Slide | Teen Ink


April 25, 2010
By Zach Whiteley GOLD, Jacksonville, Florida
Zach Whiteley GOLD, Jacksonville, Florida
15 articles 0 photos 1 comment

I’m four again, and I’m staring down the belly of this glowing red slide. This slide, it’s one of those big ones that twist around and around like a DNA helix. And this big glowing demon of a slide, one that appears to have risen not from the playground but from hell itself is staring back at my four year old self with menacing glowing eyes. And suddenly, the shiny plastic the color of a sunburn begins to melt into a tongue. And the twisting tube that wraps around and around is the mouth of this menacing beast. And as I’m staring into this pit, this sanction into the terrifying breaches of hell’s gates, I hear the sounds. The sounds of creaking and lurching. Sounds beating, bleating one after the other, in such short succession in felt like a metronome. And every time this metronome, it sounded out, I felt the vibrations roll through the monster. And as I stared down, my hands fast clutched the bar above the beasts mouth, used generally for propulsion into the beast, for me, a safety rail, just in case that great monster’s tongue decided to lurch forward and grab me unawares. And so, that beast from hell, a red Cerberus guided upwards to the land of living from realms beyond my imagination, me and it, we had a Mexican standoff. I turn around slow-like, like a turtle coming out of it’s shell, only to see a line forming behind me, and why anyone would want to try to tame this hideous creature was beyond me. And their impatience as I tried to determine my stratagem grew. Couldn’t they see I was struggling with life and death? That this beast could very well swallow me whole and drag me down to the depths unto which it came? I turn back to this twisted ride, this slide, I so seem to stare far and widely into the beast’s blackest heart. And then I heard one final sound. A scream from inside the tunnel. A sharp piercing yelp, a terrified contusion of contorted caterwaul. And, rest assured, that was all it took. I wasn’t going down that slide. No way. I was glued like cement.

Fast-forward twelve years, and this guy I know is asking me if I want a hit. Maybe want to try a quick pinch. The old white stuff. He said it was Columbian. Who really knows? For all we knew both of us were looking down at a table with a gram of sugar, not the hard stuff. We were really too drunk to give a damn. So he sticks his nose up to the stuff, and he does his hit. And we’re drunk. Completely gone. And at this time, I’m putting my body in front of the “Columbian” cocaine, centering up, and the guy says to me, with his eyes all dilated, ,“Bet you never thought things would end up like this. It’s always so much different than we picture it as” And as he blows his nose a bit on his shirt, and stumbles backwards with a bottle in his hand, he asks, “What’d you want to be when you were a kid,”

And I say to him, I say “A policeman. I wanted to help people.” Then I asked him. And he said it didn’t matter. That all his dreams are gone. Slipped away from him, down and down.

He says to me “World’s so screwed up these days. Seems like everyone’s just sliding downhill,”

And suddenly I’m four years old again, and looking at a beast.

Rewind. I was terrified to go down. To tame this creature from the other side of the river of Styx. The kids behind me were screaming. So loud. So noisome, each in line behind were like firecrackers. I couldn’t concentrate. Even Napoleon couldn’t form a battle plan under this pressure. All these distractions. I turned back to the monster, and it appeared to be growling at me. It’s throat bellowing out intangible words for which I was too decipher., and unfortunately I could not. The kids began to push me, to shove me, telling me to go down the slide. And I couldn’t get myself to do it. My hands were locked in. Frozen, and how I begged them to thaw. I thought maybe if I just closed my eyes. Maybe it would all go back to normal. Back to the big red slide. The one that twisted around and was greased up, and slicked up. I had to do it. I had to go down. Otherwise all those kids behind me, they would make fun of me. Laugh behind my back, and point their finger. I had to just close my eyes.

Fast-Forward twelve years. That guy, the one I know, he’s asking if I’m going to do the hit. Says I’ve been standing in front of it blank-faced for a thirty seconds. I look down, and it’s so small. Big things come in small packages. It’s a leap though. A sure-fire stretch from anything I’ve ever done before. So I put my nose up to it, and I close my eyes. Hope it makes it less. Hope I can muster up the courage to be a man, a real man, in a “screwed” up world. And then I do my hit. Ecstasy. Dilate. High. Warm. Lost. Breathe. Relax. And I slide.

Rewind. All those kids behind me, all wanting to go down that Cerberus, that fiend from the Styx. And I’m not ready. I must be too small. Well, there’s always next time. So I slowly with some shame, walk away from the slide, climb down its high summit, and with kids pointing and laughing, walk away from that fiendish terror. I felt a little embarrassed , but I didn’t slide that day. And the relief that washed over my young body cannot be described. All because I didn’t slide.

Fast-forward. How things change. Well, I guess it is a “screwed” up world. Everyone slides eventually. I used to want to be a Police officer. And all my dreams are sliding, sliding, sliding, far away.

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