By Cory Ragsdale
Getting on the Ride
Have you ever ridden a roller coaster, but not just any roller coaster, a horrible, painful one, that takes you high, then low? One that hurts your head and maybe even gave you bruises, but at the end you had fun because of the adrenaline rush, right?
Maybe you took it with your friends, family, or maybe you took it alone. In my world, I took this roller coaster with my younger brother.
Oh, and this roller coaster talks.
Bunk Beds, Brownies & WD-40
I hid under my bunk bed when I was about five or six, afraid of what was in store for me if I came out. My grandparents were on their bellies, trying their best to get me to come out, because the roller coaster was there to pick me up.
“C’mon love, it’s okay,” my grandmother spoke gently, waving her hand from me to
“No,” I whined as I pushed myself farther back under the bunk bed. I was pouting, almost in tears. I didn’t like the roller coaster, it never shared the brownie mix with me, and it was always screeching at me like it needed more WD-40 on its rails.
I stared at my grandparents and begged them not to make me go, until I heard it make its way down the tracks towards my bedroom.
“What’s taking so long? Let’s go!” it yelled as it got down to look at me. It sighed, then got up, talking to my grandparents, “Aren’t you gonna make her come outta there?”
“I’m sorry dear,” my grandmother timidly responded, “If she doesn’t want to go, we’re
not going to make her.”
After arguing for thirty minutes, the roller coaster finally left, angry and roaring down the driveway, but I was safe and felt happy. I didn’t have to get on the ride this time.
While there were times that I was at the top of the roller coaster ride, there was always the drop, the part that is right before the fall; your breath catches and you hold on tight to the bar, but the view is beautiful.
Recliner Chair, Kitchen Chair
Glass… it had to have been glass that was thrown this time.
“You piece of shit don’t hit me!” the roller coaster was brutally screaming, throwing
everything it could from our tiny kitchen, towards a person with red hair and pale skin.
My brother shivered in my arms as we took refuge behind the recliner chair. He watched as his parent and our roller coaster chucked everything sharp at one another. I tried to cover his eyes and dry his tears.
“Shhh, it’s okay,” I whispered to him, rubbing his red hair, and rocking him back and forth. I flinched as more things were broken.
“Let go!” It roared, “That’s fucking it, get out, get out, leave my fucking house!” The
roller coaster picked up our dining room chair and threw it at the other.
“Please make it stop,” the three-year-old cried. My brother curled closer into me wailing, I on the other hand simply held him, watching from behind the reclining chair that shielded us as the roller coaster wrecked itself.
This was why I hid under the bunk bed, why I wouldn’t go.
I held my brother so tight that my knuckles turned white… the ride had dropped and
together we raced down the rails. My face was whipped by the force and tears filled the eyes of my brother and I’s. I thought to myself, this hurts.
You see, when I say I was stuck on a roller coaster of ups and downs, it was more like
plummeting constantly with the occasional uphill. The roller coaster was never happy, no matter how much we smiled at it, or tried to keep our toys cleaned up.
It would lash out on us then leave, but after a few hours, it would come rolling back, but slowly this time. It would ask for forgiveness and apologize. As kids we would hug the roller coaster.
“Hey babies, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that,” it would sit in front of
us, holding my brother and I’s shoulder’s tight.
“C’mere,” it would say soothingly, pulling us into its seats tightly. We would buckle up and embrace it with all of our love, because the roller coaster didn’t mean what it said.
It didn’t actually mean to say, “God I fuckin hate kids, I should’ve never had you.” The roller coaster just had emotional issues, that’s why we’re on this ride.
Most of my early childhood years were lost during the ride. The wind from the plummets had blown my memories away and before I could reach up to catch them, the coaster would hit another downhill.
During my middle school life, I sat with my head down while riding. I often
felt nothing, crying myself to sleep or looking at the view that I got from my ride when we’d hit the peak of the rails…
Banks, Bridges & Beds
I began working my junior year of high school and with every paycheck I was made to give half of it to my ride. It felt unusual as I had already given everything to be on this ride, so why did it need more of what I worked for?
However, I confronted the roller coaster about keeping half of my paycheck but not putting it into a bank. Which isn’t the smartest idea when it’s the one determining your entire life.
“Hey… about my money, can we put it into a savings account?” I asked politely at the
doorway its resting area. That was where the roller coaster sat, smoke curling out of its body.
“No, there’s no need to,” it puffed out, not making eye contact with me.
“I know… I just think it would be safer in the bank.”
“Do you not trust me?” It looked up, and I knew that it was starting its engine. I fidgeted, irritated with the situation.
“I do, there’s just no need to put it into an envelope.”
“I’m not like your grandmother; she stole from me!” The ride instantly lurched forward, and my body was pulled. The ride started off slow… but it didn’t stay that way for long.
“Well you couldn’t trust your mom, so it would just be safer if we put it into a bank,” I
timidly replied, and I watched the drop of the ride get closer and closer. It sped up, grabbing the money from its storage compartment.
The wind started to increase… It rushed forward and its bars slammed into my chest with as much force as it could muster. My shoulder blades were just wide enough that they wrapped themselves around the hard seat.
Pain shot through my body as the edges ate their way into my back, the roller coaster yelling, “Fine! Fucking take it, we’ll see how much money you actually save. I’ll see you on Fifth Street Bridge,” it spit in my face, barring it’s teeth at me like a rabid dog.
The ride had plummeted, and the wind made my eyes water again, stinging my entire body, because Fifth Street Bridge was where all the homeless people lived and died in my city.
