The Eastern Carousel
Near the end of the Island there stands an old carousel equipped with exuberantly lifeless horses, mockingly stationary lion benches, and an ever-spinning platform. The attendant begins the ride and the platform picks up speed, the music plays in minor key, and the animals guide the riders through a continuous wave-like motion. They revolve around a scene of hand painted mirrors that show them who they’re meant to be until finally the ride slowly comes to a complete stop. For one odd moment the world is motionless, and time does not exist. ~ After browsing through a few charming antique shops we finally reached the park at the edge of town. There were tons of people gathered by the bay for water taxi tours, and I could hear actors screaming Shakespeare lines over a rowdy crowd of summer tourists. An actor falls over the stage in her period clothing, and the audience members gasp not knowing whether or not the action is scripted. I scan the scene with my Nikon held up to my right eye, and snap away pictures of cruiser bicycles lined up along the dock until a sudden noise captures my attention. It was then I knew that my sudden impulse to drive out to the North Fork was not accidental. Who drives an hour in Long Island summer traffic for a rocky beach and overpriced ice-cream cones when they live only a mile away from the South Shore? There was something greater pulling me towards this foreign yet strangely familiar place. There was something trying to lure me in like the candy man in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the child within me was terribly curious. I took one timid step closer to the carousel. Then another. Finally, I stopped my body a few feet away from the gate. My eyes fixed on the moving platform, and I surrendered to a strange hypnosis. It is a gray day, and it feels like we’ve been driving forever. I don’t understand why mom thought a ride out east would be fun. My eyes are tired from watching the world move outside the car window, and we’ve already went through 2 cassettes of music. I keep asking if we’re there yet, but I think she’s starting to get annoyed with me. I guess I’ll just hum quietly and wait. The car stops in a nearly empty parking lot. Mom puts the car in park, and turns around to look at me in the backseat. “We’re here!” “Finally.” I try to open up the car door but the child lock keeps me from racing out. I anxiously wait for my mom to open the door. I step outside, and instantly feel the fog crimp my hair. ‘This… is it?” “Yes. Somewhere behind all this fog there’s a carousel. Would you like ride it?” I shake my head eagerly. Mom reaches for my hand, and together we walk towards the carousel hidden behind low clouds. At the very last moment the fog disappears. The ride is revealed in all its rust and faded colors. Mom pulls out her wallet to buy a ticket for the ride as I eye the golden brown horse with the lavender saddle. After the young man hands her back the change, my mom gives me my ticket. I look up at her. “Aren’t you going to ride too?” “Oh, no. Those rides give me motion sickness. You’re gonna have to go on without me.” I hesitate for a moment, but then step forward to a line of excited children waiting for the next ride. I can overhear a few of them talking about which horse they like the most. The ride attendant opens up the gate, and begins to let riders onto the platform. Two by two they file in, and choose a horse to sit upon. By the time I reach the ride the golden brown horse has already been taken. I settle for a white horse with a pink saddle instead. I try to adjust the seatbelt, but it still feels extremely loose. Before I am able to ask for assistance I hear the attendant yell, “And they’re off!”— the way they do at the races. I grip tightly onto the golden pole, and move my body to the motion of the ride. Suddenly, the ride starts to pick up speed. The music plays louder and louder. I can see my reflection hop from one mirror to the next in less than a moment’s time. I am alone. I am alone on the eastern carousel. I am terrified yet oddly intrigued. My pulse starts to race, and I become enthralled by the feelings of fear and wonder—the feelings that come with youth and age. The platform begins to slow down, and gradually comes to a stop. I watch as groups of children race to line up for the next ride where the attendant greets them with a half smirk. Somehow I think he knows that they will never be the same after that ride. Somehow I think he knows that it will haunt their dreams until the day the platform stops for good. My mother finally catches up and stands between me and the ride. “Do you remember this place?” she asks. “No, I don’t think I do.” I answer her as I walk away from the old carousel. I listen as the cheering of young children simmers down to a whisper behind me. THE END.