It ended with The Fair. Or maybe started... Eyes opened to only half-slits, I narrowly slithered my way through the swarms of fair folks, requesting only two things from my companions- Funnel Cake and the Ferris Wheel. I must have looked as fucked up as felt- mouth wide like a child lost in wonderment. I slowly regained my composure while trying not to lose my mood. Giddy, drunk and surrounded; for once I was too distracted to be judgmental, but that could have been the pills and the bourbon. Or maybe it was slipping into the familiar warm feeling of a sense of belonging (almost overwhelmed by a strange tickling desire). Home. I felt like I was home. But I think that welcoming had long settled before I set foot among the freaks.
If I hadn't loosened up by the time Monday rolled around and the idea of going to The Fair was first presented, then that day made it all possible. But trust me, I was loose. Saturday morning landed me in cool and crisp North Carolina air. Sunlight splashing leaves with their last chance of green, I already knew every event all together would be delicious and inviting. Gelato 'round the campus, crisscrossing around town to bargain shop, a surprise pumpkin purchase, clamoring to catch up over a still-hot brunch at an ever-increasingly cold bench table, falling asleep reading, smoking weed to laugh at nothing and everything. Nothing could be more splendid than the people I love bringing it all back home.
So naturally, getting up with the boys on Monday morning was perfect. Not even noon yet and we were already high as a kite and headed to the neighborhood park. Mind you, plotting an out-of-town visit on somebody else's day off can be tough (much less adding another pal with an unexpected day-off), but this execution could be in the books. Once at the park, the boys played tennis and I flirted nearby. God how I missed the company of men! After doing a little yoga and pretending to jumping rope, I walked over to the baseball diamonds to investigate. By then the mowers had arrived and the grass and dried leaves were flaking dust everywhere. The mower by the Little League field and I exchanged obligatory waves. We exchanged admirations as well, he for my tight red pants, I for his sunglasses. It had become pretty bright out, and my eyes were naked to it. I didn't mind though, either the brightness of the sun, or his staring through the tinted lenses.
I watched him aimlessly for a minute as I made my way to the closest base- Third- and smirked at my stupid thought, whens the last time I've gone to Third Base with a man? Standing on the plate I decided it would be better luck to walk toward Home than Second (to increase my chances of figuratively getting back on the bases again) so I did. Suddenly it seemed I was upon the little caged cut out Home. My right black Chuck touched the plate far faster than I ever remember as a kid. Surely I just imagined it being that short, or maybe I was still stoned. I peered back at the boys and decided to continue on to First Base to double check my distance. Same results. Short. Unsatisfied with the results, I ran to Second. And then to Third. I rounded the base and trotted into Home, again planting my feet firmly on the dusty plate. Hmm.
Some things in life, I guess, seem a lot farther away when we're kids. I remember running my ass off to get to any base possible when I played softball- especially Home. Silly permed curls flapping from under my helmet, god how embarrassing. Now its just a short little walk through a big dusty field.
I stood for a moment and sighed. Then, after my seeming existential moment on the field, I stumbled back to the boys and we decided to go shopping for more existential moments, this time in the shape of words, not plates (i.e. the best damn used bookstore in Raleigh). More casual flirting ensued, this time amongst a dust of a different kind, old books and narrow aisles. There's nothing sexier than thumbing through text with a man you find attractive. Well, unless you're in bed together and one of those books hits the floor in a startling slap due to the decision to forgo reading.
This is where I should have known things would only get freakier. And we haven't even gotten to The Fair. Never fantasize about your best friend's best friend. Even if you know they delight in it too, because no matter what, it will always be a fantasy.
Anyway, so we leave the two dusty worlds and move on to lighter places of cups of coffee and afternoon movies, cocktails and clouds of smoke. We all decide The Fair is definitely on the list as it will cover dinner and the night's entertainment. The question of do you like pills comes up... pfft, of course... and sooner than later we've taken a muscle relaxer and had another stiff drink or two and are on the way to The fucking NC State Fair. Fabulous.
It is just as I imagine it would be. Return to my previous statement, by now I must look so fucked up that even the freaks are in hiding. A hot dog is in due order, but first the virgin ride, as the most important rule of The Fair is no puking. We buy our tickets and hop on some rickety monstrosity that immediately takes one soldier down. He is nauseated and not interested in riding anymore. He simply wants to smoke cigarettes and watch, maybe eat something and settle his stomach. So, we all grab a dog post-hast, and sit a spell, determining that there's no turning back- the flirt and I are both really fucked up and now left to our riding as a duo. These tickets must be used.
Now, maybe it was the booze talking, or maybe the pills or hell all of it, but I looked around the gritty Fairgrounds, and the man next to me and felt all at once dirty and sexy. In fact, I never knew The Fair could be so sexy. We climbed on one tumbler after another, the biggest Ferris Wheel on the grounds, the one that slides side to side, the roller coaster, the tea cups, we rode them all... meanwhile peering down at our Dad-like companion below, waving happily as each minute passed and his own tumbling tummy settled. On one screecher named the Wheel of Fire he realized that he forgot to hand over his glasses so in my sweetened state, I offered to tuck them in my bra for safe keeping. He of course excepted, and for the duration of our time clicked into medal chairs gliding through the chilly North Carolina air, I could feel the warmth of his face pressed on my chest.
We all walked away from the Wheel of Fire, the last and most violent of the rides, me and the flirt tumbled like a dryer left on too long, now feeling as woozy as Dad. And so the three amigos stumbled toward home, sharing a Funnel Cake along the way. Best damn Funnel Cake ever.
That night the flirt and I slept together. Not in the Biblical sense- we didn't even kiss. But just as warmly as I offered to hold his glasses, he whispered into the darkness, turn your body so I can nudge up against you, then pulled me tight to him and curled me into his nook. I felt at once warm and at home and slept all night.
Nudge. The perfect word. I had been nudged. By the flirt, by a well-needed vacation, by North Carolina. But now I am haunted by my former state, by the feeling of home. I know leaving Asheville was right. But, the feeling I have when I think of it, of all of it, is something I have tucked into my locket for safe keeping. A new image for that locked space. His fingertips carefully cradling the black frames, and I, trading the same care (accompanied by a sly grin) to slide them safely into the lace of my bra. Every time I see a man's glasses, I think of the NC State Fair, of a small, tender temple safe against my breast, and his arm across my shoulder where it came to rest in the darkness of night upon being nudged.
Maybe North Carolina will stay a fantasy, too. Let's hope Home will not be, where ever I can nudge my way into that.