I had taken this as an invitation, and with tears in my eyes, I unbuckled and jumped off of the roller coaster as it rampaged. Grabbing my favorite and only longboard at the time, I ran.
The door swung open behind me just as my board hit the asphalt.
“You get your fuckin ass back in this house young lady!” it screamed from the doorway, “I’ll call the cops on you! Report you as a runaway and they’ll arrest your ass!”
It continued screaming frantically, knowing I no longer cared.
On the inside I was terrified because I never disobeyed the roller coaster, I listened to all of its rules of the ride, and I almost never got off of it. I kept going though, all the way to the field, where I stopped to cry.
Soon however, the roller coaster roared by, chasing after me down the road and halted to a stop after seeing me in its rearview mirrors.
I ignored it, holding my board tight.
“I said get in!” It ripped the board out of my hands and walked away, “I’ll run it over.
It’ll break and you’ll never see it again.”
It put my board in front of its wheels and screeched again. I had no doubt in my mind that it would roll forward…
So I got back in. After getting home I went to my room and cried hysterically, but the
roller coaster didn’t care. It let me cry alone for three hours. The house, however, soon silenced and everyone laid down, so I went out to get some water, trying to avoid everyone.
“Hey,” a soft voice had called from behind me, and I flinched. It was the roller coaster I had been avoiding.
“C’mere,” it said, just like it always did, holding its arms out wide like some savior.
However, I wasn’t a child anymore, not like I was and this time I didn’t get into its seat willingly.
The roller coaster pointed, “Get in.”
I stumbled back. “I don’t want to,” I mustered, but there I was forced to lay between my stepparent and the roller coaster as it held me close like I was five again. Like the roller coaster never hurt me, or maybe it knew it hurt me and it felt bad, so maybe forceful affection would work.
It finally let me undo my seatbelt after sitting tensely for an hour. My body was tingling, and I ripped at my skin.
It felt as if bugs had taken residence underneath my veins. I wanted off of the roller coaster ride, I wanted to go back under my bunk bed, safe and happy…but I couldn’t.
Calm Before the Storm
The worst part of my ride was the uncertainty. One month I would relax within its seats and simply enjoy the ride.
In those moments I loved the roller coaster, my brother, and two new little sisters felt safe…happy.
It almost makes me feel teary eyed thinking about how nice those moments were.
Our ride wakes up, puts on some music that isn’t too loud, drinks coffee with us, and maybe even has us watch a movie as a family.
Talking to it made me love it more, but maybe that’s what makes me queasy, as I know that we’re slowly heading uphill, preparing for another drop.
Time Passes, Rides Stop
Time went by with more fights, rampages, and even brutal crashes, but I had made it. It had felt like I’d finally be able to get off the ride for good when they handed me my diploma in the rain.
I took pictures and cried with the roller coaster as I was proud of myself for finishing school, something I wasn’t sure I could do since it required leaving the roller coaster.
The summer came and the ride was fairly smooth with only small quarrels with the roller coaster, dipping hills instead of plummeting edges left me with an uneasy feeling.
For a moment, I had regretted buying my ticket off of the ride when my acceptance letter came in. Everything seemed so calm on the ride and now I was getting off?
I questioned myself, but my brother and others around me kept me going. So I finally packed everything, and the roller coaster drove me down with my stepparent, siblings, and best friend.
We reached the University and I barfed, crying, and shaking with anxiety. Running on two hours of sleep and leaving something I had always been with, had me mind-fucked, needless to say… but I needed to go through it, I needed to puke out all of the vomit I held in during all of the years of riding.
I needed to wash out all of the past held in tears and shake out my jitters from riding for so long. Reassuring myself that I can now walk… while I didn’t really know how to…
I unpacked, saying our goodbyes. I hugged my siblings and told the roller coaster, “Bye I love you,” as we exchanged hugs.
Then I watched them ride away, a bittersweet moment knowing that I was free while my siblings were still strapped in.
PTSD? Not Me!
Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs to victims of intense traumatic events, so why do I have it?
I hear a screech, a yell, banging, something vibrates my chest, and I’m sent into a sheer panic. Crying hysterically, shaking, and ripping at my skin, face, and head. My chest is tight and skin crawls, my body is no longer mine.
I never fought a war, there is no reason for this, all I’m doing is riding on a roller coaster…these things are supposed to be fun.
The guilt I feel to this day, knowing that I am no longer in the first seat of the ride taking in all of the wind and shielding my siblings from its cold and painful lashes on the face, it makes me keel over in emotional pain sometimes.
My little brother now sits at the front of the roller coaster. He is old enough to get off now, but he doesn’t. I wonder to myself, was I selfish for leaving them?
He could leave, but instead he straps himself in, time and time again, protecting
I can only hope that their day will come…just as mine did.
I miss it sometimes, it hurts being so in love with something, yet fearing for your safety every time you are around it. I wish it would only hurt physically…
Getting Off the Ride
I found myself reluctant to go revisit, or even speak to the roller coaster. Though at times, I missed its rails and the rush I got from it, for my mind and body, I stayed away.
My attempts at keeping in touch with my siblings on the ride was severed if I upset the roller coaster over the phone, and therefore, I always had to treat it carefully.
But if I am being honest, I was so tired of trying to love something that never showed that it loved me.
“You never call me, you don’t love me,” it would tell me when I would finally answer a
I shook my head, “No mom… I love you, but I’m getting off of your roller coaster ride,” I said softly.