Written on: March 28, 2015
A teen’s dream, no parents, just a friend and me going to the State Fair. It was a warm May day in southeast Pennsylvania. In 1988, neon colors and big hair were all the rage, and I was very in touch with the 80s, as I sported a pair of neon green and black spandex with an oversize t-shirt to match. My childhood friend, Janelle, was with me, we each had $10 to spend, and a day of oversize fun was about to be had!
Janelle found food, especially carnival food, to be an extremely important part of her life, so first she and I walked around looking for the perfect junk food meal. With her being just 13 years old, I was an entire year older and felt a certain responsibility to her. As she scouted for food I kept my eyes open for cute boys.
“Step right up!” a deep voice shouted to us from about fifteen feet away. “For a single dollar you could win one of these adorable stuffed animals. Come on, ladies, give it a shot!”
I smiled at him, he was sort of cute, with a baby face, and bright blue eyes. “Hi,” I said, raising my voice as I closed the distance between us, dragging Janelle along with me to see this hottie close up.
“Hey, how are you?” he questioned me as his eyes seemed to smother my body from top to bottom.
“Okay,” I responded.
“Would you like to give my game a try? All you have to do is ring the milk bottle with one of these,” he held up a ring barely big enough to land around the neck of one of the bottles.
“Nah,” I looked at Janelle, “Do you want to give it a try? I’m not good at the ring toss game.”
“No way,” she said, “I’m hungry, I want to go eat.”
“No surprise there,” said the carnie as he shot me a smile and for the first time I noticed the rotting spaces that once were teeth. His smile reminded me of something out of a Stephen King novel, and I grabbed Janelle’s hand to escort her away from the fear I had rising in me.
He grabbed my free hand, “Hey,” he said, “not so fast. I have some pot, want to catch up later and smoke a joint?”
Feeling the nausea in my stomach I ignored the sensation. I could easily be described as an avid toker, but I never purchased my own. The only time I would smoke was if a friend had some.
“Sure,” I said.
“I’m not sure if I have enough for everyone though,” he nodded in Janelle’s direction.
“No worries,” I laughed, “she’s pretty righteous, she doesn’t do anything like that.”
“Perfect, come on back in a half hour, and we can enjoy the smoke on my next break.”
Janelle and I continued the great hunt for good carnie food, until it was time to meet the ring toss boss. Picking our way through the games we finally found his station. He took my hand, and I grabbed Janelle’s hand. Together he led us to the back of the fair, behind the semi’s that brought the many games, rides, and food trailers to our home town.
“Ready?” he asked.
“You bet,” I smiled as I eyed the ground between us, trying to avoid the gaping holes in his mouth.
As he lit the fat joint I watched his eyes smile and his lips curl around the hand rolled paper. Eager to take my own toke I reached out for his hand to receive the pass.
As I held the deep inhale, he looked at Janelle, “Why don’t you go get us a soda?” as he handed her two dollars.
“Oh, I better go with her, I’m responsible for her today.”
“Ah, she’ll be fine, just let her go,” he stepped a couple of steps to his right, pointing he showed me that the soda trailer was just about 20 feet away.
Janelle looked scared, “No, I’ll go with her, just let me get one more hit.”
She didn’t make eye contact with me, but she began to walk away. “Don’t go, she’ll be fine, besides, I can’t smoke all of this by myself.”
“No, I need to stay with her.”
“Please, stay?” he seemed quite pitiful, I looked for Janelle, but she was long gone, and the carnie had pulled me back behind the semi.
“Take another hit?” he asked as he held out the bit of joint that we had just about smoked to completion.
The roach was hot, burning my fingers. “Here,” he pulled the feathered clip from my hair and used it to hold the bitty paper that was left.
With no more smoke left, I smiled at him, “Thanks,” and I took a step away, with Janelle really having me worried about where she could be.
I felt him grab my shoulder, “Not so fast, that shit ain’t free ya know? You owe me,” he said as he shoved my back against the semi.
“No,” I yelled, but his rotting mouth smothered my cries. Tears streamed through my make-up as he furiously searched me for my button breasts. Pushing at his chest I managed to put enough space between us that I could escape his touch.
In a flash I realized that I couldn’t run toward the crowds, I was too high, and a minor. Instead, I ran toward the eight foot chain link fence, topped with barbed wire. On the other side was a brief stand of trees, then a road, and my best friend’s apartment. If only I could make it. Leaping toward the fence I felt the barbed wire etching future scars into my body, but I didn’t care. Reaching the top I fell to the ground in a heap of relief and pain on the other side.
Stumbling to my feet I heard the brush beside me give way to the carnie’s weight. He had jumped the fence as well. My screams again muffled, but this time by his hand covering my mouth as he dragged me deeper into the brush.
Struggling against his grasp I felt him pulling at my clothing, as he carelessly ignored my tears. Somewhere, deep in the woods of the state fair he penetrated me, alternating between his hand suffocating my screams and his rotting mouth. “Oh,” he said, “isn’t that just wonderful? Mmm, I love you. You’re so hot,” his words were endless, as if he had planned this day for years, as if we were young lover’s exploring long awaited, raging wants and needs.
Succumbing to his ravaging needs I weakened my fight, glaring at the leaves, and the occasional glimpse of passing clouds. My body weak, my mind struggling, there was no escape; my head still swarming from the fat joint we had shared, the only thing I wanted to share.
Years seemed to pass before he was done with his invasion of my body. When he completed the task he gently kissed my mouth, “Mmm, now was that so bad?” he asked.
Tears continued, “No, no, it wasn’t.” I knew it was, but I also knew I had to tell him what he wanted to hear. This was no longer a task of saving face, it was a task of surviving this unfortunate encounter.
He helped me back over the fence, laying his denim jacket over the barbed wire to help protect us. Landing on the other side I felt weak, his feet again hit the ground beside me. I shook as he said, “Goodbye.” I feared him and I needed to find Janelle, she could be my safe haven in the midst of chaos.
I searched the fair for over an hour for Janelle, careful to avoid my assaulter, and the police, in my stoned state I was sure to find time in juvenile hall for this.
My search for Janelle proved useless, so I called home to have Mom pick me up. “Where’s Janelle?” Mom questioned when she picked me up.
“She ran into some friends and left me.”
“Bullshit!” she cursed far different from the Mom I knew. “She’s at home, you left her to take off with some boy! You’re a little slut.”
Sitting in stunned silence I realized, my circumstances were my fault. That rotting carnie had done nothing wrong, it was because I was a girl, the way I dressed, too pretty for my own damn good.
Struggling from my slumber, years later, I realize, it was just a memory, a nightmare that happened too long ago, but it seemed so immediate, the scars are still there. Will I ever heal?