The summer was waning. It was still hot as hell, but the nights had lost their edge. X and Y were in my past, and not just them. I crossed a lot of bridges that year and didn't leave them all intact. At the time, I didn't care. There seemed to be someone else waiting around every bend in the blacktop, and I had come to the point where I thought they'd always be there.
Something new was happening to me, though. After wandering around Six Flags for two seasons amidst a plethora of other mcjobs, I was beginning to feel old. And not just old, but that I was really playing when I should be working and something was slipping away because of it. I Looked around Fort Worth and saw nothing here I could make permanent, so, after talking to my oldest brother in San Diego on the phone, I decided to take a big plunge and move out there. I didn't have the money for that yet. Thus, another month of Six Flags.
Like the cool nights toward the end of summer in Texas, like the slow realization that high school is gone forever, there comes a time at the park when it's obvious the crowds are slacking off and won't return in force again before the next year. To most of the kids, it's a welcome change. More time to chat, less work to do. For me, it was the snooze on the alarm clock. Most of the employees would be going back to school after close of the season, some to college. I had no prospects but the growing dream of Socal, and I was getting restless.
Attrition had claimed most of the kids I'd met over the summer. The job was just not enough to pay for their auto insurance or DUIs, and hours were beginning to be cut back. To add emphasis, the park was nearing the end of the regular season, no longer to be open seven days a week. The guys in my area called the final Friday of the season "Last Day" after the Carousel ritual in Logan's Run. The symbolism wasn't lost on me. When the inevitable party flyers began showing up on the area's tackboard, I duly thanked Dionysus for being so prompt.
There will be no lengthy introduction of "Z" here, my lovers of love and fine chocolate. She was another foods girl, but from the opposite end of the park at a pavillion I'd only rarely visited while jumping areas. I had no expectations of the party I and my grubby friends had picked beyond alcohol and more alcohol. That I had chosen to take my own scooter meant that, at worst, I'd be sleeping off a hefty drunk in somebody's yard. As far as I knew, it would be nothing more than a keg full of escapism with the possibility of a few, precious hits on a soggy joint. But I got lost on the way, a habit I'd like to chalk up to the incomprehensible directions Southies invariably scrawled on the backs of their party flyers. Stopping at a generic convenience store to check the Mapscos, I spotted Z getting gas. Luckily for me, she was going my way.
I made the required greeting, "Hey, there, I know you," and followed her to the place. A two-story, upper middle class dreamhouse tucked into a woody bedroom community. Little did the parents know their son was holding a multi-kegger Rides party only three underage girls short of the Social Event of the Season. I quickly lost Z in the shuffle but found my friends from area Five already drinking from the well. Three kegs with one floated and one yet untapped, and a fridge full of jello. I wasted no time getting down to business and soon found myself in the spacious living room bumping and grinding to the jungle beat with people who may as well have come from Hardy Jenns' neighborhood. I and me droogs were tolerated for the facts that Five's other red tag knew the host from school and the Rides/grubby split wasn't as serious out-of-park. As with all such social conventions, the reality wasn't as dramatic as what was written in movie scripts. Rides girls socialized with Foods girls, Foods girls socialized with grubbies. In the smoky shadows of South Arlington living rooms, dens, and garage apartments, everybody socialized with everybody.
After a few turns at the tap, I noticed Z floating into the heart of the action and moseyed my way up to her. She was the only girl I happened to recognize that night and I had the accident of our earlier meeting to draw from. Far from dazzling her with my moves, I did what I could to make her laugh and make it look like I was trying to act funny. My area Five friends were not the types to get out on the floor, but when I was inna mood I could find my way into any music. She was game and went toe to toe until we were both exhausted and ready to come up for air. We sank into the game room where my manager had joined the smoke ring. There wasn't much left that way and soon most of those involved filtered out, but Z, my manager, and I stayed to sip our beers and recharge. She and I found common ground in having grown up in Fort Worth, but she was surprised when I told her I'd gotten out of Paschal High in `87. Because of my size and looks, she'd previously thought I was the younger of us. I get that a lot.
So the night went on. From keg to dancing to the circle of fire to chilling on the couch back to the keg. The night was a mesh of harmonic rhythms and, although we'd never spoken before then, Z and I found a zone of comfort in the midst of it all. When the last keg was floated and the jello shots were gone, the melody moved on to a dozen other locations, but Z and I just settled onto the couch in the game room and made our own music. Okay, it wasn't that sweet. In fact, it wasn't very good at all. We were simply the last two left awake in a house where floorspace and silence were at a premium. We didn't jump right into it like banshees, we were just drunk and bored. The pot, the alcohol, and the dirty dancers were gone, leaving us with nothing to do but screw. Here I was again getting what I hadn't expected, lucky me. For the first time since that night with Candace and Led Zeppelin I, however, it wasn't enough.
How many moments do we have when we can say we see ourselves changing? How many people help us to make those changes then disappear back into the crowd, never to be heard from again? On the couch with Z, trying to enjoy myself though the alcohol had pretty much done its job too well, I couldn't escape the certainty that this was just another stupid one night stand. I don't even remember if I actually got off, but I do remember us taking a break in the middle to drink the last swigs of beer. Eventually we stopped and went back to talking.
That we were both disappointed in ourselves, if not each other, was pitifully obvious, so we naturally talked about our other failed "relationships". She told me about her boyfriends from the park and I told her about what I felt was appropriate. The glaring difference was that I'd not been looking for a girlfriend at all, and so had found only stories. She had apparently found deep emotional pain and scars she'd hoped fucking me would help assuage, if only temporarily. I envied her the pain. I felt cold and heartless.
We slept on the couch together, head to foot, and left the next morning after helping to clean the house. In truth, that was the best part of it, knowing we could shrug off the night before like pros, but we didn't exchange numbers. As I said at the beginning, I'd already caught the bug to move to California, and this exacerbated my frustrations with living in Texas. I didn't wait the whole month to leave, but got out after only two more weeks, and that's a story in itself.
I didn't give notice when I quit Six Flags, just didn't go one day and knew, somehow, that I'd never step foot in the park again. I haven't seen any of those girls, either. I can only assume they didn't miss me much. I loved working at Six Flags for all the reasons I've given, but before my last, hardly worthwhile paycheck was waiting for me I was on a Greyhound bus heading west.