As soon as I got on the bus the feeling like I was going to disappear hit me, like when we went to grandma’s house but a thousand times worse. The one thing that kept me from floating away was sitting beside JD. But it was hard to sit still and think of things to talk about. A million bits of static were eating away at the nerve endings in my butt and I guess I was pretty nervous to impress JD. JD told me his trip to DisneyLand. I had never been to Disneyland. My family didn’t travel any farther than Mosquito Lake. My parents’ believed they were poor despite father’s big job. I told JD how much I liked Baby Huey’s new album. JD said I only liked Baby Huey because he and Beagle did. He mocked my cheap Walkman knockoff, proudly displaying the real thing. He said he heard musical dimensions I couldn’t dream of. There was no substitute for brand name fidelity. The song in my headphones, which was so clear and true a moment before, suddenly sounded shrill and dirty.
Half the day went by and we still weren’t close to being there. The bus passed a couple of large domed structures. I thought of my dome house back in Southern Oh. The bus driver spoke into the intercom. “To your right you will see the twin domed structures of the Dolly Parton Museum, home of Dolly’s impressive collection of rhinestone studded braziers.” Everyone laughed, even Mrs Skunk, whose breasts rivaled Dolly’s. I wondered what it would be like to have breasts someday. My chest was as flat as an ironing board. Adkins had skipped training bras and went straight to a b cup. I didn’t understand why all the boys thought she was sexy. All she did was talk talk talk.
Finally we arrived at the famous waterfall. Kids said daredevils went over the falls in barrels and walked on tightropes across the edge. Girls were excited people got married there. I couldn’t see how getting married next to a chasm of plunging water boded well for a relationship. I told JD my parents were married here in a barrel, but he didn't believe me. Boats down in the basin half-obscured by mist. Why didn’t the falling water capsize them? We walked out to the viewing platform. The water roaring past inches beyond the shaky rusted guardrail. It was like standing next to the Almighty taking a wizz. I was terrified by the power of the water. I never knew something could be so strong. I imagined falling over the rail. How fast the current would sweep me away. How impossible it would be to resist. How far I’d drop to the bottom before being smashed on rocks, drowned, and swept out to sea. How big a fuss the school would make over my death. How traumatized kids would be. How long it would take for them to forget I ever existed. All that energy and all the water did was let go and fall.
The big city grew on the horizon. So many buildings! We drove right up to the tallest, the Space Needle. We craned our necks up to the top. The needle seemed to sway back and forth against the clouds. The elevator man assured us the motion was an illusion. The elevator blasted off like a space shuttle. My guts dropped into my shoes as we soared up, up, and away. I tiptoed out onto the glass observation deck. The transparent floor made you feel like you were floating in the sky. Herman got down on all fours and pressed his face into the glass. A guard warned him not to do it. I hoped Herman would pull out a machine gun and kill everyone. But his legendary volatility was nowhere to be seen. He skulked off toward the window, which joined the floor at an angle so you could lean over and look down. Three thousand feet below, people were ants, cars were matchbox cars. We pretended we were giant radioactive monsters stomping them. I thought of walking on the clear surface of an ice moon over a city submerged in a subterranean sea. If only I could get down there to discover the alien lifeforms.
We stopped for lunch at a supersized McDonald’s. The place was jam-packed with teenagers with spiky hair dyed neon colors, safety pins stuck through cheek and brow, tight leather skirts and jackets. I had no idea what any of it meant, but I knew it was super cool, and that as soon as we got back home I was changing my style. A sense of menace hung in the greasy salty air. On our way out a guy with a blue mohawk called Beagle ‘Baby Cakes’. It was hilarious.
We got to the museum. Neato science stuff just like you’d expect. Talking back and forth across the room between two huge cones. A silver ball that made your hair stand up. Fun facts you didn’t know about water. The most abundant element in the universe. I lingered too long reading about H2O and lost track of my class. Alone in a strange huge institution. I searched for my friends. But the thousands of kids all started looking the same. The museum was packed with a million kids with the same clothes, backpacks, haircuts. I realized we all looked the same because we were the same. We had all come out of wombs and watched the same television shows and played with the same toys. We wandered around the great halls full of exhibits detailing the history of science, all of humanity’s progress up to that moment. I found the kiosk on high energy particle physics. My glasses started going funny. Swirling mist filled with vibrating geometry swam before my eyes. A buzzing in my ears slowly built to a roar like the rushing sound at the edge of the big waterfall. I found a gift shop and looked at postcards to help me focus. There’s the water famous for falling, the Space Needle, and the city glowing like the stars at night. But the pretty pictures weren’t enough to anchor me. I was going to float off. Out of a cloud of fluorescent light an angel dressed in a white robe appeared. The sweet voice said I needed to remember who I was or I would be lost forever. The problem was I didn’t know who I was. Was I a boy or a girl? A cool kid or one of the lame-o’s. All I could think of was my stupid cheap ass imitation Walkman. Why did anyone care whether you had a real Walkman or not? Why was one thing more real than another? The angel let me work it out. I don’t remember how I got back. But I did.
The buses pulled into the school yard. When I stepped off I felt like an astronaut landing on earth. Every kid had a bottle of bubble soap from the science museum gift bag. The teachers had forbidden us from blowing our bubbles until we got home. But I was so happy I couldn’t help myself. I pulled out my bubble wand and started blowing bubbles. My giddy defiance must have been contagious. Everyone else started blowing bubbles too. The teachers yelled a few times but no one was listening. We’d never seen so many bubbles. They filled the sky above the school. Fragile hollow perfect globes lighter than air. Reflecting everything. Nothing themselves. Soon they were gone.
About the Author
J Pascutazz has lived in many times and places. Current native of Earth, America, Brooklyn. Caretaker of a human child. Vessel for the muses. Published by Right Hand Pointing, Dime Show Review, Poets Reading the News, and forthcoming in Echo: A Journal of Creative Nonfiction.