophony of sounds, the bleeding together of the many different strains of park music mixed in with the screams of endorphin happy riders and the high pitched whines and yells of children and babies – with all that commotion on the outside, it’s easier to ignore the noise on the inside.
The only time things quiet down a little is when you’re strapped in and on the incline. Backs to the hard plastic, sun in your eyes and gradually, steeply, heading up. It happens quickly enough to satisfy a generation of instant gratification and slowly enough to give you time to think. Or panic. Depends who you are.
For me, it was while on the incline of one of the last roller coasters of the day that I really started to think.
Roller coasters are giant life-size beizer curves.
The rise and fall can be various heights and lengths. They can be steep or shallow. Long or short. Kind of like life. Sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down and sometimes you can’t even tell if you’re up or down. There are twists and turns and sudden drops and then occasionally, it can all come to a sudden, screeching halt.
The most pivotal moments are right at the end of the climb. Right before you drop, when you can see the ground so far below you and you’ve no choice but to fall forward. Too far over the edge to pull up and nothing you can grab to hold you back, no one you can call to save you.
The craziest thoughts can pop into my head at times like these. Silly roller coaster ideas probably brought on by an excessive indulgence in sugar and endorphins. Many times all I’m thinking of is the rush and the wind and the anticipation. And then there are those other times when I think of the strange things…like wondering what would happen if the train suddenly fell off the track. How secure are these things anyway? What if on the way up, it fell back down? Would we all survive? Would we die?
At least I wouldn’t have to deal with school anymore.
…Would it really be so bad?
But those are only momentary thoughts. A few seconds later and I’m back to reality with the ground rushing towards me, the wind pulling at me and I’m going so far and fast it’s like I’m flying. It feels like exhilaration in its primal form.
Classes begin soon, I’m going to be seeing everyone all over again. I’ll have to find that empty spot on the puzzle board and hope I’m the missing piece. The eternal struggle of a preteen trying to fit in – even when you feel like your curves and edges are in all the wrong places. Hopefully the exhilaration I felt on those coasters will pull me forward and will create points on a curve that guide my path and get me through.
Here’s to a new year and new points. New curves and new drops and new risings.
Here’s to a solution to those seemingly unsolvable equations.
Here’s to beginnings and endings.
Here’s to another turn on the wildest ride of all. Let’s hope the train doesn’t fall of the tracks.