My parents took me to the Smoky Mountains when I was 9 years old. I remember getting out of the car and tipping my head back so far to look at the looming pyramids that I could feel the pockets of skin wrinkle on the back of my neck. Our cabin was dark and dusty and nestled at the foot of the mountains. Through our red fabric window-coverings we could see the small town laid out before us.
Of particular interest to me was the water slide located directly behind our little cabin. It was summer and the water slide was the only thing that seemed like fun in a little village such as this one. This slide was not your ordinary slide. It started at the top of one of the mountains and ended in a pool of chlorine close to the back door of our cabin.
As soon as my dad said I could go on ahead while he paid, I was out the door. I could hear the water rushing down the mountain and the voices of children and adults alike whooshed past me and ended with a splash. I watched excitedly as I climbed the steps to the top.
I looked down from the peak at the winding groove of concrete I was to descend upon. I was then handed a blue piece of spongy material, told to lie on my stomach and hold on. I did.
The first blast of water hit me from behind so hard it forced a scream from my throat and my sponge and me down the mountain. I was surprised when I came to a complete stop at the top third of my ride. Confused, I was suddenly and even more forcefully hit with a second burst of water that pushed me further down the slide. Unfortunately my sponge was taken out from under me and travelled solo all the way down to my waiting parents.
The third blast rocketed me on my bare hipbones toward the same destination as my formerly partnered sponge. The pain of my bones on rocky concrete sent chilling screams from my mouth to my parents ears. My toes, unprotected by shoes, bore down on the concrete in a futile attempt to brake my ever-increasing speed down the mountain. I could see my parents running to meet me where my horrific ride would end, terror written on their faces.
I hit the pool with a titanic force but it was like being baptized. Under the water, despite the sting of chemicals in my wounds, I had been cleansed, enlightened and there was no more horror, if only for a minute. I breathed out from my core into the thick, syrupy water all my pain and hung in mid-air until my lungs ached for oxygen.
When I emerged, I stood crying in the chest-deep water before my parents, my blue sponge floating peacefully next to me. I got out of the pool and saw the faces staring at my body. Two protruding, milky bones lay atop the bottom of my bikini while streaks of blood made their way down my legs to mingle with the blood spilling from the knuckles in my toes.
I had made my way down my first adult water slide and my dad said, “I ran as fast as I could and your mother still got to you before I did”. My eyes had been opened.
by Amy Irons, IUSB