Brother's Deathifying Stunt Ends Tragically (A True Story)
My girlfriend, Linda and I were standing in line of Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park, when a pale gaunt boy who looked no more than fifteen approached me from the side, lips moving. I had noticed him queuing in front of us, and, not until he began to stare at me intently with the glazed pupils that swung back and forth like rocking magnets did I realize something was wrong.
“What was that?” I asked, leaning forward to hear his murmur. His thin lips parted and airy draft of syllables floated away.
“What?” I repeated. A tumultuous shriek pierced the air—cries of lament and elated horror—as the tracks above us clattered perilously and shook as if they might fall off, and the crimson painted coaster whooshed in helix loop before veering off sharply to the left and disappearing into the sun drenched horizon. I asked “what?” one last time, and he spoke up a little louder and I finally understood what he was saying.
“Are you Korean?” he mumbled in Korean.
“Yeah, I am. Why?” I said, translating over to Korean.
“I’m Korean too.”
“Oh, okay.” I thought weird kid in the back of my mind. “That’s cool, I guess.” I said, feeling very awkward. A random Korean wanting my attention seemed strange—but, what was stranger still was his insistence to talk to me. Didn’t he have friends?
“Are you here alone? Are they your friends?” I asked, reverting back to English.
He glanced over at three Hispanics chitchatting I pointed at. He ignored them, (high-fiving and laughing together), and refused to respond.
“They’re not your friends?” I asked, again. “No? So you’re alone here?”
This time he nodded. His eyes kept doing that screwy back and forth weave as if hypnotized by a small cheese fly. I wanted to hold him by the shoulders and shake sense into him.
“Have you ridden this ride before?”
“What?” he said, faintly, and drew closer.
“Did you ride X2 before? Have you ridden this before?”
He dipped his head, up, down.
“You like it? Is it scary?” I asked, motioning him to catch up to the line that was moving forward. “It’s my first time riding it too.” And it was. The closer I got to the entryway of the rollercoaster, my knees wobbled, and my stomach twisted and knotted up like a million hatchlings of spiders scampering up my esophagus. I wiped my sweaty palms on the back of my jeans, and checked Linda’s cell phone to make sure it was still nestled snuggly in my back pocket.
No, his head shook. “It’s not scary.” For once he smiled, and spoke louder: “It’s fun.”
Easy for you to say, I thought, and bared my chest, just a little. “How many times did you ride it?”
“You rode this twenty four times?”
“This wasn’t called X2 before, just X.” He whispered. Everything he said was in the softest, most faint, murmur I had heard in my life. Paperless, dead weight exhalations that made me crane my neck to catch what he was saying.
“I see. What was it called?”
“Wait, you rode a ride called X? Where was this at?”
“Was this at a different theme park?” I asked, thinking I had misheard him. “I thought you said you rode X2, not X.”
My girlfriend leaned over and whispered: “Do you know him?”
“Nah, I just met him now. You said you were how old again? Fifteen?”
“Fourteen” he mumbled, slowly climbing up the stairwells headed towards our doom. I trailed behind, staying by Linda’s side, to keep her company.
“He’s what we call our dong-seng,” I remarked, and then, smiled. “And I’m your hyung right?”
The kid with the spindly face smiled. “Yes, Hyung…”
“Is he just going to be following us everywhere?” my girlfriend asked, prodding me in the ribs, pinching hard.
“Wait. Lemme hear what he’s saying.” I took another step up the stairs. “What’d you say dong-seng?”
“How old are you?” He murmured, and I could tell he was finding strength in his voice box. It was stronger, louder. And I could hear him well enough that I didn’t need to kiss his forehead like a father finishing up a Brother Grimm story after bed time.
“How old do I look?” I inquired, squinting in the dazzling sunlight jabbing my eyes.
“Twenty four.” He said.
“Wow. That’s very close, but I’m twenty-five.” And he had genuinely wowed me, since most people thought I was in my late teens. Many times ticket booth staffs would ask for my ID when I tried to get into a Rated R movies. “You did good, my man. Most people would trip on that.”
