Breakdown at the Top of the Ferris Wheel

by Anthony Inverso

I had a friend named Roxy, but he turned intangible and then invisible. First his fingernails faded, and then his pinky slipped through his guitar strings when he tried to play.

Toward the end I took him to an amusement park. I thought he could use a distraction and I had a coupon on the verge of expiring. I was a good friend but also quite value-conscious. This happened well before my breakdown in the pharmacy line at the Rite Aid when I realized my insurance wouldn't cover so much as the label for my prescription. You'd never have looked at me in the days leading up to Roxy's disappearance and realized what kind of pressure I'd face in but a few years' time.

"I know why this is happening," said Roxy, strapped in for the Tilt-A-Whirl. "It's because I'm twenty-seven and I've never fallen in love. I've wasted so much time sleeping, eating, standing in lines."

"That's ridiculous," I said, careful to avoid clarifying which part of his statement I meant.

The Tilt-A-Whirl spun us around.

"Do you think Roxy is a dumb name for a man?" he said. Perhaps he thought I had a special take on it because I happened to be a man myself. He moved his fingers through the hard dome of the Tilt-A-Whirl with great fluidity.

"Of course not," I said. I was in full support mode. I would have expected the same if I'd started disappearing myself.

Next we bought a soda and cotton candy. When Roxy drank the coke it hit the ground, and when he ate the cotton candy it drifted away from his body like a cloud.

"Well then if it's not for lack of love it's because I've never been successful," he said. I could look through him and see families, children, the long line for the roller coaster.

"You don't need to be successful yet," I said. I'd never seen him so desperate before. After all, he was a great musician, or at least I'd always pictured him as such. But Roxy would fade away, and if he didn't quickly find a means of leaving his desired mark on this earth, then he'd be nothing.

"I've done something to deserve this," he said. "Stopped going to church? Too much self-medicating?"

"I'll remember you," I said. The Ferris Wheel attendant didn't even check if Roxy was tall enough for the ride.

"Maybe you're the only person who's ever really seen me," he said.

"Don't be so dramatic," I said. Of course Roxy's statement came to mind years later in the Rite Aid pharmacy line.

We rode the Ferris Wheel and it stopped at the top. We didn't know why. Mechanical failure, or maybe not. We didn't mind because we had the view. Our country still looked like a great frontier when you could see a line of trees in the distance. Roxy smiled and then shifted out of his seatbelt.

"I think I'll go catch a cloud," he said. "I'm on top of the world. Things can really only go down from here."

How could I tell him he took reality too literally? Me, who saw through his heart and out the other end?

"I'll miss you too much," I said. Roxy knew me for a rampant romantic. I'd never had a single bad thing happen to me and I'd come too far to develop coping mechanisms so late in the game.

"You'll be okay," he said. "Pain is like life, temporary."

"Hold my hand," I said, not thinking how insensitive this request was. But he placed the specter of his fingers in mine.

"By the time you've got your feet back on solid ground you'll forget I was ever here."

"I'm never going to forget you," I said. It was true! If anything I thought about Roxy too often after he'd disappeared. I told people, pharmacists and the like, about my friend Roxy who had offered himself to the heavens from the top of the Ferris Wheel.

The ride ended and I went to stand in line for the roller coaster alone. A child spilled his coke on my feet and I felt every sticky drop.

I'd never ridden a roller coaster with Roxy because Roxy hadn't liked them. I'd thought they scared him, but he'd claimed otherwise.

"The ride's too short," he'd said. "Before it's barely started the whole thing's over."

But the line was long, Roxy, and who could say why I stood in it.

BIO: Anthony Inverso lives outside Philadelphia, PA. His work has previously been published in Carve, and he has an upcoming publication in Painted Bride Quarterly.