Wednesday, September 19, 2012
~Rollercoaster Hill~ Laurel ave
English 101 Section: SA
It was 1975 on an avenue the kids proudly referred to as “Rollercoaster Hill” where Tara would face her fears and attempt the impossible. Laurel Avenue was the streets true name, but the name did not suit the streets mountainous structure of highs and lows.
The kids were Tara, Laura, Laura’s brother, Daryl, and Jamie. Tara was 8 years old with an uncontrollable fuzz of blonde hair and had exactly 29 freckles peppering her nose and upper cheeks. She grew a new freckle for every one of her father’s birthdays. “Freckle Face Strawberry” her dad would affectionately call her. Laura was 9 years old as well, with a flock of soft, burning red hair and a face so covered with freckles; one could barely make out the ivory white skin between the red dots. Laura’s brother Daryl was 15. He looked almost identical to Laura, but awkwardly taller, with his hair cut just above his ears; he looked a bit like marionette dangling from the sky with invisible strings holding him up. Then there was Jamie, shiny blonde hair, flawlessly smooth tan skin, and Laura’s best friend.
Tara and Jamie did not talk much, except for Jamie’s occasional teasing at Tara’s expense. Jamie and Laura spent most of their time together. Tara kept to herself mostly and was ignored almost completely by the two girls when they were at school. Sometimes they would appear to nod their heads her way, but Tara was not sure if that was acknowledgement or just a coincidence, or even possibly them acknowledging someone behind her, she could only hope. It was only on Laurel Avenue, “Rollercoaster Hill”, where Tara was allowed to participate in their activities and be a part of their group.
On most Saturday mornings in Monterey, California, the air felt cold and damp. The sun would not shine through the fog for hours. Today was no exception. The cold wet dew glistening on Tara’s bicycle bit her fingertips as she gripped the handlebars. “This will be the day I do it”, Tara thought to herself, with great anticipation. “I will ride the monster, TODAY!” she said in a low, but strong voice. No one was around except for the newspaper girl who was walking while methodically pulling out one newspaper at a time from the canvas sack hanging from her neck, then tossing them onto neighbor’s lawns and front steps. She did not appear to notice Tara talking to herself; then again, she did not appear to notice Tara at all.
The tomboyish Tara turned her bike to face “Rollercoaster Hill”. She felt so very small looking up from the bottom of the hill. Every other attempt to ride the hill the way the other kids would ride it, had always been a complete failure. She would get to the top of the hill, begin to go down, riding her brakes the entire way, never getting up the courage to lift her feet to the handlebars and let the bike “free ride” down the monstrous hill.
Today would be different. Today she will earn the kids respect. Today they will accept her into their group and acknowledge her existence, in school on Monday.
Tara started pushing her bike up the hill, pumping icy air into her lungs. She could not have possibly rode the bike up that hill, though she had tried before, standing up on the bike, attempting to pump the peddles, but could never get the wheels to turn even once, so pushing it up the hill on foot was the only way to get it up there. When she reached the top, she gasped for air, she felt a sharp pain shooting through the top of her chest, “That’s a mother of a hill”, she thought to herself.
She stood at the side of her bike for what would seem like an eternity, looking nervously down from the top of the steep hill. It was amazing that no cars had driven on the street that entire morning, almost as if it were meant to be, the gods were speaking, Tara will ride Rollercoaster Hill and we, the gods, will make sure that no cars squash her during her daring attempt to change the rest of her life.
“Ah Crud, I can’t do it!” she said, in a low voice, through gritted teeth. She pushed the bike to the sidewalk, laid it down, plopped to the cold damp pavement and moaned quietly under her breath. “I just need a moment”, she thought. She rose to her feet, picked up the bike, marched it back into position, hopped on and started going down. Without a second thought, icy wind whipping through her ears, piercing like needles, waking every available nerve, she lifted her feet, the bike wobbled a bit, but she regained balance, the peddles would spin wildly on their own as if being driven by some uncontrollable force, her feet pressed firmly against the now dry handlebars. “I’m doing it!” she squealed joyously in her mind, but could not get the words out of her mouth, for her lips were gripped together with excitement and fear. Before she could even finish and get the scream of complete pleasure out of her mouth, it was over. Her legs and feet came down from the handle bars and she skid the rear tire to the side like a pro, bringing the bike to a perfect stop.
Panting with excitement, her cheeks red and glowing with pride, she could barely contain herself, she wanted to yell to the world “I Did It!”, but half the world was still sleeping. Then reality hit her like a blow to the head. “Ah Crud!” she thought disappointedly. She was so caught up in the fact that she finally rode “Rollercoaster Hill” the way the other kids did, that she’d just then realized that no one had seen her do it, not even the papergirl, who was long gone by now.
She pushed her bike to the sidewalk and let it drop with a “clunk” and plopped herself down on the chilly pavement. Picking a stone out of the front tires crevice, she Gazed up to the top of the hill she had just conquered, she flicked the small stone into the middle of the street and sat in a meditative state for a short while, her mind buzzing, her heart pounding, soaking up her moment of glory.
The kids would not believe what she had just accomplished, if she tried to tell them “they would just laugh”, she thought. “I could ride it again with them watching, but I don’t think I could handle the teasing, if I blew it” she thought hopelessly to herself.
Tara finally got up after sitting for a short spell, hopped on her bike and rode home. Mrs. Brewer, Tara’s foster mom, Laura and Daryl’s real mom, had pancakes, hot maple syrup, and cold milk set at the breakfast table. Jamie was in Tara’s spot at the table. Jamie joined the Brewer’s for breakfast religiously, every Saturday morning. “Ya snoooze, ya loooze” said Jamie tauntingly. “I wasn’t snoozing, I was out riding my bike” Tara said with a hint of pride in her voice. “Where did you go” Mrs. Brewer asked Tara, in a sweet motherly voice. “Oh, I just followed the newspaper girl around; I wonder if she knew I was watching her?” Tara lied.
Tara was ok with the other kids not knowing that she’d finally conquered “Rollercoaster Hill”. She knew that she “did it” and that satisfied her for now.
The day finally came where she did ride the hill in front of the other kids, but half way down the hill, the bike began to wobble and she could not regain balance, then the bike barreled, full force, into the curb, the bike bounced off the curb and flew into the air and when it came down, one of the handle bars buried itself under one of her ribs. The pain was excruciating. Surprisingly the kids did not laugh. Daryl ran to her side. “Good try tiger” he said, helping her to her feet. “Are you ok?” asked Laura, assisting Daryl in scooping her up from the ground. Jamie even said something that Tara could barely hear, but sounded like concern. She didn’t need to go to the hospital, but there was a dull throbbing pain under her rib and she felt nauseous.
A week or so went by and the big bruise under Tara’s rib was yellowing and not hurting so much anymore. Tara bravely rode the hill again and came to the same perfect stop as she did on that frosty morning when no one saw, but this time the kids did see. “Right on!” she heard one of the kids yell out, but that was it. They didn’t cheer and roar as Tara had hoped for and the girls still ignored her when they passed her by at school. Nothing had really changed.
The hill that had haunted her for so long was now conquered and the other kids saw her conquer it. They saw her with her feet up on the handle bars flying all the way down to the bottom of “Rollercoaster Hill” without “eating the curb” and for that moment, she felt accepted, part of the group, one of the “Gals”. Tara felt like she could do anything.
Most every Saturday morning after that day, Tara woke up early, got on her bike, and rode that hill like a champ. She did not need an audience anymore; she just enjoyed the sheer excitement of blazing down that hill with the cold wind slapping her face and numbing her nose.
(updated ~9/9/2012 LGN)