Maria Hillary

     My legs push me forward, though all I want to do is run in the opposite direction. My friends laugh as they move up the line, but as I shuffle after them, the only thing I can feel moving up is my anxiety. My nervousness skyrockets as we wait in line for what seems like an eternity. I watch the cars go up the track to the point where the passengers are more vertical than horizontal before they plummet downward in a spiral. I wipe the sweat from my brow and smooth my clammy hands against my jeans. 

     “You’re going to be fine,” someone says, trying to reassure me. I give them a weak smile in return before my eyes trail to the row of cars that have now entered the station and stopped. I stand frozen for a moment before someone pushes me forward toward a seat. I fumble my way into the chair, and I can’t help but think that I’m in an adult car seat. A bored, middle-aged man with a scruffy beard comes over to me and clamps down the harness. There’s no turning back now. The harness is tight against my chest, and when I look at the ground I find that my feet are now dangling in the air. And I’m not the only one. I try to mentally prepare for what comes next, but I don’t get enough time. With a burst of speed the ride begins, shooting us forward like a bullet from a gun. I hold on to the handles for dear life as we begin to ascend the first treacherous hill. 

     Maybe it won’t be that bad, I lie to myself as the cars climb higher and higher. I feel like I’m an astronaut about to launch off into space. I don’t want to launch off into space. The harness feels loose now, way too loose. I’m afraid that if I let go of the handles I’ll do a backflip and fall off the ride. My knuckles turn white as my grip tightens on the handles. Time seems to drag on and on as we creak upwards. Finally, when I feel like it might actually be better to fall, we level out. 

     And then we’re falling. We’re plummeting down, and I can see the cars ahead of me begin to spiral. I close my eyes, but that only makes things worse. I open my eyes to find that we are beginning to ascend the first loop. I feel as though I’m going to fall again as we go upside down, but then I spot the next hill and it looks just as high as the first. For the next painful minutes I watch in terror while we continue to go up and down and corkscrew along. I try to scream but no words come out, and my vision blurs with tears. Suddenly I see the station, and we begin to slow down. I quickly wipe the tears from my face in an attempt to look composed, and at last the cars pull to a stop. My legs turn to noodles as I wobble toward the exit. My friends laugh at my pained expression, and shame burns on my cheeks. My stomach feels like it’s sloshing around and nausea overtakes me. I start to run as I search somewhere, anywhere for a bathroom. Finally I see a sign and run inside. I have just enough time to slam the stall lock in place before I turn around and retch. When my heartbeat has slowed to a steady rate, I leave the bathroom and look around. In my panic, I had forgotten about my friends and the route I was taking, so I’m completely lost.