I’m not having fun anymore.
The faintly chemical scents of Icee pops and sunscreen clog the air; that toxically tropical harbinger of a good, old-fashioned pool party. I can hear the sun, practically fluorescent, buzzing like a cicada; that creaky, aching, rocking-chair-sound of summer. Playful screams slip into something Stepford sinister, and I’m not having fun anymore.
“I’m not having fun anymore!” I call into the crowd, but no one is listening, or they can’t hear me, or both. These five words are my distress signal; a phrase if uttered with enough gravity, and just the right amount of tears (not too many, not too few) would send my mom running to my aid.
“Just tell me you’re not having fun anymore, and we’ll go home,” she said to me once after I dissolved into a puddle of salty tears, drawing in ragged, chest-collapsing breaths like a seasoned smoker because no one told me that you can’t get off a Ferris wheel after you get on, that it stops at the highest point and lets you dangle there while your older sister rocks the chair back and forth maniacally, laughing “What would you do if I pushed you out?”.
Just tell me you’re not having fun anymore, she said in passing and didn’t think about it again, but I clung to those words because they made me feel less claustrophobic. I had been liberated; I could get off the amusement park ride after I had gotten on, even if the glassy-eyed ride operator was insistent that I could not as I passed him crying on a seemingly never ending loop back up into the sky, because my mom had given me the secret password.
At the age of seven, I spent an entire school day holding my hair in a ponytail with my left hand because I thought (knew) this was less inconspicuous than the missing bow my mom promised, and subsequently forgot to put in my hair. This was the kind of child I was; self-conscious, literal.
My body changed as I grew, enthusiastically burgeoning into puberty, from flat-chest to pendulous breasts, a shape the internet calls “fine but not ideal, often referred to (not positively) as ‘soap in a sock.’” But my literal essence remained unchanged.
Word is bond, when you’re as literal as I am, but now I can’t see my mom through the swimsuit-clad crowd of knees, skinned and scabbed; covered in battle-weary Band Aids, no longer adhesive but stuck on with dried blood.
One of the knees slams into me and I fall into the deep end of the pool, chlorine-filled water scraping at my eyes, burning my nostrils, filling my throat. Where is my mom? Doesn’t she know I can’t swim without my floaties? Can’t she see I’m not having fun anymore?