Yesterday Ben won me a giant stuffed Hello Kitty at the fair. My freckles were activated, though the power of our sunblock held strong, and I didn't refuse to go on a single ride that was presented to me, which meant I found myself swinging far out over the midwestern sky in the broilerplated heat two stories in the air with only slick metal chains keeping me from certain death more than a dozen times.
I ate pizza on a stick, which is one of those magical foods where the first bite is the best one and it's all downhill from there, I climbed up the Euroslide, had a change of heart, and then Henry talked me back into it, because Henry's 52 inches tall and you have to be 54 inches.
Mommy's 60 inches tall so she HAS to take me because Ben is 76 inches and might make for some drag on our speed and we want to have a race.
Pffft. That ride right there? Death trap.
Besides, Ruth in all her 54 inches of height and newly-big-kid glory won hands down. Because she jumped the gun and that's fine, you do that when you're nine.
And there were carnies everywhere, under the darker shade of the tents, charming us out of our cash and enticing us to stay longer and throw harder and take our time and come over to the next booth and ride the coaster again later after we've stayed here for a while and not leave through the big white gates at the magic hour, you don't want to go just yet, the fun is just beginning and you might miss out on the greatest summer of your lives if you go now. I can stamp your hands and you can come back for more.
It was then and only then that the tears began to sting behind my eyes. He's missing out. He didn't want to go JUST yet, the fun IS just beginning and dammit, there is no stamp for reentry. The sun has gone down and the fair has packed up and left town for him and you know what was dumb? That I have that one stupid memory of him here, walking along the dusty road between the games with their barkers, hands in his pockets, smiling politely because he always felt like they wanted him to sell his soul for the price of picking a duck with a letter on the bottom. The games made him uncharacteristic, superstitious, uncomfortable. He would spend a couple of dollars only, and then we'd leave that whole area, returning to the rides and the barns and the light, the open sunny skies because he was never comfortable with trying his luck, even though he had a knack for that kind of magic and so many illusions of his own making.
I watched Jacob walk down the road yesterday in my head until I couldn't watch him anymore and then I turned back to the living, where no one blinked as the boys pulled out bill after bill, hoping for one of those tiny Henry-sized motorcycles and the biggest teddy bears I have ever seen. I let the memory burn in the sun and I didn't get my hand stamped, because I'm not coming back to this.