THE fair came to town for one weekend every summer.
I just wasn’t that enthusiastic about going this year. For one thing, I was no longer a kid, having recently turned eighteen and about to head off to college to major in pre-law—not that I was ecstatic about studying law, but anything to get away from this small, claustrophobic town and its prejudiced ideals. Secondly, I could now see the fairground for what it really was, without the innocent starlit eyes of a child. It was really quite a depressing place, full of scruffy rides in need of a lick of paint and overpriced sideshows that guaranteed “a prize every time.” Yeah, like five dollars for some furry dice or a plastic key ring was such a bargain.
I went along anyway that Friday night. It wasn’t like I had anything better to do. Plus, I knew that all of my friends from school would be going, and I was a sucker for junk food.
When I made the choice to go, I didn’t think it would change my life forever.
“MIKEY, you wanna hotdog?” my best friend Brad yelled across the heaving crowd.
Mouth full of candy, I nodded and gave him a thumbs up. Say what you want about fairs, the food is always awesome. That sickly sweet smell of fried onions and cotton candy got to me every time, and I couldn’t help but stuff myself silly.
Brad negotiated his way back from the food stand, arms held aloft. He pushed a hotdog into my hands and we leaned against the side of a wooden cart to eat.
I jammed half the bun into my mouth and closed my eyes to savor the taste of the hot, soft bread and smoky meat.
“Damn, Mikey, you’re such a pig!” Brad snorted at my side.
“Mmm.” I shoved the rest of the hotdog in so that my cheeks bulged like a hamster.
Brad shook his head in amusement. “And I wonder why you don’t have a girlfriend,” he muttered.
I suspected there was actually a much bigger reason that I didn’t have a girlfriend, aside from my lousy eating habits. It wasn’t that I was bad-looking or anything. My father is Italian and I inherited his dark hair and dark eyes, together with his tall, athletic build. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity, either. Girls seemed to like me and would often ask me out on dates, stroking my arm or leg as they cuddled in close. Some had even gotten a bit farther than that, but I didn’t want to think about it. The truth was that girls didn’t do it for me. The whole dating thing left me cold.
But I hadn’t told this to Brad. I hadn’t told anybody.