I didn’t know it then, but I was about three weeks pregnant at the time of this trip. It was originally posted…ew, exactly 5 years ago. And this day will come up later in The Christina Chronicles.
I haven’t been to an amusement park since we attempted to run amok at Six Flags in Ohio two years ago, with disastrous results. See, I evidently became sick after two hours, leaving Henry no choice but to take me home. No, Henry’s no quitter — he tried everything in his power to get me to stay, tossing out suggestions such as: “Well, you don’t have to ride anything. I can ride by myself. Just sit on that bench over there and I’ll be back in a few hundred thousand hours” and the classic “Go in the bathroom and use your finger. Make yourself puke and then you’ll feel better.” What are you saying, Henry? Is this some sort of double entendre? Do you think I’m fat? Why do you really want me to throw up, Henry, so I can stay a few more hours and not make this a wasted trip, or so that last candy bar and plate of cheese fries don’t stick to my ass? So now what, you’re some sort of pageant mom? Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you, if I turned bulimic. Then I could be an Olsen and make it easier for you to keep me locked in the closet. Oops, did I just say that? Now the world knows!
Now here’s the thing — I can’t remember if I really did get sick, or if I was just being bi-polarish and over dramatic and that’s why we left. In my mind, I can see myself roiling in pain, pressing back a torrent of vomit with shaking hands, but I have a habit of creating my own memories, in which I paint myself as a victim. I’m going to toss out an educated guess here and suggest that I probably wanted something and Henry said no and the day’s mood quickly soured from there, so I faked illness to get sympathy. On the ride home, I vaguely remember producing a slight fountain of pity waterworks while Henry white-knuckled the steering wheel and kept his eyes glued to the road. Between theatrical sniffles and staccato intakes of breath, I could hear the cash register in his head dinging as it calculated all the money we wasted that day.
However, there was a time right before that doomed trip where Henry’s kid Blake and I were the only patrons at a rickety mall parking-lot carnival. We bounded from one death trap to the next like Japanese beetles buzzing in the wind, not having to piss with any lines.
We both got really sick that day.
Now, these are the only two pieces of evidence I have to fall back on and exhibit A is pretty fucking distorted. Am I at that age where spinny rides have the ability to blast through my equilibrium and shackle my body with waves of nausea? Or were these just two very bad circumstances?
I find myself worrying about things that never occurred to me as a kid. What do I eat? Do I eat something light before I get there? Will coffee come back to bite me in the esophagus later in the day? Do I stick with familiar edibles of a doughy nature in order to absorb any future risk of gastric acid rising from centrifugal force? If I don’t eat at all, look out maelstrom! One thing is for sure — my Rolaids SoftChews will be tucked snugly into my pocket.
I worry about rides breaking and catapulting me to my grisly death. I hear nuts and bolts popping and clicking and my mind starts racing and making up premonitions that I can visualize behind closed eyes, and before I know it, the ride’s over and I didn’t even get a chance to enjoy it. These are the things that used to make me applaud as a kid, the element of fear that makes your blood buzz with exhilaration. I don’t feel that anymore. Relief–now there’s something I feel. With each and every ride I disembark without whiplash, hemorrhaging or sprained body parts, I’m flooded with relief and feel an overpowering urge to go to church. For real this time, is what I say to God in my head.
And my hair. What do I do with my hair? I want to wear one of my scarves because I’m so scene, but what if it blows off on a spinny ride? That’s a whole FOUR DOLLARS drifting off in the wind. I don’t like to wear my hair pulled back because it brings out neurotic smoothing motions every thirty seconds, much like a nervous tick. Don’t even get me started on fly-aways–I’ll produce a cold sweat. Flashbacks from days sporting more barrettes than a braided black girl as my mom attempted to keep each and every last stray tuft of my hair in place. My scalp tingles when I think of how some of those plastic barrettes held down sections of hair pulled much too taut–now that I’m an adult, I realize my mother did this on purpose. It was a form of “accidental” torture.
But if I wear my hair down? O-ho — knots ahoy!
What do I wear? This frantic compulsion stems from school picnics at our local amusement park, Kennywood. It was tradition to have a new outfit to wear so all the boys will notice you. Never mind that they didn’t notice you in a thirty-desk classroom. I remember my eighth grade apparel like it was yesterday. It came from Merrry-Go-Round and I looked like an extra in Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It” video–jean shorts with purple leather on the fronts of the legs, a black tank top with a purple mesh shirt over top. Oh, I was so fly. By the end of the night, that fucking shirt had more snags in it than the stockings on a hooker’s trunk-stuffed body.
