There we stand, looking toward the sky, up to the grand tower above us. “You sure you want to do this?” Kaylee asks concerned.
“Uh, yeah, I think, I mean, yes, definitely,” I say looking up at the most frightening thing at the Puyallup Fair, The Extreme Scream, the ultimate experience in speed and height, the latter of which I’m terrified.
The line is long. It always is. This ride alone costs ten dollars, a small price to pay to face your greatest fear, get past it, move forward. Twenty stories high, thrusting at three g’s on the way up, negative one on the way down, this ride has haunted me for years. Friends have stood in this very line every year, teasing me, begging me to ride with them, me, always too scared to join them, not this year, not anymore.
Kaylee grabs my shaking hand and lays her head on my arm in comfort. My heart races, a result of both the anticipation of the ride, and Kaylee’s warmth beside me. She smells like cherry, not the real fruit cherry smell, but that processed cherry scent you find in shampoo, and lip balm, and Lifesavers. I’d like to kiss her lips right now and see if they taste like cherry too, but I’m so nervous already, the thought makes me want to throw up.
The line moves painstakingly slow, mocking me, challenging me, tempting me to give up, to leave. I refuse. I watch as the riders before me shoot up into the air, hair flying, screaming, and know I will be screaming like a girl as well when it’s my turn.
We finally arrive at the front of the line. I set my camera to video and ask a nice looking motherly type if she will film our ascent for me. She agrees. Kaylee and I then remove our shoes and put them in the proper receptacle, find two empty seats next to each other, and strap ourselves in. Kaylee grabs my hand again, encouraging me that I won’t die, right here, on the Extreme Scream. The ride attendants come by and check everyone’s harnesses, belts, and buckles to make sure they are secure. Like that’s going to help if my seat flies up and off the tracks, shoots into the air, out over the ride, and then plummets down onto the pavement beneath, killing me instantly. I try to push the thought out of my mind.
The countdown begins, Kaylee lets go of my hand and grabs on to her harness, I follow suit. I close my eyes, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in. We shoot up the tower at what feels like breakneck speed. I feel like a rag doll, dangling, with no control of my limbs. I’m screaming, flailing, I pray to God I don’t pee my pants. The ride stops as suddenly as it started, at the top of the tower. I open my eyes, take in the view of the fairgrounds below me, trying desperately not to have a panic attack. We’re jolted back down, my stomach drops, mouth goes dry. Up and down again, up and down, slowing with each phase, until we finally hit the ground. I’m finally able to breathe out again.
When my feet hit the ground I nearly collapse, Kaylee, and one of the attendants grab me, hold me up.
“You okay, man?” the attendant asks. He looks just like a fair attendant should, big, bald, missing some teeth. I’m sure if he were to bend over, he would expose some butt crack as well. He reeks of cigarettes and whiskey. A disconcerting thought for someone who has just put their life in his hands. The stench makes me nauseous. I run to a nearby garbage can and vomit, a horrible waste of cookies.
Kaylee looks at me and can’t help but laugh at my expense. I wipe my mouth and laugh with her.
“Is it everything you thought it would be?” she asks.
“And more,” I answer. “Let’s get lunch,” I offer.
“Lunch?” she chuckles, “You sure?”
“Yeah, I’m starved; I just lost my breakfast and cookies all in one shot.” She laughs again. I love making her laugh. Her dimples emerge, cheeks redden, eyes twinkle. Just a second of her laughter can get me through my darkest day. I grab my camera and we head toward the food court.