Exerpt from Double Out and Back
Chandy shouted intermittently as her view changed from straight up at the sky to diving toward earth. The disc rotated enough to keep vistas constantly changing. She experienced a unique hang time as the giant disk reached the pinnacle. Here, she floated in suspended animation and looked out over the park. She viewed the other amusements around her from an exceptional perspective – nearly wrong-side-up. As the ride maintained its spin, she was plucked from the sky. As she plummeted back to the earth, her stomach dropped.
She didn’t reach the same type of meditative, blank slate as she commonly did on a good coaster. But her mind opened in an unusual fashion. Strange images of South Africa appeared. When she aimed toward the sky, likenesses of Bubba and Zayda were superimposed on the clouds above. Each time she plummeted toward the ground below, more illusions – Mama…Papa. With each swing of this enormous pendulum on which she rode, another memory shook from her brain. Her subconscious revealed vivid pictures of her street in Cape Town, before it had been bulldozed – her beautifully diverse neighborhood with the Portuguese butcher on the corner and the dress shop run by the Zulu woman who lived upstairs from her and George’s Pharmacy next to that.
Her sons’ squeals of delight faded to distant reverberations behind the scenes created in her mind. She spun and saw old Mr. Phillips making his way down the cobblestone roads at dusk illuminating the street lamps with a torch. She swung and saw the alleyway that led to the fishmonger where Mama used to purchase Cape Salmon to make lox. And then, during one momentous instant of hang time at the apex, she saw him – Diogo, in all his glory. He appeared nude and glistening, his glossy hair plaited in hundreds of tiny short braids. His amber eyes matched his skin, giving his visage a soothing monochromatic hue. As she descended, the mirage of Diogo disappeared. Chandy wanted to scream, but her dry, swollen tongue prevented it. She heard nothing but a pulsing throb in her ears.
As she swung for two more minutes, she tried to no avail to conjure his likeness again. Lucas and Brian’s cheers returned, loud and clear. Then the ride’s cycle began its deceleration, with the arc of the ride gradually decreasing. After a few placid shifts backward and forward, the arm ceased its motion, and they returned to the starting position. A hiss of air sounded to match the one at the beginning of their ride, and the floor returned to its proper place under her feet. The restraints released and she left the ride, oblivious to the joyous laughter of Lucas and Brian.
Since Chandy had left her old life in South Africa, built a new one in the United States, and married Thomas, she had scarcely given Diogo a conscious thought. She had buried him deep in her psyche. But now, after so many years, for reasons she didn’t understand, the memory of him surfaced. It haunted her like a poltergeist at the oddest of moments.
“Hey, Mom, are you all right? You look a little green,” Brian put his arm around his mother.
“What? I’m fine. I’ll just sit here for a minute. I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure? Brian’s right. You look a little sick,” Lucas agreed.
“Why don’t you two go on another ride? Meet me back here. I’ll be fine,” Chandy said.
The boys ran off. “We’ll be back in about twenty minutes!” Lucas shouted back to his mother.
She sat on the bench, dredging up long-buried memories. Diogo joined her in so many of her firsts. She expected they had even shared their first steps, first words. He had been with her in her father’s automobile the first time she drove a car. He had been with her the first time she rode a roller coaster. He held the spots of her first kiss, first love, and her first sexual partner. Her love. Her Diogo. But, the most difficult first of all – when she was only twenty years old, he was the first person she truly loved who was lost to her.