Three girls cross though the middle of the Harvest parade, cutting like scissors snipping a ribbon. They are slightly chunky, more than they should be at fourteen or fifteen, tied flannels exposing young soft stomachs over the top of black leggings, begging to be touched. They smell like they are old enough to drink but I can still see the dust from the linoleum floor of some high school slapped all over their sneakers and boots. A little girl’s mother standing next to me gives them a dirty look, vowing she will never let her daughter be one of those girls despite the fact she was one herself. I bet she remembers vodka and cigarettes and meeting boys in cowboy hats and dirty jeans under the auxiliary stage bleachers. I remember those things.
I watch the threesome vanish amidst the smell of popcorn, glowing Ferris wheel lights, and the steady snap of a marching band snare drum pulling at my teeth like I’ve tasted something too sweet. I wonder how many other girls have wandered into autumn carnival crowds on cold New England nights and walked out never the same, scared by some other illusion than what the fun house had to offer. Spun around and flipped upside down, a ride they weren’t ready for, dizzy and sick, solid ground replaced with the unfamiliar sensation of outer space.
My eyes follow them until they are just blurs. Other girls float like witches—casting spells with their eyes—hexing me without a word. I wish I had the mouth of a sixteen-year-old with a tongue that would impress, not the dry tired one I speak with now. It would have them drawing hearts in spiral notebooks with my initials in the center, line after line of my name written in cursive, just like they did many carnivals ago, just like they don’t anymore.