The Epic Legends – Atlanta Day Three

The conclusion of the first installment in my new autobiographical-comedic-prose series “The Epic Legends” nears its conclusion.  I was in Atlanta.  I had won the rights to the bed after a day that was both triumphal and trying.  As a 15-year-old me once remarked, it was a turning point.  I was determined to stick it out, to deal with the mental hardship of the day, and the uncertainty of the next.  My singing was done, my job, that is to say, completed.  Now it was a personal voyage.

And now, Day 3, the final day of the Atlanta Saga.

I awoke to a foreign alarm clock, a loud, nasty thing I knew didn’t belong to me.  Four men packed into a one-bed hotel room was a typical scenario for this type of venture, I had always known.  Still, the musk of three men, and one sasquatch in a single cramped room was not to be underestimated.  Still in the hypnotic haze of my prescriptions I dragged my form into the shower, a shower I quickly discovered was broken.

Broken, and incapable of producing anything but boiling streams of lava.  I believe laws of thermodynamics were broken in that liquid did indeed hit my flesh, and sear it.  In any reasonable universe water of that temperature would never make it two feet without completely turning into steam.

Five minutes in, the situation looked grim.  Fates seemed aligned against me.  I was barely awake and already I was screaming in pain.  Usually that doesn’t happen until a few hours in!  Showering at relativistic-speeds, I threw on my civilian garb and rushed down to the lobby, perhaps to talk to a friend, or maybe even my new lady-friend.  Mostly, though, I was down for another omlette.

They were really good!  Not as good as the watermelon soda, mind you, but damn good nonetheless.  I settled into one of the many chairs in the lobby and ate my breakfast, knowing full-well that the day ahead of me was going to be a rough one.  We were bound for Six Flags Amusement Park.  The final “fun” moment of our great journey, and the location at which the judges of this particular competition would present the various awards.

After an uneventful waking hour, we boarded our buses one more time.  I said my hellos to the girl to my right.  Small talk was made.

“How’d you sleep?”

“Terribly”

“Me too!  God, I wish I had my medicine”

“I wish I didn’t have my medicine…”

We talked about various things during the abnormally-long bus ride.  Small things.  Things you don’t care about, but at the same time things you do care about.  There was a connection, however slight, however threadbare, it was there.

Eventually our four-bus fleet arrived at the gates of Six Flags.  The name almost inspires fear.  At least for me it does, though that could be because of what happened within its gates.  As if it were some unassailable stronghold of a mighty nation, six proud flags adorning the high parapets.  I emerged with my group.  Tony I’d known since childhood.  Colin was a sleazy ladies’ man, but fairly nice to me.  Sergio was a yeti.  When we got inside, almost immediately three of us spotted an old white wooden roller coaster.  Something nearly ancient, but somehow still functional.  I’d been on roller coasters twice before, and both of those occasions were marked by extreme profanity and mortal fear.  I hate roller coasters.  Whenever I go on one I say to the people who drag me on it, with their promises of “Come on, it’ll be fun!” that they are filthy, filthy liars.  I’ve invoked various people’s mothers in unkind ways.  It is never pretty.  Did you know they have microphones on those rollercoasters?  They do.  That’s why I almost got thrown out of Busch Gardens in Williamsburg after screaming “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK” from beginning to end.

They apparently don’t like those screams.  “Woo” is fine.  “Aah!” is fine.  “Fuuuuck!” is not fine.  Protip.

I was not one of the people who saw the roller coaster.  In fact, I pretended not to see it.  I pretended it did not exist.  Nonetheless, I was once more dragged onto one of these fear-engines.  As I neared the entry, hearing the screams and seeing the dazed expressions of the adrenaline-freaks who were ahead of us filled me with trepidation.  At one point I believe I had to be restrained, due to my attempt to flee.

In any case I boarded the coaster.  I was fastened in a seat.  Locks were locked.  My fate was set.  Now, unlike the previous roller coaster I had been on, This one was not modern, the drops were shorter and shallower, however, due to its wooden structure, it was rickety.  You could feel vibrations.  As I accelerated past what I percieved to be the speed of sound, I soon realized a very intelligent design function of roller coasters.  The G-Forces prevent you from projectile-vomiting.  That omlette tried, but my dear friend gravity saved my breakfast, and any number of consequences.

Harrowed by my close-call with high-velocity hurling, I vowed once again, with full fucking fury of “fuck” that I would not go on one of those fucking death machines again.  I would wait outside them while the others tried them.  I would sit, and wait.

