I was small.
I was small, my tiny knees only barely bending over the edge of the lift bench, while my tiny arms had to stretch to brace my back between the bench and the guard rail. I had a neighbor again, this time my cool older cousin who had granted my wish to sit next to him. A wish I was beginning to regret. As we glided over the paved streets and greasy air of the Wisconsin State Fair, I felt the squeeze beneath my gut change from gentle hug to a strong pinch. There was still too far to go.
“...What?” The involuntary whine in my voice had put him on edge.
“I kind of have to go to the bathroom.”
The edge sharpened, and then, with realization of the situation, dissolved.
“Well we’re almost there,” he said, pointing to the carousel where the chairs descended onto a runway and then turned around a corner to pick up an obese redneck couple heading the opposite direction. But even as I saw the rednecks’ chair wobble under them, I knew the effort was hopeless.
I turned to my cousin and as I involuntarily released the pressure, I gave him the best puppydog eyes and the most moaning “I’m sorry” I could. And fear filled his eyes. There was terror in those pupils, I knew, a terror greater than any I had come to experience in my three years on Earth. The steamy liquid blasted out of like a fire hose, filling up first my underwear and then seeping through to my shorts. The dark spots emerged on my shorts, and I heard an emerging current flow from carnival yellow chair. The last thing I remember was the look on George’s face. Equal parts regret, distress, and thinly-veiled anger combined into his only uttered syllable, “Shit.”
The blackout lifts and I was standing on the cheap linoleum counter in one of the fair’s many cheap linoleum public restrooms. Butt naked. I made no attempt to hide my nudity. I deserved this. Should have told somebody I needed to go to the bathroom before the lift. Should have given more warning to George. It was cold and dank and foul in that restroom. My uncle stood in front of me, at eye level. His sunglasses and scruffly blonde beard disguised his expression. What did he feel? Pity? Annoyance? Perhaps a little of both. I couldn’t discern either specifically as he handed me a clean, just-purchased, novelty fair t-shirt, three Xs too L. I didn’t need to know though. I knew how I felt. There was a pain in my soul and an unsatisfiable guilt eating my insides. Wearing this shirt was all I could do to pay my debt to George. To my uncle. To all those nameless, unfortunate people under the lift chair. To the world.