Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Cliché Revealed - Life as a Roller Coaster
I’m waiting in line for a roller coaster at an amusement park and it’s hot, making me sticky and thirsty and impatient with overheard talk about a movie I’ll never see and a person’s sex life who shouldn’t be sharing those things out loud for my sake, let alone God's sake. I hear the rush of the roller coaster and watch the cars filled with screaming people who are throwing their hands up in the air, an act I won't do because I'm afraid my wedding ring will fly off. Butterflies in my stomach no longer apply – I’m far too old, I’ve been on these things far too many times. This one is new though and promises terror and I laugh with my kids and my brother over the “impending doom.”
I glance across the people and down an incline and can see the lights of the merry-go-round, reflecting on the cliché that one would prefer the highs and lows of the coaster to the dull, round-and-round of the carousel meaning real life ups and downs are preferable to the safety of smooth, non-risky living.
But I don’t know about that because I love the carousel – I love the fine painted horses and the giggles of the preschoolers and the flashing by into a blur of the world as you tilt your head back and eye the sidelines. There’s a subtle thrill there, the kind of thrill that’s dizzying in its apparent safety. The mirrors in the center reflect others, not me. I’m hidden and ghostly among the colors. The music is loud and unchanging, pounding up and down in a whimsical frenzy, the tunes one associates with knife-wielding clowns and visions of the insane and phobic. If I slip, if I fall, I’ll have to scramble, the horses moving and dominating, the feet of the kids dangerous and unhelpful. If I fall off, I’ll get hurt for certain, forces sending me outwards, maybe causing me to slip beneath into the mud and muck and gears. And it's possible to fall because it's not unusual to walk the floorboards while you're going round, walk the floor to find another seat, to tend to another child. If I think too much about it, I'll wake up in a cold sweat, the terror of a memory perhaps, or just twisted imagination, palpable in the night air. If I get on a horse, I’ll feel the soft sway of the rhythm, I’ll feel the warm gold of the pole, I’ll touch the leather of the strap that has a far different feel if whipped against bare skin. You see, it’s the false representation that’s terrifying, just like suburban safety, like the safety of marriage, the safety of a four-year-old grasping your arms and neck in bed.
No, no…the merry-go-round is terrifying. Real life resides there in a way far more treacherous than the roller coaster. In the round about we’ll see the hidden dangers of a peaceful blow of a breeze on a quiet day, in the gentle swell of the sea and ebb back into the horizon.