decided to try a different kind of story, a different kind of writing, & a different kind of character today. not sure why.——-
at least we’re dancing.
on a day soon when everything is miserable, your instinct will be to go do something you love, to fix it, so you don’t feel terrible anymore. here’s my best piece of advice: fight the urge. don’t do something you love. because you will ruin it.
as it was, heidi & i were in the process of ruining a carnival.
everything was terrible because of the car repair bill & her fourth speeding ticket & the goddamn chicago cubs & all we wanted to do was fix it. so we went to a carnival, because every good romantic movie has a carnival scene & i wanted ours to have one too.
but the lines were too long & the snacks were too expensive & the kids were too loud & the carnival was just too much carnival for us that night.
at the height of our misery, we stood in line for the solar system ferris wheel, all the gondolas made to look like planets & in the center, the sun.
“today is a miserable day,” heidi said.
“we shouldn’t have come here, we’re too miserable,” heidi said.
“days like today, when everything is miserable, we should just avoid each other altogether. never raise an issue, just steer clear. i don’t want to see you like this, and i don’t want you to see me like this,” heidi said.
sometimes with heidi, when i would say nothing at all, i would say the wrong thing.
“yes? really? that’s all you have to say? you’re supposed to want to see me every day!”
“honestly, sam, do you even think this is working?”
it was a complicated question that I don’t think I was supposed to answer honestly.
“i don’t know—”
“YOU DON’T KNOW!?”
& she was angry, but i didn’t want her to be.
she wanted to know if it could work.
she asked me if it was working.
just because it’s not working doesn’t mean it’s not supposed to be. i wanted it to work, i just wasn’t doing a very good job.
but neither of us was winning a fight tonight. because today was a miserable day.
“we’ve got room for 1 more!” called the carnival worker. one of the two seats in the gondola sat open. the other was occupied by an attractive man who might have been from brazil. i could see his accent from 15 feet away.
heidi smiled at me with her tongue between her teeth.
that smile was the best and worst part about her.
she spun and raised her hand. “party of one!” she shouted, & they ushered her into the gondola.
i approached the carnival worker alone, hat in hand.
“how many in your party?” he asked, but before i could even answer, his face was overcome with pity.
“boy. wish I could say it was the first time i’d seen that happen. fucking ferris wheels, man.”
I nodded. He nodded to an open gondola, the other seat occupied by an older man. for the first half of my ride, i tried to find the gondola with heidi and, more importantly, her brazilian.
after 5 minutes of fidgeting and silence—
“so she’s sitting somewhere else, huh?”
i stopped fidgeting to look at him. “how’d you know?”
“i just do.”
“it’s been a miserable day.”
he nodded for a few moments. he smiled out the window, then smiled at his watch, then finally smiled at me.
“life is too short for miserable days. my wife told me that,” & he smiled when he said the words my wife. “we could be buried in some dirt somewhere. at least we’re dancing.”
he shared a soft laugh with himself. “i’m sorry, i don’t spend much time around other people, i forget that i have to explain these kind of things. it’s more wisdom from my wife—” another smile. “—in our younger years, she was as a dancer, in a country where there was a lot less glory in the profession. but she loved it. & i was stationed over there & i would go watch her every night, & all of the other dancers would complain, but not her. they would complain about the hours, or complain about the demands of dancing & when i asked her how she felt about it, she would always say the same thing. she’d say ‘hey! at least i’m dancing!’ so it became something we’d say when the chips didn’t fall right or the money didn’t come in. at least we’re dancing.”
the gondola hung in silence for a moment.
“smart woman, that one.”
“what of your wife?” i asked him. “couldn’t talk her into the carnival? has she gone off and found herself a brazilian as well?”
for the first time in our full rotation of the sun, our eyes locked & we truly saw each other. he smiled, & suddenly he was a million miles away from me & i could the bottom dropping out of my stomach.
“i’m so sorry, I didn’t realize—”
he stopped me. “how could you have known?”
our journey around the sun together continued in silence, until he finally looked back to me.
“she used to love the ferris wheel. that’s all. that’s why i come back. to remember what it was like. that’s all.”
the gondola jolted to a stop. we had made our way around the sun twice & i had barely noticed. we nodded to each other & climbed out.
heidi approached me right away. she had been waiting for me.
“i’m not mad.”
"i’m not either."
"we’re here. that’s what matters, right?"
“right,” i said, & i looked out after the man, walking alone through the dim carnival light.