The night did not seem warm enough for a carnival. Jane always felt that these sorts of events should only be held on evenings with weather that weighed on you with a heavy heat and humid wetness. But tonight, breezes blew hard enough to make women wrap their necks with scarves and men place hands into pockets instead of the palms of their dates. Jane tried to remember why she had come here at all. She didn’t like carnivals, she really didn’t; she hated the way people disappeared into a bubble of blinking lights and sugar and loud voices and technicolor tents. She supposed that some people saw it as an escape from normal life, but she could only think of it as some sort of flashy deception. Excess scared her. And yet there she was, standing at the base of the crown of the whole fairground. She tilted her head to see the top of the monstrous ferris wheel, wondered what the world looked like from the top. She imagined grains of rice moving in strange patterns.
“I’ll hold your hand the whole way up,” he said as he turned towards her, smiling as if she were a small child afraid of the dark.
“No you won’t. You’ll get distracted by looking over the edge of the cart, and you’ll forget that I’m here, and that I’m afraid of heights, and I’ll yell, and you probably won’t hear me over the music from this stupid ferris wheel, and then I’ll cry, and it’ll be embarrassing.”
She saw him laugh out of the corner of her eye and felt her nails against the soft skin of her palm. “Andrew, I don’t want to go up there. Don’t make me.”
“Go. You’ll like it.” He reached out and pulled her forward in line, handed their tickets to the man at the booth. She held her breath and all of a sudden they were sitting in one of the pastel cars as a man in too small pants snapped the door shut behind them. Everything rattled.
As the cart began to lift as if pulled by a string, Jane kept her eyes on Andrew to avoid looking at the disappearing ground. He was so handsome, so serious. She remembered how the air was too filled with the zip of mosquitos the day she met him at a library. She was working, he was avoiding the oppressive heat. He asked her questions about books, she answered. He was older than her, smarter. She wondered why he had so many questions. Every time he came to visit her she noticed the electricity he sent into the air. He was thrilling. She stacked great pieces of literature into perfect, alphabetical piles while he told her facts about sailboats and fly fishing. He made her want to learn how to swim, how to speak to strangers about important things, how to jump from planes as he once did. He was brave.
As the car lifted slowly to the pinnacle of the wheel, Jane found herself peering over the edge. She couldn’t help herself. It was a far way down. She wondered what it would feel like if the ride broke now, if the spines of the wheel folded in on themselves in some sort of beautiful, lit-up sigh of machinery. Perhaps it would be a good way to disappear. She turned to her right and saw Andrew with both hands behind his head, eyes closed, thinking of things at which she couldn’t guess. She looked down at her empty palms and concentrated on taking even breaths, counting each one, remembering how the last one felt as it filled her lungs. It was night and too cold, he was too brave, and she wasn’t going to cry. As the car moved its way from up to down, Jane looked at Andrew and thought about swimming, about strangers, about books, about falling from the sky.
Jennifer Gordon is a student of film, with a focus in production. She has a lovely dog and two rabbits. On weekends, Jennifer likes to take long walks and play Scrabble. Her favorite word is calliope.
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