She pulls down the restraints, heavy, encapsulating plastic shimmering with the heat and stick of a thousand happy screams, and tells me that she and I are breaking up, and that she’s not open to negotiating it. I hear the plastic clicking into place.
I fasten my own seatbelt, eyes cast down on the water where the glare of the sun bounces off of the ferris wheel, climbing circuitously into my eyes.
Before you say anything, she says to me, I want you to know that’s not you, it’s me. Pieces of her sentences are chewed up and lost as a seagull roams overhead, scouting for french fries, and a child with curly, unkempt hair cries on the pier below us, her ice cream cone face down in a puddle. She says she’s just too sad right now and that she’s started smoking again, which has always been a sign for her that things weren’t quite right no matter what the things are. She says ‘You understand’ as if I understand. As if she is thanking me for understanding. A pimply teenager walks by and tugs on our seatbelts, making sure they are secure.
I think a lot of things quickly in succession, but none of them matter. I think about the blanket I got her from Kohl’s because she only had one sheet, and she said that she liked sleeping that way with her feet poking out the bottom, but I insisted that she’d get cold in the winter, and she disagreed, and she kept the blanket on the floor by her dresser so that I could sleep with it when I stayed the night.
She asks me if I heard what she said. I say yes, but right as I say it the girl on the pier with the ice cream wails louder, so I nod instead. I am waiting because she said Before you say anything. I am waiting for her to finish saying things.
The automated voice informs us, in case we weren’t aware, that we are about to begin our ride on Mission Insanity.
It is not lost on me that we are here, hovering over the sparkling green bay, about to laugh until we cry, while she tells me that my love has driven her to rekindle her nicotine addiction. I also slept with Brianna, she says out of nowhere, which would hurt me if I hadn’t known, but of course I knew, because I also also slept with Brianna, because everyone sleeps with Brianna. She tells me that she hopes I’m not mad.
The girl mourning over the ice cream cone is approaching hysterics. I wonder where the hell her parents are. I wonder if they’ll buy her a new one, or if they’ll say no, that was your one cone, I’m sorry, but you should have been more careful with it, you shouldn’t have let it fall. But they make those cones so tall. And in this heat, they melt so fast.
The coaster rumbles to life underneath us, creeping forward. My bare thighs are gluing themselves to the seat, spilling over onto her side of the car, melting onto her. She looks away because she thinks that when I am silent I am mad at her. Later she will bemoan the fact that I have to make everything so difficult.
When I woke up in her bed this morning, one of my earrings was gone. It had come out in the night and swam away in the sheets. A sun sparkle on the surface of the bay reminds me. I wonder if she’ll keep the Kohl’s blanket. If she’ll start using it after we are no longer seeing each other.
Mission Insanity begins accelerating. The first part of the coaster is a long, slow climb. The foreplay. She was always all about foreplay, taking forever to get anywhere, which is when I remember how she once waited outside my house in her little slutty Marie Antoinette costume so we could walk down the block together to a Halloween party, and when I took too long with my vampire teeth she texted me that she was leaving without me and she would see me there. I walked there running my tongue over my fake glued-in teeth that I had put in so she could take them out later with her tongue. Because she was all about foreplay.
You’re being really immature about this, she says to me while we climb. Gravity is pulling us up against our seats and making us face the clouds. I listen for the ice cream girl crying but I can’t hear her over the click click click of the anti-rollback taking us higher. I guess I’m giving her the silent treatment. She’s decided for me. I guess that’s an okay way to break up with someone. It’s not clean, but it’s low-key, and it’s better to be low-key than the alternative. It’s better than being a crazy bitch, whatever that means. But everyone’s always saying it about their exes.
Suddenly she’s shaking. I realize she’s going to cry. Right here in front of God, in front of everyone. Every click takes us towards the swell and I count all the times she cried while we smoked in her room, leaning out the second-floor window, where we’d climb out onto the roof if she was sober and she’d tell me everything about her, things I never needed to know, things I’ll probably never forget. Not always big secrets. Sometimes she just told me about how bad her parents’ divorce was, how her dad got mean after that. How she felt like it changed her whole life and she’d never get over it.
Get over it.
Those three words took up the next three clicks. I’m not mean, but I have an overactive imagination. So while she cried into the Kohl’s blanket like it was a handkerchief, I’d imagine saying that to her. What would she do? What would she do if I turned to her and just said Get over it?
We’re approaching the initial dive. Once we reach it, we hang over the whole park for a moment, and I hear the ice cream screamer, who sounds like she’s miles away. I feel miles away from everything. Especially her. But I know she’s there, because in her signature fashion, she bursts into tears the moment the car settles into stillness. And we hang there. And she’s crying and I feel like I’ve done everything for the last year in light speed up until this moment. One chance to breathe, finally, and she’s crying through it. And so is the ice cream girl. Should I be crying too?
I take a breath to try to speak, and we fall into oblivion.
My face is pulled back like I’m made of rubber. The sun flies out of the sky and straight into my mouth, which is open, the wind tackling it like a blow dryer. Her crying turns into screaming, and I can’t tell if she’s screaming about the roller coaster, or about me, or about her life, or about her parents’ divorce. Sometimes people just scream. I don’t, though. I’m as silent as I’ve ever been. We fly through a big loop where gravity takes my other earring, the one who’s match is gone forever in her bed. We rush in and out of a corkscrew, where my brain tumbles around in my skull before stabilizing. It all flies by faster than time. Faster than anything. Her hair is hitting me in the face, and then all of a sudden we swoop the other direction and it’s not anymore. My feet aren’t touching the floor of the car. My legs aren’t touching the seat. I’m completely and totally suspended, free.
When we roll over the final hill, caught by the brake run, she is no longer crying. She got it all out in the 100 seconds it took for us to reach the end of the ride. In fact, she is stiller and quieter than she has ever been. Like she left herself behind on the corkscrew.
In a fit of furious courage, I turn to her, and I just say Okay. I catch my breath and look out over the pier just in time to see the little ice cream girl’s mother coming up to her, holding out a new cone, a chocolate and vanilla swirl, and she is finally quiet.
I am smiling before I know it. I pull at my seatbelt, waiting for the ride to free us. I’m hungry. I want ice cream. I’ve been on Mission Insanity for a year. And that day, when it finally rolls to a stop, and I get off, and I run.