This Passenger

by Stephen Mabe

I stepped on board and took my seat, clinching the steel rail in front of me within the same motion. With a childlike grin I fastened the rail to my safety buckle and was ready for the departure. The commotion of everyone around me mixed with my hypnotic anxiety and anticipation was pleasantly nerve-wracking. I was so ready and the longer the wait, the more the drum rolled.

While sitting there watching the to-do of all the workers and fellow passengers, I had time to think, and alter those thoughts to match my present state. This great, fear-defying machine was solife itself, in many ways. The very moment I was at-the anticipating, yet frightening, wait with the childlike grin still on my face-was just that, childlike. I was facing the wait of this daring ride just as an adolescent would his coming of age; afraid, but grinning all the while. Knowing and seeing the edges of life as a teenager does: seeing the twists and turns to my left, right, and straight ahead, all of the edges before me.

Then with many cranks and pops the machine chugged forward. The chain beneath pulled the convertible locomotive as an aged mule would his aged, master's cart. We began the incline of two hundred towering feet. My heart rose to my throat. A transaction from adolescence, to teen, to college bound. Climbing through the many years of finally being "On my own." The workers and the conductor, left behind to watch as I ventured out, just as parents do. Those next few moments of the great hike would seem to never climax.

Then at long last my cart reached the top, and for what seemed like minutes I was able to see everything as crystal. The pillow-like clouds, the blue painted masterfully behind them, many spectators, waiters, and vendors, and a few other "life-coasters." Everything was held in that moment, or realistically, those few seconds. It was as if I had just graduated from college. Everything seemed so clear and certain, but then another transaction.

I dashed down the slope without so much as a warning. My head and shoulders bobbed back and forth, jerking and jarring. That short time that I had gotten used to was abruptly interrupted. I was merely halfway ready for such a metamorphosis, yet still I loved it. I was racing madly down the iron slope: I was starting my career, my family, and my fresh life. And all seemed well once again despite the hectic speed, but again it was only for a moment.

Then the loops and spirals of hardships and trials came in no specific fashion or routine, just pounding against the brink. All the while I felt that all control I once had was lost. I felt as if at any moment my harness would tear and release me from the clutches of safety. My job was in jeopardy, my marriage becoming rocky, my life was not as planned. Just as the fear began it ended when the spirals did, and the pleasant speed would soothe me yet again. Things looked up at work, she and I made it through the bad, and my life was great, despite the uncertainty.

But this ride, this life, was most definitely trudging onward with no sign of slowing. Where did the time go? What had happened to the long crawl to the top of the horizon, where everything was sure for an instant? It took so long to get there, but once it did, it was lightening. Just another thread in a cold, dark, and rainy sky; flashing down to show its beauty for as long it could be seen. Merely a couple of seconds.

Then as old age crept on the coaster rounded the last curve. Compressed air flew as the machine slowed suddenly. A couple more jerks and jars and it would be over. I was feeble, slow, on my last leg. The line of carts crept into the boarding station. The compressed air shouted a couple more times, and it finally stopped. I unlatched the belt, the bars raised, and then I departed.

The End.

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