Because I’ve been working nonstop on my miserable books, I think I’ve forgotten how to write (as opposed to revising/copying/pasting/crying/hating/etc.). It’s been a long time since I stepped away from the same two stories I’ve been trying to tell for two years and faced a blank page. Writers are supposed to write things, or at least I think a superior said that to me once in an expensive MFA program somewhere. But here are the current mental obstacles impeding my elite practice of the literary arts:
1) Fuck writing
2) Fuck that I’m even sitting here writing about writing. Let’s go to Coney Island instead.
Every few weeks Coney Island summons me with its don’t-go-in-the-water-if-you-have-so-much-as-a-paper-cut-or-you-will-die-from-sepsis siren call. The last time I went swimming at a beach of better repute a maxi pad brushed past my leg like a menstrual jellyfish, so the film of grease on Coney’s fair waters doesn’t tend to bother me. Something about this Brooklyn resort town resonates with me deep inside, tickling me and delighting me and stirring up all the Chlamydia I caught the last time I swam there.
I really don’t get why I like the place so much because I’m always too broke to ride the rides and I don’t eat hotdogs due to the nitrates and the freak show performers always strike me as bored out of their skulls even when those skulls are firmly fastened to their persons by the swords stuck down their throats. Coney is the kind of place where most of the girthy sunbathers are simultaneously chain smoking and drinking Pepsi. It’s the kind of beach you bring your portable television to. If you want soleil, go to the French Riviera. If you want to step in sandy dog poop, take the F train to the end of the line. For whatever reason my idea of a fanciful getaway is much more aligned with the latter.
My last visit to Coney was particularly fun. I was a touch drunk, which makes everything free because money is just pretend, so I was tossing dollar bills at the French fry vendor and quarters at the skeeball machine like I was freaking Beyonce. And then M suggested that we ride the Cyclone, the ancient wooden skeleton held together by pipe cleaners that dominates Luna Park. On all my trips to the Island, I’ve never approached this terrifying roller coaster, not necessarily because I’ve feared for my life but because it costs $8, cash that is better spent on cheap sunglasses or two ounces of beer from the boardwalk. But fortunately money was no longer an object that day. We had already lost $30 to a carnie who inveigled us with the empty box that a Macbook Pro once occupied. We had already paid $10 to watch a man squeeze his entire body through a tennis racket. What was eight more dollars to me, a rich and famous pop diva? So we bought our tickets and got in line.
[Note that I’m now switching to the present tense after all that preamble.]
And we wait and we wait. And we get sunburned while we wait. And then we’re not Next but Next After the People Who Are Next, and we are so goddamn excited. Counting down the seconds until it will be our turn. Adrenaline coursing through our veins with the pricey light beer. Making sure we have nothing valuable in our pockets that could fly out.
The four or five sleepy high school boys who operate this roller coaster of death so they can use their seasonal paychecks to buy Crackerjacks or whatever have been hustling trains through the loading area with the utmost boredom and efficiency. It makes me a little nervous that they ask all the women in any mixed gender pairings to take the far seats of the cars. This means that the Cyclone lawyers want more weight distributed on the outside of the train so it won’t topple off the tracks when going around bends. But all right, that’s fine. No one ever requests that of me at Busch Gardens, but I get it. Still feeling pretty good about my survival prospects.
The People Who Are Next wait in their coveted positions as a train pulls up with passengers in various states of heart attack. These passengers stumble from their cars, and the People Who Are Next take their sweaty places. But one car in the back is clearly off-limits for whatever reason. Maybe its safety bar is broken. Maybe it has throwup in it. Maybe if any weight, male or female, is inflicted upon it then the whole coaster will go down in flames. Whatever, it doesn’t bother me. I am Next.
But this teenage girl a few people down from me is also Next. And after the high school boys gruffly lower and lock all the safety bars and the train starts to shoot quickly down the tracks, this teenage girl who is Next leaps into the empty, off-limits car in the back. She does not understand why any solitary car would remain empty on its journey through the pits of hell. She does not understand why she can’t just ride the Cyclone now instead of with her natural community, the new and improved People Who Are Next. She does not understand why she can’t just sit quietly atop the safety bar permanently locked down at the tail end of the train and enjoy a little spin at 60mph, 85 feet above the pavement, around harrowing loops that look and feel like 90-degree angles. She does not understand that a safety bar is supposed to be in your lap, not under your butt.
The train is now speeding toward the loading area exit where it will immediately drop 20 feet and then throw its entire being into trying to buck people off. And this teenage girl is just riding in the nethermost car as if she’s in Cinderella’s carriage or the Popemobile or something and not about to lose her life.
We all start screaming. The high school boys are now wide awake and wishing they’d gotten summer jobs at Arby’s instead. One guy who looks as if he might be a veteran Cyclone operator because he’s over the age of sixteen shouts things like “Fuck!” and “Retarded!” and sprints to a tall metal pole on the far end of the tracks which I gather is the universal roller coaster brake. He seizes this pole and yanks on it with all his hotdog-fueled might. With a lot of screeching, the train gradually slows to a stop. Then the teenage girl nonchalantly climbs out of her car and rejoins the new and improved People Who Are Next, who are still too shocked and dazed to tell her that she’s been banished from their number for life.
M and I think the crisis is over. We search the teenage girl’s face for some indication that she’s recently had a lobotomy. And then, while everyone is still distracted by this near-calamity, another full train comes barreling into the Cyclone loading area. And naturally it rams into the back of the braked train, giving passengers whiplash on both ends of the collision.
Fortunately the car that would have suffered the most from being rear-ended is now empty of its teenage stowaway, but overall the atmosphere is chaos and confusion and the high school boys seem utterly astounded that no one has been maimed or killed on this fine June day. But the boys don’t have time to gather their wits about them because the Cyclone is committed to its infernal schedule and before anyone in the first train has a chance to escape or call a chiropractor about the pain in his or her neck, the cars start moving again and the accident victims quickly disappear in a violent jerk around the corner. Back in the loading area, looking like people who’ve just survived a Great White feeding frenzy, the passengers in the rear-ending train bound from their cars, women first. I look at M in horror. We are Next.