Last weekend I went to Six Flags for their Fright Fest event. I have a weird relationship with fear, in that I hate being scared but also I crave it? I guess the difference is, like, when I’m alone in my house and I hear a noise and don’t know what it is and I think it’s a murderer, that kind of fear I don’t like. But controlled fear? Yes, please. Make me scream. It helps that I’m naturally jumpy and jittery. If you’re too quiet and you walk up to my desk unexpectedly, I will jump very high. People have fun with this. It’s a riot.
I used to love roller coasters. I’d be first in line, I’d sit in the front, or the back because sometimes the back is even scarier. There’s this ride in Kennywood, the amusement park in Pittsburgh, called the Jack Rabbit. It’s an old wooden coaster and toward the end it skips the track. If you’re in the back, you fly. It’s terrifying. I loved it. There’s another ride there, one of the oldest in the country, another wooden coaster, called The Thunderbolt. I was SO EXCITED the first summer I was tall enough to ride it. Sometime during high school I went to Cedar Point where I rode my first stand-up coaster and the kind where you’re feet dangle. I rode them multiple times in one day.
And then I grew up. The longer I go without riding a roller coaster, the more terrifying they become. A few years ago, my friend Anna forced me to ride the Cyclone at Coney Island. I held the bar so tight that I aggravated my carpal tunnel and my fingers were numb for days. And because I didn’t want to be a loser, I went on rides last weekend. I strapped myself in, pulling the belt so tight that my hip hurt. I pulled the harness in until I could only take shallow breaths, but at least I wouldn’t move or fall out. I screamed a lot. I swore. But I did it. I only sat one out. Something about Superman. It was so high, guys. I looked at people going up the first hill and then I looked away and then I looked back and they were STILL going. They weren’t even close to the top. So I stayed where my feet were firmly planted on the ground. I faced my fear of roller coasters and I lived to tell the tale. That’s my favorite thing about being scared. Living through it.
Then came the haunted houses. For some reason when I’m scared, my instinct is to cover my head with my hands and crouch down in the fetal position. While walking. So I when through these haunted houses sort of hunched over with my hands in an awkward half-surrender, always ready to cover my head when the danger came. I jumped a lot. I screamed. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who left with a raspy voice that day. But I loved it. Because walking through I know that even if someone follows me, they will stop eventually. When they burst through a wall, I know they’re just going to go back into the wall. It’s scary, but it’s fine.
I guess the true lesson in all of this, is that you don’t want me on your zombie apocalypse team. I knew this, but now it is confirmed. I will not want to drive fast over rough roads and when faced with fear I will crouch into the fetal position with my hands over my head until the threat disappears. Which, in an apocalypse it never does. So that’s how I’ll die. Rolled up like an armadillo or a scared ‘possum. I absolutely will not face real fears. But the fake ones? Bring it on.