The last swirls of colour hung steadfast in the sky, grasping at the bottoms of the clouds and fighting the encroaching dark of the night. Between us, we gave them a nod and whispered appreciation for their fading beauty, before we surrendered our attention to the coming assault on the senses, and stepped over the makeshift threshold of sheet metal and concrete.
Wood smoke, hot oil, sugar and starch. Floodlights and flashing bulbs. Chattering, screaming, whoop and holler above the thud-thud-thud and growling hum of music and machine.
We made careful steps through the crowds – the many rivers of people with their contrarian currents, criss-crossing paths and sudden stops to bark commands at however many of the several children bobbing and weaving their own ways through the throng – to find our targets.
To stopper the grumble of stomachs, we splashed out on food (the classics, the gentrified, and the straight-up outlandish) scraping at the Styrofoam whilst lurking in the second-hand warmth of the serving hatches and trailer doorways.
To defy the odds, we surrendered our newly acquired coppers to the will of rubber ducks, coconuts and the grip of the claws. The eventual plush trophy most likely paid for twice over.
And to tempt fate, we took on the machines, to be spun and shook and launched. Hands finding hands, heads resting on shoulders. Laughter, screams, whispers.
And in between the spiralling chaos of the waltzer, we marvelled at the raven-haired girls who stepped on and off the walkways and arms with an effortless grace. Sirens that harmonised as they walked against the tide, to spin the cars. An old folk song. Their calling card.
Spun-drunk and enchanted, we stepped off the wrong way, and found ourselves elsewhere. Lost in amongst tent-backs, bins, and generators. Backstage to the theatre of the fair, with all the noise and light curtained off from us.
Alone in a sea of people.
Eyes lost in eyes.
Arms wrapping around each other, squeezing at the padding of layers in winter.
A stolen kiss.
Cold-numbed lips warming against each other. The rub of stubble. A crystal of Caster.
The already quietened world fading to a whisper. Only the siren-song to fill our heads.
An eternity, with no end in sight.
A sudden yell, and we broke apart.
Two tents down, a young man dove forward, bent double, unleashing a belly full of cider and chips, emptied onto Mike Ashley’s finest.
We were gone before we could be seen. Out amongst the throng, back in formation and hyper-aware, with blood pounding in our ears.
And as the adrenaline died away, the warmth sparked up inside of us, again.
The taste on each others lips.
The brush of fingers as we walked.
And on the air, distant but clear.
The sirens of the waltzer, singing of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme…