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As I gazed up at the massive structure, my clammy palms clenched into fists, my teeth began to chatter and I distinctly felt the cold hands of terror seizing my heart despite the steaming hot temperature of the amusement park. As the seemingly endless train roared past overhead, I shivered, and weirdly enough, began to anticipate this ride as well.
“Dad! Can I ride that? Please? Pretty please with a cherry on the top?” This is my sister, disturbing dad to the extent where he forces me, an extremely unwilling 13-year-old, onto one of the most frightening roller coasters in Korea: the T-Express.
At last, I ended up joining my exuberant sister in, to my relief, incredibly lengthy line of people, my mind overflowing with potential unfortunate incidents during the course of the ride.The somewhat crude queue indicators only added nervousness, as they provided additional things to beware of regarding health and safety rules. “This thrilling ride of maximum speed of 177 kilometers per hour may be dangerous, possibly lethal to people who have the following symptoms: heart disease, high blood pressure, or any other illness that may be aggravated by high-speed,” I read to myself. Along the vine canopies obscuring our vision of the clear sky, warnings and caution signs were plastered, further increasing the tension. Inch by inch, we wormed closer to the entrance.
As if it rose out the ground, the platform of the roller coaster emerged in front of us. As much as the exterior structure seemed intimidating, the actual platform was quite narrow and modest, only enough to hold about two cars or so. That irony made me giggle, yet when I looked onward, onto the steep rise heading to the almost vertical plummet from the summit, gaining velocity, any sign of giddiness vanished.
A thunderous click rang in our ears as the safety bar descended upon us and locked us in the car, unable to escape the monster any more. As we ascended high, high above any other structure in sight, something welled up from my heart; it was pure joy. With my heart beating as fast as it possibly could, as the car crept up the wooden structure with both threatening speed and agonizing slowness, I realized why people challenge themselves by first, creating, then second, riding these exhilarating rides. That delight in my heart was not something we, humans, experience every day. Rather, our lives are so full of dullness and steady routine that we are oblivious to what childish glee feels like, sounds like, looks like, and tastes like. Even in my age of thirteen, we were so consumed by pressure from our parents, peers and most of all, society that even in this early age, we had already become insensitive to the greatest happiness of the world. The adults, surely more sick of this than we were, would have thought to create a venue for the men and women, and the young and the old to capture and revisit their childhood memories, like fairy tales and colorful parades to experience once again what they might have lost over the years.
My ecstatic moment of realization was broken by a smooth tilting sensation as the ascent was complete and the little car was ready to begin its violent journey down and along the wooden tracks. There it was, the feeling I had dreaded all along. All of my innards had been left up high, where the incline began, and the pressure of the wind against my face was enough to make my whole head vibrate. My knuckles shone white, for I had been clutching the front bar because if I let go, I would spring off the car and go flying into the open sky. One part of me craved more and wished this sensation would last forever; another part of me just wanted to die. For a second, I thought I was going to heave onto the back of someone’s head in front of me, and suddenly, wham! and I was flopping through a world full of screeching squeal of metal wheels on track, brilliant blue sky, and nearly deafening blasts of air, my voice too weak even to scream the cries of joy and terror.
Too soon, we lurched to a slow chop-chop-chop of the gears as we rolled into the boarding station. Woozy, my sister and I retrieved our glasses and bags to head out to the exit. I asked my sister, “Do you want to ride it again?” Although her face was white with shock and she replied no, her large eyes sparkled with intense energy and once again, I was able to prove the irony between the terror and delight of amusement rides on my sister.