The County Fair

…The county fair smelled like funnel cake and horse manure. It sounded like carnies calling out as you walked by, yelling for you to play their games. My dad said all the games were rigged, but I was never good enough at them to be able to tell, and I wasn’t convinced he was either. Once I won a poster of the band 98 degrees. I don’t remember what game, only the prize. It was small, only 5×7 inches, but I loved that it was behind glass. Sometimes I’d run my finger along the edge just to feel how sharp it was.  I’m pretty sure I clumsily shattered it within the week. The fair was too warm, humid, and to me, came with a sense of danger or maybe just an inability to predict what was going to happen next. Screams were everywhere, coming from happy children riding the rides set up less than two days before by men I’m not sure I would now so quickly trust with my life. Sometimes I rode the cages. The cages were like a  ferris wheel if the placid, romantic benches were replaced with squirrel cages that twirled 360 degrees as the giant wheel whisked them up and over, over and over. I wouldn’t be surprised if I still had bruises from the safety belt cutting into my thick thighs. I also liked the ride that looked like a blue octopus wearing yellow space-ships on the bottom of its tentacles like roller-skates. I would load into one of the ships and feel the octopus’ arm lift me up and down as her body spun me faster and faster until I was nauseous; once I threw up a single pea. Eating at the fair was always more complicated than it needed to be. I remember standing in line for thirty minutes just to be served scorching hot french fries drenched in ketchup, so hot that you shoved them all in your mouth as fast as possible so they didn’t have the chance to burn your fingertips. The saving grace was the funnel cake, a delicacy my family waited for all year. Funnel cakes are little more than fried dough covered in powdered sugar…

Offices

…An office is open, but not like a prairie. It’s open like sucking space that has no oxygen. An office smells like nothing if you could bottle up nothing and sell it, maybe as an app or a b2b service. The walls taste like lead paint even though you can be sure they’re perfectly safe. The people smile but it’s fake; when I smile, it’s fake. It’s quiet in the office, underneath the sounds of keyboards tapping, executives exec-ing, and that woman from legal who laughs too damned loud. I laugh too loud, but not at the office. Not intentionally, it’s just nothing is funny about failure. Before the layoffs when there was more than one layer of buffer between you and upper management, you could spin around in your spinny chair until you felt drunk, then stumble over to the snacks and free drinks and pig out like a teenage boy. The office tastes like organic power bars in Silicon Valley. In the midwest, they taste more like free diet soda and stealing the last stale cup of coffee out of the pot without making a new one, despite the passive aggressive sign that “Cindy” put there to deter such delinquent behavior. I don’t even drink coffee, but if I did, I’d be a coffee delinquent. Some offices are gray. You were in a building that was purple. Then you moved downstairs after the first round of layoffs and that office was a pale green. Now you’re under the highway with homeless people and their tents as your neighbors, but out here who isn’t, and your office is gray, like the color is positively correlated with morale.