The fair smells like hot grease, sugar, and gasoline. The combination makes me feel high, like the time we went through all that spray paint working on the homecoming float junior year. I breathe in deeply.
With a lurch, the Octopus starts to spin while the car we’re in moves up and down at random. It’s not long before we blend into the blurry mess of other shrieking kids on this ride. All I can think while we turn, dip, and bob is I hope I don’t throw up on Greg’s jeans.
The cheap, purple elephant I don’t want, but really do, is suspended beneath what I can only imagine are a thousand fat, glowing bulbs. Greg fires baseballs at milk bottle pyramids. The guys in suspenders sell him rings to toss and seats at water gun booths, and I poke fun and hold the corndogs while he tries much harder than he should. He wins the panda bear in the end; we probably could’ve bought one at Walmart for a lot less money but I know this panda didn’t find its way to me on nickles and dimes.
There’s a kid at the dunk tank who looks like Greg, but younger. He’s tall and thin with rectangular glasses and dark brown hair. Everything you’d imagine Clark Kent would look like if he was just Clark Kent and not really Superman (no offense, Greg). His dad agrees to sit on the collapsible seat and we move in with the crowd to watch. I have to stand on my tiptoes to see the boy grab his first baseball and butter up the crowd. Inevitably, some teenager starts chanting Dunk Him! Dunk Him! Dunk Him! and it’s not long before we’ve all joined in. Full of confidence, the boy winds up and launches a fastball that hits the target with an impressive thwap. His father plunges into the water and the scent on the air is soon mixed with chlorine and grass.
I ask Greg what his favorite scent is. He pauses to think for a minute, a bit of magic caught in his eyes as they gleam under the carnival lights. Fresh strawberries, he answers softly. I like the scent of fresh strawberries and rain on a warm June night.
We pick our favorite seat on the Ferris Wheel. The one that’s had our initials carved into it for ages. The white cart climbs through the night air slowly, while we’re serenaded by the song on the carousel that’s just a stone’s throw away. The wind whispers in my ears and Greg’s fingers twist around mine.
I look at him and smile but to my surprise, we aren’t 15. We’re 50 and a little dizzy — high on sugar and gasoline. Greg leans closer to tell me to take in the view and I smell his skin. It blends well with the scent of the fair and I inhale slowly.
We’re at the top of the Ferris Wheel about to make our slow, rounded descent but I am still rising gently into the night sky. Almost like a balloon, caught on the breath of a child’s summertime wish.