Thrill Ride from Issue 85
The roller coaster is wooden and ancient, and while we pause by the ramp, deciding, its long black, segmented body spirals past, spilling a chorus of glassy screams. “No thanks,” Jeffrey says. He spits out a failed laugh and grabs my hand to pull me backwards and away.
“Why not,” I say, though even in the neon-dark his face is pale enough for the bristly hairs he missed shaving to stand out as black alter-egos of the constellations.
“How about the giant swings,” he says. But I shake my head. A couple cuts in front of us to join the line inching toward the platform. “Come on, I’d rather ride the Tunnel o’ Love,” he says, running his eyebrows through a set of synchronized calisthenics.
“I’ll just go by myself then,” I say and loose my hand from his sweaty grip.
“Technically,” he says, talking to my back as I mount the ramp and attach to the line, “you’re not supposed to go at all.” He points flat-handed at the sign about expectant mothers and people with heart conditions. I’m only four months along, and I’m not the type to get scared into labor anyway, but I wind my way against the traffic to come back to the spot where his ratty Converse sneakers have worried themselves an on-deck circle in the dust.
“I won’t tell if you don’t,” I whisper, one finger hooking into his beltloop.
The smile playing at the corner of his mouth dissolves and his head tips forward, a sheaf of auburn coming down like a curtain in front of his eyes. It’s the same look he gave me when I told him I was pregnant. “I’m having it either way,” I’d said, until finally he looked up and tossed the hair out of his eyes. Tried to smile. Asked me to be his wife.
“Laura, I don’t like roller coasters,” he says now. I nod and wait while the toe of his sneaker paws and paws at the earth. The line is long, loud with chatter and nervous laughs.
When he sighs I know he’s given up.
“Fine,” he says, lower jaw ticking like a car engine after a long, hot ride.
This is how we end up standing in line, silently, his feet planted wide on wooden boards trembling from the swoops and dives of the coaster. He thinks I’ve won, maybe, getting him up here with me, waiting to board this rickety, overpriced ride, but I know it’s just one battle in a war that’s just beginning. My real victory, if there is one, will come later when he is tired of playing husband and father and the dust from the road hangs thick in the air from his Sunday afternoon drives. Each one longer and farther away than the last.
I am your life, I want to say, and hear him say it back: you are my life, you are my whole life.