The past reaches towards me with a Child’s hands, and memories begin to revolve on their spindles like a series of fairground rides.
The wonderful thing about this particular fairground is that the same person can be on several different rides at the same time––and better still, they don’t even need to be alive. Most of the memories are of events that actually happened, but some are things that should have happened, and some are things that could have happened.
The sad rides draw me towards themselves as if they exude their own gravity from their ripped awnings, splintered boards, and off-kilter gyrations.
I’ve ridden nearly all of them at some point, and most of them, once boarded, are almost impossible to disembark from.
Today though, it’s a happy carousel that draws me. It’s always been here, but I seldom notice it. My father, grinning, dark-haired and broad chested, balances on the turning platform without any obvious effort.
Instead of horses, the mounts on this ride are the new models of American cars from 1967.
As the turntable slows to let me get on, the door of a burnt orange Mustang swings open in invitation. I reach for the chrome door handle, but there are more choices. A pearl white Chevrolet Corvette, a fire engine red Pontiac GTO, a powder blue Oldsmobile tornado, and many others.
I’d love to drive one, but I’m only ten years old, and can’t even reach the pedals. My father beams at me. He doesn’t speak, but he doesn’t need to. This is the year that we went to the London Motor Show together at Earls Court, and I spent nearly the entire time wandering around the American car displays. I can still smell the ink from the big pile of catalogs I collected.
The ride falters all too soon, its revolutions slow to the pace of an old planet, and I find myself facing the next carousel. This one slows to let me aboard with the silence of an open hillside before a storm. The once brightly painted boards have faded, with mold and fungus spreading across the almost invisible insignia of stars and scrollwork.
Instead of cars, this ride is fitted out with old and mildewed furniture. My father is here too, submerged into a lazyboy. At first I don’t see him, but then he leans over to a side table, retrieves a TV remote, and thumps it as if it doesn’t work.
I settle onto a dilapidated armchair.
This will be a long ride.