Friday, October 01, 2010

Supreme Extremes

I was a child of polarity. I was either loquacious or mute. I would climb a tree too high just for the thrill of it, or I would cower at the top of a flight of stairs. I would fearlessly ride the 70 mile-a-second water slide at the water park, but I would wallow in anxiety at the sight of the ocean. I would either over perform in school, or spend most of my after school hours in parent-teacher meetings.

I had an older cousin who, being an only child, had a surplus of sibling torture that needed to be expended. Since I was the next of kin in the family tree, the fruit of her ire fell my way.  For example, I should be blind from the amount of dirtballs and household chemicals she flung in my face. I think she might be a huge part of the reason for my hot-or-cold personality.

The inception of this serious personality flaw occurred one fateful evening in the summer of my eighth year on this planet.  We were in Ocean City, Maryland at Trimper’s Boardwalk Rides. I was having the time of my life. I had just finished a funnel cake after thoroughly kicking a fair load of ass at skeeball.

We were wandering around, letting our sugary, fried foods digest, when my cousin made an ominous suggestion. “Hey, you have never ridden...The Zipper. Why don’t we try it out?” A wide, toothy grin spread across her face like a virus at a frat party. I interpreted this smile as Heather is too much of a wussy to handle this ride. “Why you’re right, cuz, I haven’t ridden it. But whaddya say we give it a whirl?”

I was on top of the world. I had ridden all the scariest rides, from the face-flattening Avalanche to the vomit-inducing Crazy Dance. There was no way I would be ousted by a ride so innocuously named as “The Zipper.” I didn’t care if my cousin had ridden this ride before and was trying to trick me, I knew I could handle this task.

As we walked to get our tickets, I noticed that my cousin’s devilish smile had not faded. I thought it was stubbornness, but in my later years I now realized that the smile meant this dip has no idea what she’s in for.

There was no line for this ride, so I had no chance to see the ride in action. We handed our tickets to the mangy carnie and then waited as our seats came into position. By seats, I mean medieval body-shaped cages just big enough for two people. I looked at my cousin, who was still donning a fiendish grin. My pride prevailed and I hopped into the iron maiden. And then it began...

The ride moved four feet and my stomach turned into a centrifuge. I felt like I was being exorcised. I screamed like a banshee through a bullhorn. Tears spewed from my eyelids like flood waters through broken levies. Our cage seemed caught in a perpetual rocking motion. I then realized that we weren’t really moving forward.

The Zipper is a series of free-rotating cages that are hooked up to a chainsaw-like rig. So not only is the cage rotating, said cage is on a rig that is also rotating, and it can alternate directions.  If you are having trouble picturing the motion, imagine you are on an extremely fast merry-go-round. Now imagine that that merry-go-round is on a bigger and faster merry-go-round that is moving in the opposite direction. Now imagine that both merry-go-rounds are moving in three-dimensions. It something close to that feeling. With all these forces at play, even the most minor movement is gut-wrenching. The reason why we had only moved four feet was because the carnie was loading the only other two dumbasses who were “brave” enough to ride this death machine. They were boarded, and the express train to hell left the station.

I don’t remember much from this point. It was as if God were playing a game of trick pool, and he was using Earth as his cue ball. Everything was spinning out of control. The only way I would be able to recreate this feeling in my adult life would be by spending too much time with my frenemy, Jose Cuervo. My insides felt like they were being processed through a meat-grinder. My visual memory is limited to blurry shapes and darkness. I felt a warm liquid near my ears. I thought maybe my ears were bleeding from my own screams.

Later I would learn it was pools of saliva emanating from my cousin’s mouth as laughter erupted from her like lava from Mt. Pele.

After what seemed like eons, the hellish journey was finally over. As our cage inched closer to the unloading zone, I tried to compose myself. I had lost some hand-eye coordination due to extreme vertigo. I’m also sure that my excessive crying had led to dehydration.

I heard the click of the cage handle, and I breathed a sigh of relief. The door began to open, and I believe I saw providence on the other side. Then around the door emerged the troll-like face of the carnie operator. He was wearing the same smirk that my cousin was wearing. He spoke forth the words that were powerful enough to open a Pandora’s box worth of emotions from me:

“You kids wanna another ride?”

I was frozen with fear, and I felt like my soul was melting. It was like his mouth was the Arch of the Covenant.

My cousin nodded emphatically, and then the door clanked shut. It blasted in my ears, like a gas truck crashing into a fireworks factory. Also, in the cab of this gas truck were my closest friends and family, and the fireworks factory was located in Santa’s palace.

The next few minutes are a total blank. For all I know I could have reached total spiritual enlightenment. The next thing I remember was coming to on a sidewalk bench, my shirt soaked with tears and sweat, and my mother hugging me and stroking my hair. When people passing by asked what happen, my cousin explained, still donning that demonic grin, “she got caught in The Zipper.”