Carnival

[Day 5 of 30 days of prose. – Owen]


“When you can express yourself with your body, you don’t need words,” he said.

“And vice-versa,” I answered.


At twenty-two years old, we went to the traveling carnival: my best friend and I, at twilight on an early summer day, amid a swirling crowd, because two girls we knew were going to be there, and we were going to find them. He was on the lookout for Vonnie, with her shoulder length blonde hair and blue eyes; while I searched the throng for Alisa, with her short brown hair and green eyes.

The two of them were always laughing, and lots of boys came around to try to get in on the joke – mostly unsuccessfully. But we were undaunted.

By the time we caught up to them, all the lights were on and the night surrounding the carnival had swallowed up the rest of the world. For the next six and one-half hours, it was just the four of us, there in the spotlight.


“Look how dark the woods look,” she said, pointing.

“I really can’t see anything past the edge of the fairgrounds, except a few cars over in the other direction.”

We were on top of the Ferris Wheel, and for some reason, we were holding each other’s hand. Vonnie and Garrett, in the next car, appeared to be getting along pretty well.

I looked at her. We were very close together, and the lights made her face seem to be many colors at once. She was looking straight at me, and I knew what I was supposed to do, but my mind was overloading. So she took over.


An hour or so later, we had bought food and drinks and were leaning up against a makeshift fence so as to better enjoy our dining. The girls were laughing about something.

“Do you want to go into the dance tent next?” Vonnie asked.

“Sure,” we two guys said.

The girls went back to whispering to each other, and Garrett said quietly to me, “The dance tent will be perfect. When you can express yourself with your body, you don’t need words.”

“And vice-versa,” I responded glumly.

“What’s up with you? Things seem to be going great.”

“Yeah. They are.”

“But what? You’ve been after her for months.”

I had no answer. Something felt wrong, but I couldn’t say what it was. Several things felt right, too, and those were more easily identified.

“It’s all good,” I responded laughing. “Let’s see how the dance tent goes.”

“Now what are you two laughing about?” Alisa said, suddenly.

“Oh, you know, just boy talk,” Garrett said, innocently.


The girls stopped to get face paint before we went on. Vonnie’s was fairly subtle, but Alisa got a complete makeover. I was, if anything, even more entranced. This whole thing was such a dream-come-true, that part of me kept thinking I was going to wake up suddenly, and it would all be gone.

We paid the extra charge to get into the tent from which loud music was issuing, and walked into a strobe-lighted dance floor, where hundreds of couples were dancing. These were the days before epilepsy hit me.

We danced, and danced, and those two girls looked like they were having the time of their lives. When a slow song came on, and I held her close to me, I felt something I had never really felt before: like the two of us, she and I, had invented human attraction, a thing that was completely new, and that only we knew of.

I was completely taken over by the feeling.


The carnival closed at 1:00 AM; since they both had college classes in the morning, we had to say goodnight out by the cars. I had ridden with Garrett and Alisa had ridden with Vonnie, so tons of privacy wasn’t really an option: in addition, we were all, in spite of everything, trying hard to be good people, as we understood those words.

At 2:30 AM, we watched the lights of Vonnie’s Oldsmobile drive down the winding fairground road, and we headed back to my house. In the car, Garrett (who was the quietest of all my friends) said, “That was fun.”

“Yeah, it was,” I said. “So — did you two make any future plans?”

“Yeah, I’m supposed to call her Thursday and we will set up something for Friday night. You?”

“I’m supposed to call her in the morning and make sure she’s up in time for class.”

“Will you even be awake?” he laughed.

“I doubt I will have gone to sleep,” I answered back, laughing.



Five years later, and I am sitting on the edge of a bed in a small dark room, exactly o.67 miles from the entrance to the fairgrounds.

Vonnie is a emergency room nurse, living in Orlando.

Garrett is an IT programmer, working out of Chicago.

Alisa is clerking for a Federal judge in Atlanta, having graduated 4.0 from Duke Law School.

I am in the mental health wing of our local hospital, having been ravaged for two years by physical illness and depression.

The room is gray and almost empty: they don’t want objects we might hurt ourselves with in here. My roommate is asleep, but he’s on Thorazine, so that’s pretty much all he does. I am struggling to bring up the memory of that night, trying to remember what it was like to feel… anything.

… there were colors on her face, for some reason? is that right?

… i think i remember those lights shining in her eyes, we were on, like, a ferris wheel, right? yeah, that part’s right …

… and she and the other one got their faces painted? and maybe we danced? that can’t be right, i never dance …

… she touched me… i forgot anybody ever did that …

… yeah, we were laughing and touching each other …

… i was like a real human once …

… maybe?

Author: Beleaguered Servant

Owen "Beleaguered" Servant (a/k/a Sibelius Russell) writes poetry mostly, with an occasional pause to have a seizure.

6 thoughts on “Carnival”

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