The Wheel

Come in, he said. Just a dollar for a ride, twice around.

She didn’t have the dollar to spare, but she handed it over anyway. This ride was all that mattered. After it, well, she would figure that out then.

The Wheel was enormous, climbing the rungs of an inky sky, leaning against its heavy veil of darkness with the trust of a baby. It lay there, still, suspended in time, beckoning her to come. Be a part of my journey through this night.

He owned it and operated it. It, The Wheel, was in fact his life. His acquaintances, his friends, his families, all contained in a mass of steel and brass and glass. Come in, he said. Just a dollar for a ride, twice around. The words beat through his body along with his heart, routine, certain, never varied.

She climbed into the car, lifting her skirt carefully, its deep plum playing royally against the brass grates that barred the rest of the world from entrance to her little compartment. Settling into the leather cushion, she held on, and almost immediately, The Wheel jolted into motion and began to gently ascend.

Slowly, the heat of the pier gave way to the whims of the night. Cool salt air blew in towards her, gently at first and then with a certain firmness, its moisture pushing against her carefully layered clothes and her neatly arranged hair. It mingled with the world she had just left on the ground, the smells of sugar and popcorn blending with the ocean to create a scent entirely its own, the sounds of barkers and musicians fading to the background of the waves.

Leaning back against the bars, she breathed in deeply, thirstily, of the night.

She had been sick. In all the ways girls usually are. Sick of being told what to do, sick of others, sick of herself, love sick, heart sick. She had even felt a kind of motion sickness that only a girl from a tiny town can understand, that comes from watching the world whizz by in a blur. That was why she had left. No suitcase, no real plan, and very little money. She had to leave, and now, now that she was gone, she could begin to heal.

She was at the top now. This was the place she had wanted to be, the place that called her when she spotted the white lights of The Wheel far off in the distance. Like a siren song, it had lured her near, and all she had been able to think of had been this very moment, when she was on top of the world, alone in her car, separated from everyone and everything else.

The little postcard was tucked into a pocket in her skirt. She pulled it out now and looked at it, ran a thumb over it with reluctant fondness. A tear escaped before she could demand that it show some restraint, and it fell right onto the middle of the paper, distorting the image ever so slightly. It was all distorted though, wasn’t it? Everything that one picture was just an illusion. Something that didn’t really exist. And so it had to go. If she were to move on, it had to go.

There was room for her small hand between the brass bars, and she slid one out now. The card whipped in the wind, fighting her fingers, straining to ride the currents of the night. She hesitated, then she gave way to it. When it was free from her grasp, the card seemed to stand still for a second and then it floundered and fluttered its way away from her, white and stark against the darkness. It hit against the supports of The Wheel, then bounced back into the open air, then back into the spokes until she lost sight of it.

So it was gone. The last piece of a time and place that had owned her since the day she was born. She was free. Of the town that had known everything, of the trees that listened, the roads that recorded your every step, of the houses that swallowed you as a child and spit you back out a woman. It was all behind her now.

The Wheel completed its turn, and then went upwards again, slowly, giving her time and room for her thoughts. At the bottom of the second turn, she let herself off.

He was gone. The man who had told her to come in, just a dollar for a ride, twice around. She walked past the spot where he had stood and did not hesitate. Off into the night, until The Wheel was a dot on the horizon and then finally, until it disappeared completely.