Daddy took just us two girls
on a special trip to Six Flags today.
I hate rides
because the heights scare me
and the speed frightens me
and the feeling of no contact
with the ground terrifies me.
But because today
belonged only to me, Sister, and Daddy
I felt light and happy.
We ate cotton candy
while we watched the giant ferris wheel turn
so high in the sky.
I waited by the end of rides
while Daddy and Sister rode together
since they aren’t afraid like me.
Then Daddy took us to the kiddie area
and told us we couldn’t leave
until both of us rode the small rollercoaster.
At first I thought he was kidding
like when he won’t answer us
unless we call him by his full name.
But then he walked away,
saying over his shoulder,
“You can find your own way home.”
All alone in St. Louis
two hours from home
Sister and I looked for him.
We walked around and around
but couldn’t find him anywhere
not even up in the trees.
My heart beat faster and faster
and my hands were slick with sweat.
Sister knows I screamed
the whole time on the Tilt-A-Whirl
at our hometown fair
and that the man had to pry my ghost-white fingers
off the safety bar at the end
since I was too overwhelmed to move or speak.
Her eyes hurt for me
when she said, “Let’s just get this over with.”
She took my hand
as we boarded the ride
and I shook all over
not tough and strong
like the boy Daddy wishes I could be.
A boy who’s not afraid of snakes in the water
when Daddy goes fishing.
A boy who builds birdhouses
without worrying his thumb will get mashed.
A boy who wants to wrestle with him
and help bale hay
and learn to drive the tractor.
Not sensitive like me.
The ride scooted along slowly at first
but I knew the worst was ahead.
Suddenly we lurched down a steep tunnel
and I screamed like a wild animal
at the height, speed, and utter darkness
and in a split second
I pictured him driving away
leaving me again
and wondered if the terror
I endured for him
will be worthless.