Six Flags alone, 1988

six flags photo0001

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.

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