Dear Tom Selleck . . .
When I was just a wee-nut, I wanted nothing more than to ride the roller coaster. Not the fucking kiddie coaster. THE roller coaster. The big one. At Americana. With my dad.
The day finally came. The walk through the park seemed to take forever, but the pilgrimage paid off.
There it was, in all its glory. We stood and watched it zoom past, the wind whipping our hair and catching our breath. I couldn't wait for my turn to have the life sucked right out of me by it. And then we got to the entrance . . .
Turns out, I wasn't tall enough. What the fuck?! I was the tallest fucking kid in my class. How could I possibly not be tall enough?! Well then. Plan B. Send my dad in to broker a deal. No one told his little girl no. She may not be big enough, but dammit - she's brave enough! Or at least that's how I imagine the conversation went. In reality, my pops probably slipped the kid a twenty.
It was the late 70's. No one cared about safety. The trip to the park was more dangerous than any ride there; riding in that little seat, in the back of the wood-paneled station wagon, with my nose practically pressed against the back window, staring death in the face every time traffic stopped. Good times. The roller coaster was going to be a cakewalk.
My dad gave me every opportunity to turn back, but I had never been more determined to be a fucking grown up and make that roller coaster my bitch. I was 7 and I wasn't wearing my Wonder Woman Underoos for nothing. So we got on. They pulled down the lap bar. It didn't even come close to holding me in, so my dad threw his long lanky arm across me and told me to hold on tight. My sweaty little paws gripped that bar as hard as I could. Another kid pulled the giant Vegas-style lever, and we clicked to life. We were off! I could barely breathe.
It was everything I had hoped for and more. I had never felt more alive. As the ride wound down and we headed back for the starting line, my dad and I started to celebrate my victory. First roller coaster ride? Check. And I didn't cry! I couldn't wait to disembark and brag to my mom and baby sister.
The next thing that happened has played out in slow motion in my mind since that day.
As we came down the homestretch, I watched as the kid pulled the giant Vegas-style lever again to stop the ride. I had watched him do it time and time again while we had waited in line. It worked every time. Every time but that time. He pulled and nothing happened. Nothing fucking happened. We kept going. We. Kept. Going.
We zoomed past the people anxiously awaiting their turn, and headed back to the giant hill. Are you fucking kidding me?! This was not what I had signed up for. I signed up for one trip, and one trip only. This was bullshit! Excitement turned to sheer terror. No more screams from the thrill, just shrieks of, "Make it stop!", "I want to get off!", "Dad, make it stop!". I let go and held onto him as hard as I could while I buried my head into his side and cried.
He held me tightly and reassured me the whole way. He tried to make light of it. He tried to make it fun. He tried to get me to open my eyes. He tried to calm me. He tried to make me feel safe. He promised it would stop. He promised. He promised it was almost over. He promised. We were almost there. He promised. Hold on, Sis, we're almost there. He promised.
He was right. This time it stopped. So did the world, just for a second.
And then we had to get off. I had sea legs. He held me up. We took our time finding our way back out to my mom and baby sister. When we got to them, I was walking tall on my own two lanky legs and . . . I had been twice as brave. I hadn't screamed. I hadn't cried. It was our little secret and I was left with just one hell of a story to tell.
I still wear Wonder Woman Underoos.
Edie B. Kuhl