I was twelve, or thirteen, busting out all over and quiet at the same time. Testing the waters, with my feathered hair and lip-gloss. I wore my 501 button-down jeans and a black Jack Daniels tee shirt and we piled into the car and took a long ride to a theme park. Everybody with me was too young, or too old, and I wanted to have some time to myself, so they reluctantly let me go off on my own without too much protest.
I wandered around, watching people try to win stuffed animals, tee-shirts, or plastic cups with logos and big straws sticking out of them. I wanted a boy to win me a giant stuffed prize so I’d be forced to lug the symbol of is affection and prowess around the park for all to see. Big stuffed, fluffy validation of my worthiness.
The day was exquisite, balmy and slightly breezy with a sky the color of a Sky Blue Crayola crayon. I stuffed my hands into my front pockets and pondered the scarier roller coasters. Eventually I found myself in front of the sky ride that slowly glided high above the crowd and across the park. That ride was just what I needed at that moment. I could observe the world in the way it actually felt like I was observing it here on the ground. In a detached way that also filled my longing heart with a sort of awe at everything around me.
People gliding the opposite direction would smile or wave, I’d give a tentative wave back. Sometimes boisterous guys and quiet men would glide by and smile or wave, and I’d smile and look away. Then a boy a few years older than me passed by. Brown hair, tanned, shy-looking, he strummed every string in me. Our eyes met. It took a long minute for him to come into view and pass. I took another ride around and he passed again, this time with a bigger smile. Me too. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to meet him, but I was going to end up on the opposite side of the park if I got off. So I rode around again, and there he was, again. He hadn’t gotten off either. And we did that, over and over – eyes meeting, shy smiles, small waves, and knowing. Knowing that if we weren’t separated by that eight feet of air and a sixty foot drop, we’d be sitting close and telling each other everything you could share in a few hours. And he would walk me to a game where he would win me a stuffed animal and I would carry it around as though he’d slayed a dragon for me. We rode that way until the sky got dusky and purple and I knew I had to find my family. I got off the tram, feeling a little heartbroken for what was never going to be, and hoping he got off too, so I wouldn’t disappoint him as my empty seat glided by.