Her foot slipped back and forth rapidly from the accelerator to the brake pedal. Traffic was maddening on Friday afternoons, especially as the final days of the summer season drew near. Everyone struggled to squeeze in all of the things they had planned and intended to accomplish before Labor Day; and now here they were, with the unfinished list still looming, celebrating the final weekend of summer. This had been an eventful year for her; in fact, she had accomplished more this summer than she had in the past two decades combined.
To say she had come out of her shell would be a reasonable description, though maybe a bit modest. She had finally liberated herself from the self-imposed prison that had stifled her life for far too long. After losing well over 200 pounds she’d experienced a reincarnation of sorts, a reawakening, a rebirth. It had been a prolonged and lengthy process, which, she realized, was ongoing. It had taken her many years to feel strong enough to face the world once again. She had not crossed the finish line by any means but she was back in the race, where even last place was exhilarating. She felt her mind, and her spirit growing stronger, ever expanding, as her body reduced and condensed itself. She thought she might have discovered the fountain of youth somewhere along the journey, for she felt younger and more invigorated as days slipped by. She began going places and doing things she had not even considered just a short time ago. She felt alive.
As the little car crept along in rush hour traffic, she twisted the air conditioning knob once again, which still did absolutely nothing. The sun beat down on her through the windshield, making her feel like a bug under a magnifying glass. She needed out of this scorching hot car, at least until this 5 pm rush hour absurdity had subsided. She looked ahead and noticed the colorful flags rippling in the wind. A blue and yellow Ferris wheel rolled lazily in the sky. A carnival she thought out loud, and without hesitation she yanked the steering wheel to the right and skidded across the gravel into the busy parking lot, as horns blared and blasted behind her. She had not ventured through the gates of a carnival since she was a young girl, but the kid inside her whispered,” Today is the day.”
As she sauntered past the “Mid-American Midway” ticket booth, a flirtatious concoction of delightful scents and smells engulfed her entire being. Hot buttered popcorn, mixed with warm, sticky cotton candy and foot long hotdogs simmering on the grill overwhelmed her senses and it took great restraint and control to stroll past the enthusiastic vendors without stopping to sample any of the tempting treats. She had spent 3 years preparing for this battle and she moved along with confidence.
She had forgotten how overwhelming the magical world of the midway was. The numerous sights, sounds and smells overloaded ones senses. The peculiar music from the various rides and attractions traversed upon the muggy air in an eerie drone, sounding much like a warped record playing on a very old phonograph machine. She stood and watched the white horses of the carousel bob up and down while the children riding pompously upon them squealed in delight. As she worked her way towards the center of the tiny self-contained community, she came upon the games of chance. “All down…all ready….all ready…all down” the carnival barker yelled out to his customers who were frantically placing bets on their favorite colors as he reached up to spin the giant wheel of chance. In the booth next to him children tossed small wooden rings at long neck pop bottles…the sound of tink…tink…tink filled the air as the rings continuously bounced off the bottles, provoking the disappointed tykes to shell out yet another torn and tattered dollar bill in hopes of winning a stuffed teddy bear. As she stood and watched, temptation once again crept upon her. Elephant ears, deep fried Oreos and Funnel cakes the bright neon sign exclaimed! She did not need a sign to attract her attention. She recognized this sweet temptation long before the blinking billboard ever came into view. The intoxicating aroma made her head swim and she decided it might be best to turn and head in a different direction before this mounting craving got the best of her.
Behind her, she heard the distinct, unmistakable click…click…click of an ancient roller coaster straining to ascend the highest peak of the track. She glanced over her shoulder just in time to see the “Dizzy Dragon” climb up and over the hill, rushing rapidly down the other side as little hands flew up into the air and riders gasped and screamed in joyful terror! She smiled in a fleeting moment of recollection, remembering that the roller coaster had been her favorite ride as child and even a young adult…until she had grown too large to lower the safety bar over her protruding belly. She turned and began moving once again. She strolled past the Fun house and a wild, spinning ride called the Vertigo and glancing up, found herself directly in front of the towering Ferris Wheel. She stared up at the twenty or so bucket seats rocking empty in the wind and thought how exhilarating and free it must feel to tower above the Earth. She had not attempted to board any type of amusement ride such as this, since the afternoon she had been forced to climb out of the constricted Roller Coaster seat for being too “large” for the ride. She’d walked back down the up-ramp with her head down in shame as she struggled to hide her crimson cheeks from the cruel and laughing children.
She looked up once more, and with her heart racing, she strolled over to the red and white, stripped ticket booth and handed the woman a $5 bill. “Just one.” She stated, with a tiny quiver in her voice. She took the ticket and her change and headed back to the giant spinning wheel. The grubby looking carnie smiled at her and she could not help but notice the vacant spot in his grin where his front tooth had been. She smiled back as he took the ticket and led her up the shaking metal ramp. She took a deep breath as she stepped up into the bucket, politely ignoring the greasy outstretched hand extended to help her. She sat down on the hot vinyl seat and felt her heart stop beating as the carnie reached up to close the safety bar. She exhaled uncontrollably as the bar snapped easily into place. She sat up straight and rested her arm across the back of the gently, swaying seat. As the magnificent machine jerked into motion her heart swelled in gratitude and appreciation for this second chance at life that she had so graciously been granted. She beamed an enormous smile as she reached what felt like the top of the world. She looked out through the shimmering heatwaves and could see the flourishing city for miles around. The world is mine she whispered under her breath and she raised her hands above her, laughing uncontrollably as she headed back down.