Having a weekly deadline can be a gift and a curse, as far as inspiration goes. On the one hand, it forces you to barf something out whether you feel like it or not, and it can sometimes turn out that that barf is full of gold that you forgot you swallowed. On the other hand, sometimes it’s just barf, and it can be depressing knowing that you’re showing everyone the disgusting things you’ve been eating.
Speaking of disgusting things, who doesn’t love the fair? It smells like fried sugar and pig poop, and fills me with memories of my childhood. Like the first time I ever went with just my friends in 7th grade; I found out you could get free tries at the carnival games if you let the carnies leer and flirt with you. I had no idea at the time that it was incredibly creepy and inappropriate, I was just 13 and excited to be out in the world.
During that same excursion I went on my first “scary” ride—the “Falling Star.” If you’re not familiar, it’s basically a set of bleachers on a big stick that raises up about 50 feet in the air and then swings down really fast. At the time, it was the newest and scariest ride in the joint. We had run into a group of guys from school, one of whom my friend had a massive crush on, so naturally we jumped on board when they said they were going on that one. As we waited in line, all I could think about was the mess of fair-food in my churning stomach. I whispered to my friend that I was nervous—a little too loudly, apparently, because the guy she liked turned his head slowly and gave me this withering look. My belly tightened and flipped even more.
Anyway, we got on the ride, and it turned out to be every bit as bad as I feared. It wasn’t good-scary in the out of control sense that careening this way and that on a roller coaster might make you feel, it pretty much just makes you feel like you’re in a falling elevator, and makes your stomach drop. Really, really hard. I clenched my whole body during each fall, determined to not humiliate myself in front of my peers. I pictured vomit flying all over them and everyone on the ground, and then the stories passing around school for the rest of the year. My life as I knew it flashed before my eyes with each swing, and I ferociously swallowed the bile that crept into my throat, willing it back in place.
The ride ended and I managed to excuse myself and speed-walk to the nearest bathroom, leaving my friends to their awkward flirting while I crouched in the hot stall, leaning over the filthy toilet with beads of sweat forming on my brow. The feeling finally subsided without incident, but the memory burned itself into my brain. I still can’t see teenagers flirt without feeling a tremor of nausea.