At the sleepover, the girls smear toothpaste on my face. I don’t cry, they think I’m asleep. In the dark the cardboard cut-out guy in the corner looks real.
Sometimes, my dad takes me to Six Flags. He says I can’t chicken out if he pays. I always want to ride the big one until we’re sitting and the metal clangs, until I see the coming incline. The way we’ll hit the loop and stop upside-down, so we sink and feel our weight. I start crying. The teenage park attendant in a vest says I have to say yes or the ride won’t start. Lever in hand. Yes, I say, just go. Eye of the tiger, my dad says, and pumps his fist in the air.
He takes me to the Six Flags arcade. There are boys stamping on the neon dance machine tiles, all the words on the screen purple and Japanese. Tickets spew out in long strips and I can tell there’s enough for the biggest Tweety Bird at the front desk, fuzzy with glass eyes, the one I want.
My dad lets me sip his beer from a frosted plastic cup, and we eat fries out of a paper boat, soaked in hot cheese. The boat has a big sail, and cheese is stuck under my fingernails. I have to remember to eat slower, but I like it too much, things seem easier, less spiked here. The Ferris Wheel glows out the window. I shovel fries into my mouth.
There’s a pool table. My dad wears sunglasses on the back of his head and puts down a dollar bet.
I was ten when I had a pet monkey, he likes to say, rubbing chalk on his cue. But I didn’t cry when I left him behind for this stupid country.
I nod. I wish I had a monkey, I think. I aim, checking behind me.
This one, he says. No fuck-ups. You got it.
I shoot and the balls clack together softly.
Eye of the tiger, he says, all the time, like when I’m twelve and he teaches me to drive. The sky is fake blue like on the Simpsons. He tells me where my foot goes.
I can’t reach, I say.
I lengthen my leg, foot to pedal but barely. The wheels roll. That’s it, he says. I swerve through the other lane and back. Now drive.
Aurora Huiza lives in New York and is currently an MFA student at Syracuse University. Her interviews can be found on Neutral Spaces. Her writing can be found at Entropy and Nosh. She’s on Twitter as @compost_me_.
image: MM Kaufman