My Feelings for Her Became Known To Me On The Tilt-a-Whirl
The conversation that ended with Sarah lopping my ear off with the bottle opener on her keychain began with me saying, “Craziest thing happened today. Really, it gets better and better.”
We were on a Ferris Wheel. Sarah was wearing a denim vest over a blouse that was about half as thick as a sheet of paper and flapped in the wind. Her hair was whipping around and every few moments I thought I could smell her hair, although that might have been the cotton candy. The Ferris Wheel was starting and stopping jerkily.
Sarah said, “What does? The story of what happened to you today? Or you mean this story will be better than the last lame-ass story you told me, which was slightly better than the asinine one that came before it, about the drunk clown slipping on cat vomit?”
The last thing she did before cutting off the top of my left ear was rub the palms of her hands together.
I said, “Just listen. So I was walking down Twenty-Sixth street. Couldn’t remember where I parked my car.”
Ferris Wheels are made for talking. It was when we rode the Tilt-A-Whirl that I decided I love her. I think it was the way she gripped the bars and her whole arms straightened and her face was all squeezed outward, holding in screams.
She said, “This story is lame.”
The last thing I did before the last thing she did before mutilating my ear was I put my arm around her.
The Ferris Wheel came to another jerky stop. Directly below us, a fat man was climbing into a seat from the loading zone. It might have been my imagination, but Sarah shifted her weight slightly toward me when we stopped. “Like I told you, it gets better.”
“What’s the point of telling me such a lame story? It can only get mediocre at best.”
I said, “Whatever. So it’s dark, it’s like, after midnight. Nobody’s out. It’s real quiet, it’s like a neighborhood sort of street.”
Sarah looked bored. I love the way her hair shifts around when she looks away from me. She was looking down below, seeing that the carny’s attention was on helping the fat man into the Ferris Wheel car. She nervously reached into her backpack, pulled out a brownish glass bottle with a slender neck, popped the cap off with a metal tool on her keychain that was meant for popping the caps off beer bottles, took a swig and then hid the bottle under her denim vest. Her eyes darted nervously down to the carny.
The last thing I did before putting my arm around her — really putting my arm around her, committedly — was I took a sip of her beer. She was afraid we’d get kicked out of the park if anyone saw it. I didn’t care. Getting kicked out with Sarah would probably be just as fun as riding an amusement park ride with Sarah, or doing anything with Sarah.
I slid my arm behind her. Not touching her, just behind her. Not around her, just behind her. I think that’s acceptable. My heart started racing. Maybe it was the Ferris Wheel. Maybe it was the fat man. Maybe it was the beer she smuggled into the park.
“So, I’m walking, I’m pretty pissed off — it doesn’t matter why, that’s part of a different story—I’ll tell you that one later, maybe on the Skydiver. I stop at this street corner and I sort of spin around, and then there’s this cat—”
She looked at me, at the same time looking down at the carny. “You already told me the one about the cat puke and the—”
“No, this is totally different. There was no puke, no clown, just this cat. It had been following me. This big old sluggish brown furry…”
The last thing Sarah did before I grabbed the brown bottle from under her vest and took a sip — my knuckles not meaning to slightly graze the side of her belly — was she relaxed. Looking out at the tall buildings when the fog lifted, something in the core of her spine loosened like a fist opening, and the next breath she took massaged her whole body from the inside outward, making her entirely relaxed.
I stopped telling the story because I could not articulate what I wanted to tell her. I wanted to show her the city from up high. Although we were about four miles south of the cityscape and not very high and couldn’t really see much.
My finger accidentally touched a frayed edge of her denim vest, ever so softly. Sarah didn’t seem to notice, so I rubbed the fabric between my fingers and thought about the cat. It was my change of mood when I looked down that night and saw that cat, saw that it had followed me. I had no idea how long it had been following me, so I tried to imagine it leaping off the stone wall of one of the gardens I passed and sauntering down the sidewalk in pursuit. That had something to do with why I loved this city, and why I hoped she would too, and I thought that somehow, on this Ferris Wheel, snuck-in beer, the smell of cotton candy in her hair, telling her this story, it would make sense.
And then began the sequence of action that could not have gone any other way. I think maybe Sarah just wanted to give me a decent story to tell, the next time I felt a need to tell a story.
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Portland Fiction Project
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