Soon, these erstwhile friends found some sort of death-tower that simulates freefall and near-death.  I could not see the appeal in such an invention and had suspicions that much like Fanta, it found its origins in Nazi Germany.  They tried, unsuccessfully to recruit me into their death cult, and ride this contraption.  I waited outside.  And I waited.  And I waited more.  I saw group after group take the ride, and group after group emerge.  I did not, however, see my friends emerge.  There was no blood evident at the scene so I came to another conclusion.  The proper conclusion.

I had been ditched!  And I was out of money!  With three hours left to kill!  And possibly three people, I wasn’t really sure, but I was pissed off!  I walked sheepishly around this foreign amusement park, statues of superheroes regarded me with disdain.  I asked anyone that I recognized whether they’d seen my cohorts.  Some of them had, and would point me in a direction where I would inevitably find nothing.  Time passed.

My anger turned to regret.  I suddenly thought there wasn’t anything to conquer here, no metaphorical mountain, no mental barriers to be shattered.  I felt like an idiot.  Then I came upon a couple of girls from our choral group.  They recognized me and allowed me to travel along with them.  I regaled them with stories not unlike this one, and they enjoyed them.  Suddenly my regret wasn’t as profound.  I was performing, as it were.  Acting the part of a contented youth.  I was far from it, but for a while it didn’t seem that out of reach.

Luckily as they had no interest in roller coasters or Nazi death machines, we were able to walk around in peace and do, well, not much of anything.  Just enough to pass the time.  Mostly I told stories and they’d listen, interject.  I figured out I was pretty good at this whole storytelling thing.  I had fun.  I was lonely, too.  Of course as every young man of 15 who’s never had any sort of romantic connection with their preferred partner will tell you, its a really shitty feeling.  There are worse, I’d learn, but again, that’s a story for another day.

The hour of the assembly came.  We made our way to the picnic area where the array of competing choirs would soon arrange for the ceremony.  There was food, thankfully.  Less thankfully the food was terrible, hot dogs and baked beans, possibly two of my least-favorite dishes in all of existence.  The lack of watermelon soda was noticeable, as it would be at every single meal to follow.  My god that shit was good.

The treacherous Colin returned with Tony and Cousin It, apologizing for missing me.  I could tell Colin was bullshitting me.  It was the end of my friendship with him.  Tony apologized, Tony’s a good man.  Tony’s good people.  I talked with a number of people.  Casually, to one I mentioned my loneliness as they prattled on about their girlfriend or whoever it was.  No good advice was given.  No good advice really can be given, the whole idea is so foreign that you’ll never really get it until you get it by nature.  I ate the cheap, crappy food and awaited the ceremony.

We won a couple awards.  Our women’s choir won top prize in their category, the men’s choir came in third.  The mixed chorus was also third.  I had no personal stake in it anyway, and was honestly glad to see it over.  It meant I had only one last trial to endure.  The journey home.  I made sure to get my medication this time.  One night of neurotic hell was more than enough for me to learn that lesson.

We had to walk an unreasonably long distance to get to our buses, buses that decided to park about a mile and a half away, at the farthest reaches of the farthest possible parking lot, which stood at the farthest end of the park.  Climbing over the fence in the picnic area would have been a quicker journey.

Still, I was oddly contented.  Maybe I knew what would happen next.  Maybe I was just too tired to feel like crap.  In any case we boarded the bus and another movie I hate started to play, this time it was “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.  Luckily for me, the pretty young lady in the seat next to me who I’d been flirting with was not much of a fan either, and we proceeded to ruin the film for the objects of our mutual antipathy, Colin and his squeeze in the seats behind us.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 style.

After the movie ended, mercifully, they’d run out of drivel to show us, so it was lights out.  Then something kind of spectacular happened.  I sheepishly turned to the girl next to me, said “goodnight” and put my head against the window and the small pillow I’d brought with me.  It was hard to sleep, the rumbling of the engine pulsed through my skull like a jackhammer, still, not to mention the noise.  All of a sudden I heard her whisper to me.

“Hey, do you mind if I lean on you to get some sleep?”

“No!  No of course not…”

And so she did.  Not five minutes after that I felt a small kiss on my cheek.  She wrapped her arms around me and went to sleep.  And so did I.  We stayed that way the entire night.  And suddenly all that doubt, all that pessimism and loneliness and fear just drifted off.  I’d won.  The mountain was climbed, the barrier broken.

It was the best night’s sleep I ever had.

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