Nonfiction

The roller coaster.

When I was a kid I was fascinated by roller coasters. Fascinated but terrified.

I remember my first. I was around 10.

I stood in line, visibly nervous. There was a girl in line in front of me. A teenager, cute and bubbly and excited by the thrill of the ride.

She spotted me, anxiously awaiting my doom, and leaned in. She asked if I was afraid. I admitted I was. She told me it would be fun and then laughed. Not at me. With me, even though I wasn’t laughing.

I rode that one with my uncle. He didn’t seem afraid of much of anything. The clank-clank-clank of the cars as they ascended the first hill was deafening. My uncle later theorized that the sound served no purpose but to frighten passengers.

He was wrong. Dead wrong. It’s a safety thing. The clank is a stop-guard that prevents the coaster from rolling backwards down the hill. They’re called chain dogs, but I didn’t know that.

The first hill took for-fucking-ever to climb, then a bend to the right, a slight decline, another turn, and loops. FUCKING LOOPS!

I screamed the whole way. And laughed. It was fun.

But the one I’m on now. God, if I could figure out how to laugh through these loops.

People sometimes compare emotional highs and lows to a roller coaster. But not the fun kind. No, the metaphorical roller coaster is draining. Slow, tedious climbs followed by too-fast descents as the track careens around hairpin turns.

And then another slow climb. Another crazy, whiplash-inducing race to the bottom. Rinse and repeat.

No lines. No end to the ride. Just that, over and over again until you wish you could pass out, but you can’t.

Sometimes life is like that, bouncing between two unenjoyable extremes.

And right about now there’s suppose to be a moral. Some pithy little comment that snatches wisdom out of thin air and gives the impression it’ll all be okay.

Sorry. I’m fresh outta bows. Can’t tie a nice, neat one on this for you.

Oh, it will be okay. I’m sure of that. But I don’t know how to make the experience feel good.

And that’s okay, too. Sometimes enduring is the victory.

Well, look at that. There’s your moral.

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