The Summer of Infinite Possibilities
You rushed in the back door that afternoon, slamming dog-eared books on the table while blurting your carnival-going plans to Mother. She looked up, eyeing you cold over the butcher block, her hardened face a warning. Sweat-damp hair hung limp as she sliced beets rhythmically, their blood tainting her fingers, her knife thudding the block. She said nothing, only wiped her hands on a grimy apron where Rorschach patterns bloomed.
You became silent, wishing you could spool your plans back into your mouth, and wind them down, down, down into the dark safe place in your heart. You didn’t tell Mother you and Will were headed there anyway; you’d dump out your jam jar and see what those dirty nickels bought you. Then you’d both ride down on your bikes, grinning stupid for the last day of school and the beginning of your summer adventures. This would be your summer of finding yourself, your Summer of Getting Lost.
You ditched your bikes in the weeds by the rusted fence that separated the fairgrounds from the town, and its wilting, faded-paint normalcy. A dusty-suited, buck-toothed man guarded the gate, fingering a greasy roll of tickets. You turned out your pockets, trading your lint and change for entrance. The man wiped his brow with his jacket-sleeve and tore off a section of the roll. His hand touched yours for the slightest of moments and it felt cold, waxy. You pulled away and mumbled thanks, darting after your best friend, already on his way to the fun house. Another man stood outside the fun house with glassy eyes; droplets studded his bulbous, near-bald head. With no soul in his voice, he asked for your tickets and you gave them willingly. His hand, too, was cold.
Will darted in first, hollering in the passageway, and you followed, though Will was already gone, made invisible by the maze. You could see yourself on all sides, mirrored infinitely into space until you presumably reached the ends of the Earth. You felt lost and found all at once, not knowing which of yourselves was true, yet knowing more about yourself than you ever had. You had the detached eye of a god, seeing yourself through time.
But you were alone.
You resumed looking for passage, but kept hitting mirrored walls. You groped to find your way out. You couldn’t hear Will anymore, and called his name.
I’m almost out, he said, his voice sounding far.
Your upper lip felt damp. Okay, you said, Okay. I’ll be there soon.
You fumbled past more mirrors, breath becoming short, walls closing in, until you were sure you were almost there. But you still didn’t know how to get out. You could only see a reflection of the exit, and in that reflection, you saw Will outside. You called his name again, and he called back, and you saw one of your infinite selves follow.
Let’s go home, you heard him say to Will outside. Let’s go home.