When you’re thirteen you avoid the rides. When you’re thirteen the best thing about the rides—the Zipper, the Ring of Fire—is their un-vaguely venereal names. You embrace the periphery of the fair. You pretend to be into cars. When I was thirteen and did not yet have hair under my arms I followed a friend to the parking lot of the Tabernacle Church of Christ (really), where the people who did not want to pay to park would park. I, too, did not wish to pay—we were purchasing what we then called bud and would later learn were seeds and stems. Funnel cake. I wanted funnel cake. I could still smell the funnel cake, and the mud, and the perfume of a girl we called Conover and who likewise did not know my real name. Or any other name. I had once messaged one HowToSaveALife04 on AIM thinking it was her and had wasted twenty minutes convincing a dude named Tyler that he wasn’t in fact a dude named Tyler. I wanted to waste twenty dollars attempting to win Conover a bear. I wanted her to bear witness to my attempts at winning her a bear. The kid’s name was Mitch. He was either in the grade below or above our own. Twelve seems young, in retrospect, but at the same time we ourselves had watched girls on the Internet eat things they’d eaten before and would eat again. We ourselves had once been twelve. We had once had twelve-inch dicks. We had grown. There was a car in the Tabernacle Church of Christ’s lot, a Mercedes Benz painted an Extra-peppermint blue. We circled it after the deal had gone down. We talked about cars and girls we had (claimed to have) fucked and girls we would like to fuck in our one-day cars with our foot-long dicks. My friend held the Ziploc bag somehow at once loosely and tightly within his fist. In the distance I could hear kids younger and older than us screaming as they were Zipped and Tilted and Whirled. When you’re thirteen you pretend to know more about cars than you do. You pretend to not want funnel cake. You pretend to not want to chuck baseballs at bottles that long ago held milk. You want a boy or a girl (someone, another, that’s it, that’s all) to bear witness to your striving. You hunker down on your hams, tired but mostly just bored, and peer into the exhaust pipe of a Mercedes Benz someone for some reason needed to park for free. You listen to your friend and the kid named Mitch, maybe, pretend not to laugh at your apparent interest in exhaust. You do not know cars. Your face combusts. You do not yet stand. Inside the pipe lies a dark without end, fragrant with spent fuel. Before joining in with their laughter, before conspiring in making a joke of yourself, you drink in your fill.
Colin Lubner writes (in English) and teaches (math) in southern New Jersey. His work has either appeared or will appear, temporally speaking. Recent pieces can be found through his Twitter: @no1canimagine0. He is keeping on keeping on.