What a small town feels like

We accidentally came across the fair en route to the library.

In the heat I soon have a backpack-shaped sweat stain on my shirt. A grown woman, about 43, walks past with a T-shirt that says, “I am Groot.” Or at least that’s what I can make out because it's caught in her bra.

An 11-year old with a basketball attempts to juke me as we go north up Main Street to the the square’s center. His friends giggle running past. A woman selling decorative mason jars is reading a political thriller in paperback with a yellow cover, unconcerned by the foot traffic hoofing past.

“Let’s go work,” Liz says, so we cross the street into the corner bakery. The doorbell jangles and I bump into a dude who’s so tall I can’t see his head. “I’m sorry sir,” he says with that indoctrinated politeness that I want to have.

We have to walk around back to find a place to sit. We walk past port-o potties and a woman drinking Miller Lite asks her friend, “do you want another kind of beer?” Back inside, the air conditioning is sudden and people are relaxed.

“Dad,” little girls run in yelling, bringing in a hot gust with them. “She ate chocolate!” Dad ignores them, his face like tan leather.

“She’s looking for work now,” the woman across from him says.

“So who’s she living with?” He asks.

“Mark, I think,” she says.

At the counter there’s an earnest, stressed-out 12-year-old. “Iced coffee?” He asks. I nod because he ventured to guess. It costs $3.

Outside I see the tall man, now with the face of a 15 year old, sitting beside a smiling, nervous girl. They’re getting their portrait drawn. He’s got his arm dutifully around her like they’ve been married for 15 years. He’s got a resolute look a grown man has who knows what it feels like to be punched in the face. He’s too nervous to show how relieved he is, but a smile quakes through. The girl slouches under his arm, her eyes darting about. She’s got their hands planted in her lap as the caricaturist rounds out their faces. She doesn’t know what to do with this extravagance. They’ll have kids, they won’t divorce, they’ll live unafraid of not having options.

Back outside Liz approaches a tent full of wind chimes. I try not to make eye contact with the couple, but I can’t stop looking at their faces and they squint at me, looking into the sunshine. They look like my parents. Liz flicks a wind chime. A high-pitched twang rumbles out, like a baseball hitting an aluminum bat at high speed.

“The sound’s not deep enough,” Liz says, shaking her head disapprovingly.