A man at Camalo Fair swore to me that if I came with him on the Ferris wheel he’d cure cancer.
Cure cancer? I asked.
Who knows? Take a chance and you’ll see.
I didn’t laugh. I didn’t budge.
I’ll buy us cotton candy, he added when he saw my jaw set. Come on, sweetheart, you can’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
The cowboy grin glowed on the man’s face. It slipped only at one corner when he discovered I stood too tall for him to lean over.
Listen, Camalo Fair has the greatest cotton candy you’ve ever tasted. If you weren’t from out of town you’d have heard already, scout’s honor.
I dammed up memories of vendors spinning magic sugar and my chin resting on sticky countertops. Camalo hadn’t changed, but I sure as hell had. I knocked the toe of my shoe against the dirt.
I don’t eat sweets.
Summer blared above the awnings. Grit stung in my flats. My skirt refused to breathe. God, Camalo. The man shoved his hands in his jean pockets and rocked back on his boot heels, sun angling off his spurs.
Alright, he said. That’s alright, miss. Just the Ferris wheel, then, eh? You can’t say no to that.
I don’t like heights. And I’m married.
The man just smiled at me, bright and kind of patronizing. I realized there was powdered sugar still stuck to my lipstick. I realized he hadn’t believed a word I’d said.
What if I really could cure cancer? He pressed. Say you going on the Ferris wheel with me was the only way to do it. Would you?
I bared my wedding ring like a shield. Then say you were about seven years too late, I guess, I said. Someone else got the girl. Cancer never gets cured.
Sweating between the whooping laughter of the carousel and the jeering of the dart station, seven years too late, I thought about laying it all out for him.
Say he remembered me, this John Wayne. Say I told him he knew me from high school. Say he went home and looked me up in his yearbook. Say he decided that it must have been my brother or my cousin in his year, because the boy in the pictures who resembled me wore no flats, skirts, or lipstick. The boy in those pictures would have dropped dead to ride the Ferris wheel with this man–just once to dress up, go to the fair, get called sweetheart, and eat cotton candy with him.
But say my husband got back from the dinky portable toilet any minute. Say we went home to the new place. Say we argued some politics, unpacked our boxes, had a nice dinner and some decent sex. Say we woke up to the untuned church piano and hymns from the open chapel doors, to believers all praying for God to cure cancer.
Say we turned to each other, pushed the clutter of years away, and breathed noise. Say I told him about the man who would cure cancer to take me on a fair ride.
What a world, my husband would say to me. He might laugh, or I might. And I would say it back: what a world.