But that wasn't what we were thinking about that day, if I remember it correctly. We were trudging along, in our jean jackets and Airwalks, with feathered hair and the clumsy bits of adolescent facial hair, growth as mysterious and foreign as that upon the countryside we were traversing.
Ray was there. I know that because he was spearheading this little trip and seemed to know where to go. We'd taken a similar trip out to the middle of nowhere to find a small skateboarding half-pipe built by what to my mind today must have been aliens. And there were the trips in the woods near Ray's house where we each grabbed a walking stick taller than we were. I associate Ray, a 14-year-old, with a voice that I can't imagine could have gotten huskier with age.
I'm sure Jeremy was with us. He was always there, with us.
And then there was Carlos, tall and most facial-haired of all of us, with his rough classes and deeply tanned skin.
From there it gets fuzzy. I know there was at least one girl with us (Melody? Sherry?) because I would ride with her later, and I'd have the unfamiliar float in my stomach, the sweet sickness that closeness to a girl brings at that age.
What else gets fuzzy: The date, the exact location, the year, even. Memories like this are supposed to burn into your brain cells, provided with easy access and complete recall. But this memory has the frayed edges of a dream, the beautiful dissonance from reality that makes it all the more dear to me. I imagine myself losing it in pieces, like an unraveling rug, dropping the lint of itself over time.
I remember that we were walking. Down streets, actual paved streets, but through agrarian land, where there was grass and crops, maybe. It seemed we were nowhere, but Ray, and maybe Jeremy, seemed to know the direction. We may have had our skateboards, and that seems right, because I can picture us dropping them down and scooting along that paved road, from one anonymous intersection of nothingness to another.
We stopped at a store, for drinks, maybe. And it can't have been too far out if there was a small German version of a convenience store. We trudged on.
And we were there at late afternoon, and this is where my memory is strongest. The carnival, the small collection of rides and booths. It sat against the blank landscape and we descended upon it. I remember the rides against the autumnal sky, the gray and orange, the overcast day. I went up on a ride with a girl and I felt the twirl that had nothing to do with the ride.
We rode and we rode until we were quickly bored. But the walking, the miraculous carnival in the middle of nothing; when I drive along and see the hundreds of Food-Mart gas stations, the Olive Gardens and highways playing Twister above, below and around each other, I think of that place. I think that the only carnivals that come here are shoehorned into dirty parking lots, and when you ride up there, you see cars driving by, ashy sky, the gravel graveyard below.
I think of what it was like up there on that ride, a very long time ago, and how it felt like we were alone there, riding the Earth itself.
Hey, look at this! Stuff to buy! Haaawwwt-Damn!
The view from inside the toothless mountain lion's mouth.