I’ve been stressing over this all week. If I squeeze my eyes shut real tight, I can hear the cruel cadence of my step-dad’s chastising voice, reminding me that it’s not the fucking prom. Almost like holding a seashell up to my ear. Thanks, daddy.
Many moons ago, I was a young and spry youth with pigtails and Bandaid-adorned knees, skipping around Kennywood like I owned it, when a tragedy struck. A friend and I were exiting a ride equipped with swinging cars. As I stepped out, my friend took her hand away from the car, which had been holding it in place and keeping it from swinging. The car swung toward me and scraped the back of my ankle. I remember an eternity of travail, time stopping, voices sounding afar, and thinking, “This is it. I’ve lost my foot. Now I’ll have to get fitted with a club and all the kids at school will mock, ‘Hey let’s play croquet with Erin’s club foot!'” Cotton candy and funnel cake proved to be a sure-fire distraction and I eventually stopped hopping on one foot.
This is the part that stands out the most–when I went home that night, I couldn’t take off my sock. It was actually glued to my heel with blood. Each and every tiny tug and pull created a stinging sensation that traveled up to my thigh. I was so afraid to show my mom because I just knew she would take me to the hospital and the sorry doctor would shake his head and I could read his lips as they mouthed, “We need to take the foot.”
At the very least, my step-dad would want to pour peroxide over the wound which always made me feel as though I was being punished for getting hurt.
Vowing to keep my mutilation under wraps, I thrust my socked foot under warm running water in the bathtub, grimacing as it saturated my laceration, until I was finally able to slowly peel off the sock and watch rivulets of coagulated blood slide off my ankle and swirl around the drain.
I still remember the socks I was wearing that day.
As kids, we’re more resilient. What if something like this occurs on Saturday? What if the rusty steel from a thrill ride pierces and catches my skin and before anyone can save me, my flesh is being unraveled like a mummy. I’m no kid–I’m much higher off the ground now; I’m susceptible to much more damage. Chances of me breaking a bone are more likely than walking away with a sprain. I’m a walking accident! Call me on the phone and listen to how many times I murmur “Ow” as I walk from one room to another. I am fucking panicking here. I don’t want to get hurt! I don’t want the whole of King’s Island to see my blood!
If I die on Saturday, it better be from something cool, like a roller coaster jumping track and plummeting into a ravine. Not something anticlimactic, like me tripping over my feet and then getting run over by a tram.
There is an upside, however.
When Henry and I spend large amounts of time together in public, the tension grows and multiplies until eventually a thick fog of it is smothering us and testing our gag-reflexes. But this time, we won’t be alone — Christina and her sister Cynthia will be accompanying us and hopefully cutting through the bulk of that fog. Instead of fighting with Henry all day, I can mix it up between him and Christina. And of course, any innocent by-standers who cross my path.
Plus, maybe I can convince Christina to buy me a souvenir cup.
We left Saturday morning and drove through a consistent sheath of downpour, which led Henry to blabber on about how “if it’s raining like this when we get there, I am not wasting my money at King’s Island, I’m sorry.” And somewhere on a stretch of wet highway still within the boundaries of West Virginia, we had a shouting match about how he’s going to treat our pre-conceived baby (we love playing Hypotheticals) and I stamped my foot down hard and yelled, “Take me home!” at which point he laughed so hard he had tears in his eyes and I wanted to break his stupid glasses.
After many stops so he could drain his grizzled bladder, we finally made it to Christina’s house in Hamilton, neither of us maimed or sustaining any head trauma, amazingly (my limbs flail when I’m angry and trapped within the confines of a cramped Nissan Sentra).
I know many of you had been holding your breath all weekend long, wondering what I did with my hair and/or if I retched myself into clammy-handed oblivion on any rides at King’s Island.
1. I wore my hair down in hopes of starting a knotted and dreadlocked free-for-all. I tried to act blissfully unaware (I think maybe I did a not-so-good job) and only ran my fingers through it as a makeshift comb about forty times after each ride. And I only furtively smoothed down the mini afro of frizz atop my head all day long, but really—who’s counting? By the second hour, I purposely avoided any glimpses of myself in restroom mirrors.
2. I did not get sick; however, I brought home a lot of (free) souvenir bruises. No contusions, bless our fine Lord. What the hell — and his mommy, too.
While I would love to sit around the campfire with hot cocoa, recounting tales of all my favorite rides (Son of Beast was the most funnest you guys), all I can really remember amidst the whirlwind of clanging metal parts and side-stepping fresh gum in my path is one thing: checking for my period.
