The Ride

Falling towards my feet
456 feet in the air
At a 90 degree angle
where I sat
facing the sky
I saw the
blue wire eyeglasses                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   suspended in mid air.

Traveling at 128 miles per hour,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             passengers in small cars
pressed back by choice and force
bodies pushed down and back
lifted forward and up.
I was looking at the midday blue sky
which was midday blue.

Clouds zoomed in.
My eyes had no focus
but were simply open
while being held and hurled,
against black metal bars
enclosed                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               as a hydraulic launch
pummeled us
towards the peak.

They appeared, at first,
like an image
or an aberration
in a strange dream
Was I seeing things?
Were there really eye glasses
hanging in mid air?

Meghan, that morning had said,
“If you chicken out I will be totally disappointed in you,”
with her wide smile
knowing the competitor in me
couldn’t resist the challenge.

Hours later, I wavered,
confessed to her and Melissa,
“I’m utterly terrified.”
I was sick to my stomach.
I wanted to hide in the shade and cry.
I headed towards the ride
as though it were a guillotine.

I hate how afraid I am all of the time                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         not just of the ride
but of life,

I have been through much,
and am tempered steel
at the core.
My strength has been crafted,
developed,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        and learned,
my resiliency born of hope
and effort –
not the ease
of experience.

As we walked toward the entrance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A twenty-something man said,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     “It’s closed due to technical difficulties.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  His disgust palpable
but I felt relief.
“Maybe it’s not meant to be,” I thought,
“Maybe I won’t stroke out after my migraine and am
not meant to leave my baby without a mother.
Maybe it’s a blessing…”

But I didn’t want Charlie, Melissa, Meghan or Kyle
to leave with their enthusiasm unrequited.
We had driven for hours.
It was desperately needed fun
for them
after a grueling year
when the shape of
their family changed
from pentagon to square.

I did deep breathing on the platform
as we decided to wait for fifteen minutes
to see if it would be fixed.
I felt scarred, deformed and marked,
as though I would always be
too damaged for life, love or a ride.

Who did I think I was to risk roller coaster rides or love?
The strong and adventurous woman dissolved.
I would disappoint
this man,
his children
Love was not in my plan.
Love was never in my plan.
Falling hard and fast was not part of the script
and how I cling to my plot lines.

How could I have fallen for a man
who makes peace with chaos
and fearlessly bites the sky
when my recurrent nightmare is falling in an endless black hole
with nothing and no one to reach for or hold
blackness upon blackness?
I figure out how to maneuver
around despair
but descend
dreading the smash at the bottom
after a free fall.

I love a man who will navigate the sky,
who can’t stop seeing the horizon line,
who says lean into the turns
and relaxes into the space without gravity.
He refuses to be daunted by obstacles.

Can I let him love me?
My fear will drown him,
my needs outsize him.
This is the voice of my fear.

They run an empty car to test the track.
The ride is repaired.
I ask myself,
“How will I feel if I do not risk this?”
and step through an open gate.

Seconds later,
It is I                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        sky bound
and without thought
who lifts my left arm
as we crest the peak
of the world’s tallest rollercoaster
I close fingers around metal
in a moment of tumult.

Those glasses hung in the air
like an apple off of a tree branch
I only needed
to grab,
hold and pull
towards me
before the snap of a turn
made it impossible to move.

When the ride stopped, Charlie yelled out,
“She has the glasses. She caught the glasses.”
I did high fives with the two men behind me,
one in bright orange with a wide smile,
I sunk into the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  tub behind his teeth                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       and bathed in his words,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   “That was amazing.”
I felt enlarged, an athlete
catching the game ball
in a World Series.

Charlie asked again,
“Who lost their glasses?”
“They are mine,”
said his son, Kyle,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            who wordlessly
and without fan fare
returned them to his face
the grace of
invisible repair
that let him see again.

He had not seen
what we had,
the possibility
of wire wrapping
around heated
cold steel
mangling form
on track.

Kyle had not known to mourn
the blindness he would have felt
because he did not see his glasses
orphaned in the air,
had not clawed or clutched                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          what was leaving.
For Kyle, his glasses had simply slipped
from his pocket
and were caught.

My heart, I thought.
That is what happened to my heart,
soaring 450 feet,
traveling fast,
I could not keep it
zippered up
or off the ride.

I told my daughter, Kai,
“I caught Kyle’s glasses
at the tip pity top of the tallest
roller coaster in the world.”
“So you are the hero” she said.
I did not answer.

I bowed to the girl inside                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            with the courage to sit
holding the hand
of a man
she was learning
to trust.
I saw her become
the woman
who said,
“Bite the sky”
and tilted head her back,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 felt the squeeze
of flesh on flesh.

We don’t know
which hearts
we will catch
or drop.
I could not
have predicted
this love
or that ride,
the progression
of clicking, missing,
tending, bumbling.

We are all heroes
and cowards.
What I catch
of someone else’s loss
might make my life whole.

I am intertwined with souls
I had not known last summer.
We are crossing each other in space
Maybe my daughter will want to be a pilot.
Maybe I will mother-love his son.
Perhaps this will be our only summer together…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     No matter now.

I will always have this moment,
the one in which I learned
that even the scared girl
next to the baseball boy
can be the one to
make the catch –
but only if she rides…

Christine Cissy White                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      (who rode Kingda Ka at Six Flags New Jersey on June 24, 2012)