We were on the base landing of the second floor, and I spotted the coaster for the first time—a purple and black thing which got my heart racing and shots of adrenaline rushing through my veins in jangling buzzes.
Breathe in breath out, I thought, clenching and unclenching my fingers. Easy does it.
“The color used to be different.”
“What?” I asked, unable to hear because the throngs of people queuing got progressively louder. That always seemed to happen when the monster was fully exposed—and this was one hell of a monster.
“It used to be a red color,” said the scrawny boy. “I miss red and yellow.”
Does it matter if it’s red, purple, or yellow? We’re gonna die, man. We’re gonna dieee…
“Where’s your family? You have a mom?”
He nodded. And I felt stupid.
“Is she going to pick you up?”
He nodded again. And I hate to admit this, but I felt stupid even more.
“Ten pm,” he said at last.
“You do this a lot?”
“Yeah,” he said, touching something around his neck. It was a key chain necklace, nylon black, with Magic Mountain’s season pass attached to it—free for a whole year. I didn’t think of it anymore, until after the ride. “I rode this two times already.”
“So this is your third time today?”
He nodded an extreme excitement showing on his face. We moved closer. The agitation showed on mine as I pulled Linda close to me and whispered: “Let me ride with him.”
“What? Why?” she said, angrily.
“Just let me ride with him—just this once, babe.”
“Do you like him or something?”
“No, I don’t like him.” I said, face growing hot. “I just feel sorry for him and his situation. Will you stop that shit?”
“Fine, go ahead. See if I care.”
“One ride.” I promised, ready to break that promise if he wanted to hang with us.
“Don’t look at me like that. I told you, you can,” she snapped. “Go right ahead.”
So that’s what I did. I strapped myself in the seat next to him, and my girl, Linda, sat next to a complete stranger, which I regretted doing in hindsight because it looked like she was making a move on him, but I honestly didn’t care.
“You ready? Give me a high five,” I said, and we high-fived.
We rode that sucker. We rode it lying with our backs down and looking up at the sky. We couldn’t see squat in front of us; the seats were positioned in a way that made us looking in the opposite direction. My adopted brother was screaming, “YEA! YEAA!” pumping his dangling legs as if they were being tapped in the kneecaps. A light breeze ruffled my hair, and, when the clanking machine reached the top, I felt a momentary cessation of gravity, and the seats whipped around, suspending us straight down, and we flew like cataleptic sparrows. We screamed as we dropped. We bawled and shrieked like banshees as the coaster rocketed us diagonal, vertical, down, up, backwards, forwards, round and across, all the while, our seat rotating inversely and conversely, whipping my neck back at sixty five miles per hour. My ass lifted and slammed back down on the seats, as the brain in my cranium vibrated and jostled around like a magic 8 ball, damaging the myelin sheaths.
The ride came to a stop. “Goddamn, that was crazy.” I exhaled, slowly, shaking off the runny vomit that threatened to break the surface. “Ugh! My head hurts.” I noticed my dong-seng patting his shirt collar and checking his pockets. And then, he looked at me.
“Oh shit.” He said.
“My season pass, where is it?”
“Did you lose it?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
His hands scrabbled on his bare neck. “Oh shit.”
When we got off the ride, he kept asking me the same question, moving away and coming back to me: Hyung, have you seen my season pass? Hyung, have you seen my season pass??
Each time, I shook my head no. I knew if I embraced him, and told him it was all right, he’d burst out crying and run. And if I said nothing, he’d think I didn’t give a shit… so I said what any normal person would say.
“Man, you probably lost it. It must’ve flown off.”
He stared at me agape, expecting me to fix the jam he was in. I wanted to, I desperately wanted to, but the only thing I said was: So what are you going to do?
“Fill out a complaint form, talk to the security guard.”
And, as I saw him scurry away, I felt a pang of guilt and shame that I couldn’t do more. He was a severed branch headed toward a waterfall, falling and tumbling, being pulled in the current.
“Are you guys done talking? Can I get my phone now?” Linda asked me.
“Sure,” I said and dug in my pack pocket. I looked up at her, eyes wide. “Oh shit.”