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Unteachable(2)
Author: Leah Raeder

He looked over suddenly and I whipped my head away. “What a view,” he said.

“Tell me about it,” I mumbled.

I could feel him smiling.

“Oh, shit,” someone said behind us.

And we dropped.

I’m not going to do the whole rollercoaster/falling in love metaphor. I didn’t fall in love with him up there. Maybe I fell in love with the idea of love, but I’m a teenage girl. This morning I fell in love with raspberry jam and a puppy in a tiny raincoat. I’m not exactly Earth’s top authority on the subject.

But when we crested the first peak and the world sprawled beneath us like a tangled-up string of Christmas lights and then we plunged toward it at lightspeed, the guy and I reached for each other’s hands spontaneously and simultaneously.

And I felt something I’ve never felt before.

You can call it love, or you can call it freefall. They’re pretty much the same thing.

When Deathsnake glided to a stop, we both looked like we’d stuck our fingers in electric sockets. Einstein hair, Steve Buscemi eyes. The guy had screamed more than I did. I mostly laughed, at his screaming, at my fear, and finally at how good it felt to be alive right then and there. Not once had I thought of George or my mother or my sad life.

The guy—who I mentally upgraded to The Guy, capital letters—offered me a hand out of the car. We still had shit-eating grins plastered on our faces.

“Thanks,” he said.

“For what?”

“Helping me lose my rollercoaster virginity.”

I don’t think he meant to flirt, but he blushed anyway. He looked at me a little closer.

This is the part where they realize you’re jailbait.

“How old are you?” he said, right on cue.

“Old enough.”

I love what that does to their faces. Old enough to…fill in the blank.

But The Guy only smiled. “I don’t want your parents to think I’m some creep.”

He could have said, I’m a teacher, and everything would have been different.

“I’m here by myself,” I said. “All that matters is whether I think you’re some creep.”

“Do you?”

“Let’s test that hypothesis.” And I headed for the exit.

I knew exactly what he was seeing from the rear view. The cutoff jean shorts, the creamy legs sleek and slender as a filly’s, the tight tee, the cascade of burnished chestnut hair. I was, perhaps, very slightly, flouncing. Normally I’m cool and collected. But I was giddy from the heights and this beautiful man paying attention to me. I still hadn’t really seen him head-on, so in my mind he became a pastiche of male models and movie stars.

“How do you feel about centrifugal force?” I said over my shoulder.

“Totally against it.”

“Great. Next up is the Gravitron.”

The line here was longer, and when he caught up we turned to each other, and I did a double-take.

There was the sensitive mouth I’d seen earlier, the lips that looked made for poetry and murmuring sweet French nothings in cologne commercials. Je te veux, mon chéri. But now there was a whole face to go with them, and that face—oh my god. You know when a swimmer gets out of a pool, and they’re radiant and flushed, mouth open a little, eyelashes dewy and sparkling, squinting like they’ve just come back from another world? He had that look, permanently. Like he wasn’t really from here. He was some beautiful thing coming up from a beautiful place, squinting amiably at our brightness and filth. I could give you the technical specs—cheekbones high and chiseled, straight patrician nose, tall forehead, boyishly handsome—but it was the expression that made him beautiful.

He’d said something to me and I was just gaping like an idiot. “What?”

That smile again. Like a flashbulb going off, freezing you in the moment.

“Did you know you can walk on the wall while it’s spinning?”

“Really?”

“It’s nuts. You’ll feel like a superhero. They won’t let you do it now, but if you hang around till closing and slip them some cash, they’ll look the other way.”

My eyes must have lit up at this. The Guy leaned in suddenly, tilting his face.

Heart attack.

But he just stared at my eyes, as if searching for a stray eyelash. A free wish.

“What are you doing?” I whispered, hoping I didn’t have beer breath.

“Green,” he said, and leaned back. “I wanted to know the color.”

“Why? So the police can identify my body later?”

Thankfully, he laughed. We handed over our tickets.

“Five bucks says you scream,” I said.

“Deal.”

They strapped us to the wall. Lights went off. Marquees blinked on. The giant steel saucer began to spin. They were really going for the UFO effect here.

“Someday they’ll make spaceships like this,” I said. “So the astronauts can walk around.”

“Like in 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

“What?”

“The movie. You’ve never seen it? It’s a classic.”

That was the first time I felt the difference in our ages.

“How old are you?” I said.

“Old enough,” he said, and we both laughed.

My bones stuck to the wall like magnets. I tried to raise my arm, but it weighed a hundred pounds. The boards we were strapped to raised off the floor, our shoes levitating. A girl near me giggled uncontrollably. The saucer was still accelerating, flattening my insides, making me feel both weightless and infinitely heavy. I tensed my legs and raised them straight out, sitting in midair. The Guy grinned at me. His gaze lingered on my legs, and the edges of his grin softened, and even though my stomach was a pancake, something in it fluttered. Little two-dimensional paper butterflies.

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