My friend Doug’s always putting these crazy activities together—water park extravaganzas… slip & slide BBQs. So when I got the group invite to a trampoline park, I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I was told was: bring athletic wear, change for the locker, and $14. I was considering it when Doug called to lay on the pressure.
“It’s going to be crazy fun,” he said. “How do I know I won’t get there and it won’t just be a couple of air mattresses in some person’s back yard?” “Always daydreaming, aren’t you?” said Doug. I tried not to take that personally. “I’ve been to the Fly Zone so many times,” he assured me. “I go at least once every other week. Trust me, it’ll be great!”
So I thought: what the hell, it’ll be great exercise and maybe someone will take one of those cool mid-jump pictures that makes me look like I’m levitating. (Although I’ve got a thousand pictures like that already from a magician’s assistant stint in Vegas three summers ago.)
We met there on Sunday. While parking I noticed a cavalcade of kids running into the building. Parental escorts pushing trollies teeming with birthday cakes, pinatas and SpongeBob balloons. Everyone wore comfortable clothes. We funneled into a giant warehouse. The bass from speakers inside vibrated my spine and small intestine. “Let’s do this!” I said, feeling like a cartoon cliché.
The receptionists made us sign safety wavers. Handing us bright orange socks, they said, “You guys have one hour” followed by a half-assed “have a nice time.”
FLASHBACK: Early in my life, when I walked barefoot in ditches, bamboo patches were great for establishing castle walls and all, but the houses that had trampolines in my neighborhood were always the money. Then there were kids that had both a trampoline AND an above ground pool, sometimes even side-by-side. But after a handstand/fractured ankle incident, my household had a great excuse to say no. I got a ten-speed bike instead.
I made my way to a floor made entirely of trampolines, lined side-by-side so far that the people from both ends from the middle looked about two inches tall, doing flips in the air like bronze medal divers. Seeing this, I was determined to do something other than just bounce. I made a mad dash for the elasticized floor. Ready to make the air my bitch.
For the first few minutes all I could really do was a straight bounce, adding an occasional air split. After about ten minutes, I was already sweating. I decided it might be fun to hang in the air as long as possible. I timed my jumps in a measurable rhythm, suspending myself in the air like a vertical pendulum. I closed my eyes and let the feeling of weightlessness wash over me.
Opening my eyes, mid jump, I landed on a lily pad, then jumped to another. Dragonflies whizzed over head. Wrestling hunger pangs from skipping breakfast, I parted my lips for fresh meat. A long pink lasso emerged, slashing the air like an uncurled party favor blowout. WEEEEEE! WHAP. A dragonfly braced itself for a quick simmer in a bath of digestive acids.
The three kids standing side-by-side in SpongeBob birthday hats stood staring at me, flicking their tongues in unison. One blew his party favor at me. “Stop that!” I said, causing them to bounce away—1, 2, 3. Determined to make the best of my $14 hour, I decided I’d try again, in spite of all the disruptive nonsense. I began bouncing again, my arms spinning circular like propellers. I closed my eyes and chanted the mantra: I am a bouncing, bouncer. Bouncing. I bounce.
This time I found myself racing through a stretch of verdant grasslands, long and wild. To my left a pack of dingos wrestled playfully in the sun. Koalas lined the sky moseying along dense thickets of bamboo, seers for miles, our majestic Australian landscape. Behind me, my prehensile tail, long and muscular gave balance as I leaped above shrubs. Rounding a corner, I popped into a pixeled fist aimed like a ramrod. WTF—King Hippo? How’d he escape Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! A referee yelled FIGHT! Once I landed a decent face hit, I aimed for Hippo’s massive gut. His trunks fell down. Right before my chance to knock him out, a shrill whistle called the round.
When I looked around me, a man in a teal polo featuring Fly Zone’s logo was blowing his whistle at me. “No air punching!” he said. “You’ve been warned!” As he bounced away, he spun mid-air and gestured the number two with his fingers at his eyes as if to say he’d be watching me.
The kids around me released pause on their own game. FIGHT they yelled at one another, bouncing fist first onto each others’ bodies—pantsing one another, post flip-kicks, throwing each other off and into a game of crack-the-egg—elbows like machetes cracking each others’ skulls.
My hour was up. When my feet finally reached solid land again, I wobble-walked a little before finding my footing. I caught up to Doug who was pulling his tennis shoes out of his locker. “Fun isn’t it!” he said, sweaty and glowing. He looked behind me. “Looks like you made some friends!” When I turned to look, a dozen or so kids had followed me, a wobble-walking crew of cake-smeared grins—some air-punching, some flicking their tongues in the air. “I might come back,” I said. “It’s a good spot.”
Sabra Embury is a book critic for Brooklyn's L Magazine. Her confabulations and fantastications can be found in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Rumpus, Tottenville Review, NANO Fiction and other places. Follow her antics on Twitter @yrubmEarbaS.