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2018-03-18 | Random | Circus

My son was at school. I had taken the day off from work. My wife was taking a vacation with her girlfriends, and I was left alone for the day. My day was wide open, no plans, nothing I had to do. I don’t remember ever just roaming without purpose like I used to. I used to bike all over our neighborhood, finding old buildings and abandoned washing machines. I remember Sunrise Adventure from when I was a child. It was my first memory, vague and quick, just my Mom leaning towards me to look at me, white light radiating out from in back of her in rays. I remember her hat, sunglasses and shorts. I rode my bike out to the park several times since then, but it had always been closed with steel cable draped across the edge of the parking lot. I decided to drive out and see if it was open, and it was.

The entry booth had a corrugated, rusty tin roof. The yellow paint flaked in blotchy strips, showing the grey, worn wood. On the front of the booth was a sign with freshly painted letters:

All rides will crash. Once you enter the park, you cannot leave.

“How much to enter the park?”

“It is paid forward.”

“Oh, cool. Who paid?”

“The people in front of you, of course.”

“How much does it normally cost?”

“The cost of entry.”

“I mean, how much do I pay to pay it forward to the next people.”

“Just enter the park. You read the sign?”

“Yes. I can’t leave?”

“Those are your rules, yes.”

“All rides will crash?”

“Don’t look at me like that, those are your rules, not mine.”

The absurdity of the rules made me chuckle, but I was also afraid, as though a friend was silently nodding with a grimace as I realized the full nature of a horrible truth.

“I don’t have those rules. I can leave anytime. This isn’t the Hotel California.” I smiled at my cleverness, but the man in the booth was not amused.

“Look, buster. You are here. You formed those rules over your life. You can’t just change them. You believe in those rules. Belief is law, real belief. You can’t just leave the park once you are aware of entering.”

“Aware? I drove here. I haven’t been here since I was a baby.”

“Look, mister, you have always been at the booth. Those are the rules. You can enter the park, now, or not, but your entire life until this point has been to find this booth again.”

I felt anxious, like there was a tugging at three corners of my face, but it was inside my chest. If I didn’t go into the park, my face would be pulled apart, like something out of Hellraiser. I saw another person arrive behind me, and they looked like they were impatient to get to the booth.

“OK. Give me a ticket, please.”

“There are no tickets. Hold out your hand, sir, palm down on the sill.”

I gave him my hand and he stamped a black rose on the back, rolling back and forth across my skin and tendons. He did it surprisingly tenderly, as though he was giving me a strong kiss.

“Remember, sir. All rides crash.”

“OK. Sure. Thanks”

I just wanted to go in. I adjusted my satchel so that it wasn’t bouncing on my belly, and headed through the gate.

hotel_california