< the waterpark
It’s a rusted-out waterpark, in the daytime, when nothing about the light is romantic and there are calcified hex-bolts covering every single slide and ramp and safety-textured stair step. Rust and verdigris weep across concrete into tiny blackened drains. They’re everywhere. Down down down. The place sweats under its own memory. Namely spilled soft drinks and suntan lotion, which leave little kisses in red sugar and zinc all across everywhere. The melanomic umber of marine-grade lumber. Anemic umbrella fabric folded like pinched, nose-upturned faces in all emotions at once. The place has a certain melodrama, inherent to Southern California: home of dolphins and hyper-fine white sand and plastic. Long struts of perfect black rigidity, thin metallic wrists, glint and hold up crazy looping slides in bright and thick synthetics. They have no sharp corners. It is amazing. It hurts to watch. Shallow and wide pools harbor shoals of rubble with rebar sticking crazily out, but also slender shoots of desert grass, which has done so much work to be here. Past the dusty lazy river filled with mice-droppings and old saran-wrappish snake-skins, and past the tangled mess of bleached inner-tubes and floaty-wings and those things you stick between your legs to practice swimming without kicking, and past the burnt-out crispy husk of the snack-shack improbably hit some time ago by lightning bolt, and past the little kidney-shaped kiddie-pools with bottoms covered with high-gloss salt as well as urea crystals, and, and this may seem needlessly besides the point, but there is something good but abrasive about it. Like old books but also like sunburn and chapped lips. Reels of tickets, uncut, unpunched, and spooled into tight rolls all locked inside the ticket-taker’s house, which leans, and is in the effective 'far fringes' of the waterpark. Trickles of paint from walls hastily washed in a Colgate shade of aquamarine. Spindly machines originally for ice so sweet it’d make your teeth hurt, their o-rings gone milky in the sun. Everything standing up straight under the heat of the day. Everything smiling under the weight of the day. Metal and plastic and wood contract and expand with the movement of the sun. Because the thing is that people need the idea of it. There are things like gum-wrappers on the ground, contorted around black and flattened gum. Smells like peppermint and certain types of desert flower sit in the air as well as in things like half-crunched pool noodles and PVC roofing. There are beach balls with impossibly smooth and taut white skin. They flaunt a weird sort of youth. It is like everything has a tragic vitamin deficiency. But everything is also soaking up the sun. When something finally gives up the ghost, to fall and collapse and change, it is miraculous, and by this it is meant unbelievable because, as stated before, this waterpark is good and bad and far-off-idyllic in a scratch-an-itch sort of way. In a, I-feel-like-I’ve-been-here, sort of way. But this place hasn’t been open in forever. People who sneak in are not really going to the waterpark. It is real hard to get to the waterpark. The truth is that when people get to the waterpark it is always daytime and deeply unromantic and like the place they grew up. A little different, but then that’s growing up. The people who sneak in see the desert grass and say, look, there’s some desert grass, or they stick their finger in the kiddie-pool and pull it out and say yuck. They want to see if they can still ride the slides and wade the empty pools, but this is not what the waterpark is for. People who get to the waterpark notice things like paper cone-cups nestled one inside the other, things like reclining chairs missing slats and toothless in the sun, things like the close-cropped fuzz of a foam buoy shaped like an alligator, things like how everything is sweet and soft like taffy. They put their hand on their neck and just think, which is crazy when you think about what the waterpark really is. What it is for. People talk about what the waterpark is like now, in these days. How it compares to what they’ve heard. Things like whether there are actually life-size plastic palm-trees. People get really up in arms about this. People argue about what the waterpark truly used to be, although they do this knowing it can’t be said, what it used to be like, not really. They talk about ways to get there, sometimes. Things they hear around. Not many of them make the trip. Because it’s far. It’s hard to pack for too, and one never really knows what the weather will be like when you’ve finally put your foot down and said, goddammit, we’re going to the waterpark. People who think about the waterpark a lot are really the only ones who ever end up trying to get to the waterpark. Sunscreen, a blue-checked shirt open at the neck, maybe a book? What else? The truth is the waterpark isn’t a thinking place, not really. But the real truth is that people don’t get to the waterpark, not in that way.