I came prepared. The arsenal of tampons was just short of being strapped to my body like dynamite—I had one waiting in each pocket of my cargo pants in addition to a surplus of “just in cases” in my purse. If I had worn boots, I would have tucked one or two in there, also…next to my switchblade. Which I don’t have yet, but someday. Someday.
“Check me! Do I have stainage?” These were my pleas to Henry, Christina and Cynthia every ten minutes while we were held hostage in one line after another. Oh, how I yearned to make fun of others in my proximity, but feared to in case Karma came back to paint a large blood target on my crotch.
I got lucky when we disembarked Flight of Fear, an indoor ride, as no one was around me. “Block me,” I whispered hoarsely to Christina as I leaned forward and spread the legs of my pants apart nice and wide, to inspect for wetness. Doing this while keeping a steady pace walking down a slanted corridor takes skills. Skills which I possess. I like to compare it to performing magic amidst a ring of fire.
But something good came out of my obsessive bathroom breaks–the highlight of my amusement park junket.
Picture it: You’ve just emerged from a stall with eyes raised to the Heavens (bathroom ceiling) above and are silently praising the Lord Almighty for no blood stains on your panties (if you’re a man, picture it anyway. It’ll help build character). As you’re washing your hands real good because this place is dirty (and if you had a more accelerated condition of OCD, you probably would be convulsing and foaming at the mouth by now), you start to panic as you wonder when your next chance will be to “check.” Everyone in your group groans as you drone on and on about your need to “check,” but you can’t shake the paranoia and obsessive need to make sure you’re not drizzling menstrual blood down your legs; the fabric of your cargo pants is thin and blood will seep right through in no time.
You slowly snake the paper towel around your wet hands, sopping up the water and looking at yourself in the mirror, wondering when you became so uptight about the small things. You contemplate telling Christina you want drugs (ask and she’ll do it) so you can relax and if you end up floating around town with curdled blood around your thighs, big deal; you’re too busy goo-goo’ing and ga-ga’ing at the giant unicorn smiling down at you from a cloud.
And then you start thinking about unicorn porn.
Wait, where were you? Bathroom, hands, drying. So, you turn to your left and casually pitch the paper towel into the large garbage can, when you happen to get a glimpse of something extraordinary. So extraordinary it snaps you back to the here and now. No more unicorn.
The bathroom stall directly in your line of vision is slightly ajar, with its occupant standing hunched over, jean shorts and white cotton underwear down around her knees. Before you even have a chance to scold yourself, your eyes slip down a few inches and that’s when you see it.
a real life vagina.
You feel your friend Christina tugging on your arm and saying in a terse whisper, “Erin, let’s go. You’ve seen enough” but you can’t pull your eyes away from the hairy mound of flesh ten feet in front of you. Your body slightly lurches as you feel the giddiness building up and you’re ready to explode into a conniption of giggles. Christina steers you to the exit and you run and tell your friends what just happened, waving your hands like you’re approaching the climax of a jazz dance routine, and rubbing it in their astonished faces. “You don’t know what you just missed in there!” you say smugly, trying to catch your breath. You feel like you’re on a safari. Then you make them stand around, in the way of hundreds of fast-moving patrons and strollers, so you can point out the woman whose vagina you saw. They don’t really care but you make them wait anyway, and when she comes out of the restroom with her kids, you jump and point and they shrug and start walking away.
And that’s my big exciting highlight. It would have been cooler if she was being scalped or having her face painted at the same time I saw it, but what can you do.
My second favorite moment was eating at the Festhaus. I had pizza and fries, but not just any fries: Fries with a buffet of condiments. I derived great, some might even say ecstatic, amounts of pleasure by deliberating in which pool of sauce each fry would be taking a bath: would it be the succulent marriage of ketchup and mayo, the tiny basin of honey mustard, or the thick and rich vat of creamy nacho cheese? My companions had long since finished eating and sat around idly while I dined on one single fry after another. It was heaven.
We left around 10:00 that night so I could be back at Christina’s in order to bid on a spectacular piece of Cure memorabilia. In between spastic menstrual wonderment, fleeting thoughts of missing the Ebay auction would swim through my mind. I even carved a reminder on my inner wrist, imagining my pen was a box cutter and I was sacrificing my tainted blood in the name of Robert Smith.
“Why would you write it there?” Henry asked in a tone that would suggest I just pissed in the corner of a church (I would actually do that too).
“Because it’s the part of my body that I look at the most.” Sadly, I had to explain this to him because, evidently, after four years he hasn’t picked up on my morbid fascination with my veins. And my ribs. Ooh, shivers.