She stood outside the amusement park. Everything looked different, yet everything felt familiar — even the autumn breeze. Anyone could tell that she did not belong in this town. Her ostentatious diamond ring was an outlier among a sea of flower crowns. The townspeople rarely saw any outsiders, so they became especially intrigued when they noticed that she had been standing outside the amusement park and staring at the ferris wheel for more than ten minutes. The ferris wheel held a special place in all the townspeople’s hearts because this was where their first dates were, but they could not understand its appeal to her. After all, she looked like someone who had seen the London Eye. Finally, she entered the amusement park and headed towards the ferris wheel. She knew what she was looking for, but did not know if she wanted to find it.
“The tickets will be ten dollars. Enjoy your ride!”
This was the voice that she replayed in her head during those sleepless nights — she could recognize it anywhere. It was at this exact moment that their eyes locked.
“Hello. Long time no see.”
“Here to buy a ticket for the ferris wheel?”
“Seriously? It’s been ten years since I last saw you, are you really going to treat me like any other customer?”
“What would you like me to say?”
“Fine. Two tickets please. One for you and one for me. Just like old times.”
She took off her engagement ring for the first time since her fiancé proposed, and tucked it away in her purse. Any passerby would have viewed this as an act of immense deception, but to her it signified an act of immense courage. The background noise was filled with laughter, but the air inside the passenger cabin was still. Finally, she could no longer bear the silence.
“I am so sorry for everything,” she said.
“I was young and I wasn’t ready to spend my entire life in one town with one person.”
“I know what I did was cowardly and inexcusable, but you have to understand that it seemed like the only option at the time.”
“I cannot imagine what you went through after I left, and I am so so sorry.”
“Please say something. Anything. Yell at me for being the most selfish person ever. Tell me that I’ll go to hell —,” she started to choke on her tears.
He leaned forward to embrace her, but stopped himself.
“Anne, it’s okay,” he said. “I understand why you did what you did, and I was never mad at you, not even for a second.”
“So you forgive me?”
“Really. I forgive you. I’m glad that you’re happy.”
“But I’m not! I thought that I had to see the world in order to be happy. But after I travelled around the world, I realized that the only world I needed was a world with you in it.”
“Shhh. Remember the cork board that you had with pictures of all the places that you wanted to visit when you grow up? You don’t belong in this town, you belong out there.”
“Oh. So you’re with someone. Of course you’re with someone. What was I even thinking, running back here a decade later. Of course you are. You are so sweet and —”
“Anne, you know that it was you, and that it will always be you.”
“So nothing’s changed.”
“No. Everything’s changed.”
They were about to reach the top of the ferris wheel. Her memory wandered back to the last time they sat here. Once upon a time, he stared into her eyes and told her that couples who kiss on the top of the ferris wheel stay together forever. Forever.
“It’s really quite funny how all these structures seem to be constantly improving — taller, faster, safer,” she interrupted the silence. “But everything in my life seems to be falling apart.”
She continued, “I am tired of New York. Tired of streams of people passing by me. Tired of choking bars and honking cars. Tired of only being looked at, but never being seen. Tired of saying things that I don’t even know if I mean. I’m just tired.”
“Everything’s gone wrong. I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m ready to find myself again in this town. Ready to settle down. I just need a reason to stay.”
This was a direct question for him.
“26-year-old Anne should listen to her younger self” he said after some thought. “She did what she did for a reason, and she knew what she was doing.”
She demanded, “Are you really okay with spending the rest of your life wondering what could have been?”
“I guess I am,” he responded.
“ ‘It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.’ Remember that?”
“That was always you. I believe in fate.”
“Fate is an excuse used by people who aren’t willing to fight for what they believe in!”
The remainder of the ride was silent again. When the ride ended, he stepped out of the passenger cabin, but she sat still. She stared at him with her deep hazel eyes, and tried to convey everything that she couldn’t possibly have conveyed through words. She knew that the moment she stepped out would mark the end of every single possibility that she ever dreamed of. But she had to eventually.
“Goodbye Anne,” he said.
She refused to say that word because saying it would have made everything more real.
Instead, she said, “I love you.”
He and she were both looking at the ferris wheel that lit up at night.
She sobbed and wondered if he saw her engagement ring. However, she lived the rest of her life without thinking much about neither this incident nor him. In a sense, she came here for the grand finale.
He sobbed too. In fact, he did spend the rest of his life wondering could have been. But he knew her better than she knew herself, and saw that she came here searching for a ray of sunshine to make her forget all her doubts about the world. Even in the dark tempestuous night, he wanted her to light up like this ferris wheel — shining from within.