The scent of deep fried sweets and the sound of whirring fair rides, playful screams, and muffled music encased us in our own perfect bubble.
I was telling a joke but for the life of me, I can’t remember it. I can only remember Taylor.
Just as I delivered the punch line, her mouth spread into a grin and laughter spilled from between her lips. She doubled over trying to catch her breath but to no avail.
She nearly spilled her slushy onto the ground in a fit of giggles. As I watched her, my stomach tied itself into knots. The kind of knots that are difficult to undo. I liked her.
There was no denying it anymore. Yet, I found myself hoping, wishing, even praying to a god I didn’t believe in, that it weren’t true. I hated myself for liking her.
I knew it would take a miracle to untie those knots.
Taylor’s hand found mine as we stumbled off the Gravitron. I peered down at our intertwined fingers and the knots inside of me tightened beyond belief.
I wondered if Angel missed the feeling of Taylor’s palm against hers. Despite their breakup, I knew I was betraying a good friend of mine. I was not the type to choose myself over others.
Normally, I would stop whatever I was doing if another person’s feelings were at stake. If things with Taylor continued to escalate Angel was going to get hurt.
So, why had I not attempted to prevent anything from happening between Taylor and me?
With a tug of the hand, Taylor pulled me out from inside my head. “Wanna ride that?” She asked, pointing somewhere in the distance.
My eyes followed the direction of her finger and landed on the Ring of Fire. I immediately screamed, “Hell no!” Any thoughts of Angel or loyalty were replaced with the sound of Taylor’s voice.
We talked for hours. Technicolor lights glittered all around us. Children walked passed us holding stuffed animals larger than themselves. Nothing mattered except for her.
The fair had always felt unreal to me. At times, she did too.
Days went by and I transformed into a version of myself that I did not recognize. My eyes were devoid of their usual sparkle and ringed with dark circles.
I wanted nothing more than to reach inside my guts and untie the guilt-ridden knots that weighed me down.
As I stared at my reflection in the mirror I knew I had to push aside my shame and ask someone for advice. In that moment, I found it hard to breathe. My bathroom appeared to shrink.
The walls were caving in on me. I ran outside. I ran from Taylor, from Angel, from myself. I ran straight into Tiffany, my brother’s soon-to-be ex-wife.
She was lounging on a flimsy, plastic chair with her legs draped over the side. Her lips were stained a vibrant shade of red. Cigarette butts littered the ground around her.
She had signed up for the army on a whim and was leaving town the next day. To my family, she was inconsiderate for leaving. I didn’t have an opinion.
I thought that if I told her about my dilemma she would take my guilt with her and I would be free. “Um…can I tell you something?” I asked timidly. I hid my shaking hands behind my back.
She took a puff of her lipstick stained cigarette and released a cloud of smoke before replying, “Sure.” I told her how selfish I was being at the expense of my friend.
I told her how close I was to breaking up with Taylor, because I could not handle the guilt any longer. I told her everything.
The words came out like vomit and Tiffany did not interrupt a single time. She listened intently, taking occasional puffs of the cigarette between her lips. “I just don’t really know what to do.
I feel so selfish.” I finished with a sigh. She put her cigarette out in the ashtray this time. Then, looked back at me with intense eyes.
“You are selfish,” I felt the knots inside me tense extremely tight, “but who said that was a bad thing? You gotta do shit for yourself sometimes, Kaitlin."
She flashed me a sly smile before getting up to leave. All the sudden, the knots unlaced themselves. I was free and the next day, so was Tiffany. I understood her. We were selfish.