And by that I mean that you see people. I see things and details and physicality.
You see people.
It was hot that day.
A little hotter than I’d expected, but not terrible, I guess. I didn’t really want to go, but it was on the calendar, so we went.
The drive wasn’t bad, and I got more excited as we got closer.
We got in for free.
I’d been to a fair once before. You had, too. But they were both very different from the one we were at. The one I’d been to had been huge, a state fair; the one you’d been to was even smaller than this one.
It was a movie, from 30 years ago. A trashy, run-down, neon-lit, heckling fair. Everything cost money, but I wouldn’t let you spend any, so we just walked around.
You wouldn’t take my hand, Jacoby, even when the guys at the booths yelled at us, called you over, and I told you I was uncomfortable.
Because you weren’t looking at me. You were watching the people. The families and friends who’d come out for the fair, dressed in whatever they felt like, the sweat making the edges of their hairlines wet.
You knew I was fine, really, so you focused on everyone else.
“They’re so interesting,” you said. We were sitting a picnic table sharing a funnel cake.
I wanted to call you out for overgeneralizing, for making it an us vs. them, but you hate when I do that, and you were so into it, so I let you get away with it.
“Look, Liv.” You inclined your head toward a family waiting in line at one of the creaky old rides.
“I’d bet eight out of ten people here are missing at least two teeth,” I said. It was something I would say, a detail, a factoid, trivia.
“What do they eat?” You laughed. That was something you’d say, an insight into their lives, not just a statistic, but a real-life question.
The outfits we saw were incredible. I couldn’t get past them. The overweight girls in too-tight shorts and crop tops. The long, uncombed beards and ponytailed hair on the men. I was judging, and I knew it, but you didn’t even notice.
“You think that’s a gay couple?” you said. I followed your gaze.
“Jake, no. That’s a grandfather and a dad.” And it was. Obviously.
You laughed. “Oh, yeah. Oh, wow, I see it.” They looked incredibly alike. Two men, one in his mid twenties, one in his early fifties, though it was hard to tell with his facial hair and tanned skin.
“What do you think her job is?” You pointed out a woman, her hair up in a half-pony from the ’90s, mom jeans and sneakers, heavy makeup, chasing a four-year-old boy away from a merchandise stand.
“I bet she works at a front desk, you know, what’s the word?”
“Exactly! Yeah. She’s a secretary.”
I rolled my eyes.
“Liv, could you live here?”
It was a strangely serious question the way it came out of your mouth, Jacoby. It scared me.
I shrugged again. “Yeah, I think I could. Look at the mountains. This place is gorgeous.”
“It’s so small.”
“It’s not that small.”
You backed off because you could tell I was getting defensive. I was from a small town, and you weren’t. We’d talked about it before, but we were just on two sides of a fence.
We got up and walked around some more. It was gross, but I wasn’t as prissy as I’d thought I’d be. Mostly because it was just fascinating. There were bears, and horses, and camels, and goats, and weird African cattle and deer and things like that. Petting zoos. Live music. A few magic shows. We watched a couple. You loved it.
As the night cooled down, we sat down on a bench in the middle of the fair and watched. We spent only five dollars the whole day, Jacoby, and I was proud of us.
You kissed my temple.
“I could live here.”
I looked at you in surprise. “Oh, yeah?”
Your eyes were busy scanning the people. You stopped on a group of kids playing in bubbles off to our right.
“Yeah. As long as there was a fair every year. I could live here.”
I laughed at you and we got up and left. You took my hand and led me through the people. The crowd was different now; it was later. More adults.
Cars lined the parking lot and the surrounding streets, though it hadn’t felt that crowded.
“Look, Jacoby!” I said, tugging on your hand. You turned around and looked where I was pointing.
The sun was setting on the ridge of the mountains. The sky was pinkish red, the mountains a pretty blue against them. A thin puff of periwinkle clouds blurred the colors on the horizon, and the setting sun was a perfect circle of orange.
You laughed, Jacoby, so I did, too. I wouldn’t have, but it felt right.
“Let’s get out of here,” you said.
I smiled and you smiled, then you kissed me and we left.