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Carousel Dance

    They're razing the old carousel today, so I figured you'd come home. Still, it shocks me to see you after all this time.

    Your face is weathered now, your once supple skin sagged and sun-creased into frown lines that retreat behind your greying beard, and there's a middle-aged paunch that wasn't there before. But you're standing with those same slouched shoulders and your hands in your pockets, smiling that same gapped-tooth grin, and I recognize you in an instant.

    Why did you wait so long?

    Twenty-seven revolutions of the sun, you've been gone. I know because I've counted the moments. Every perfect sunrise, every blood-orange dusk as I watched young lovers share cotton candy kisses and ride our carousel like we never existed—like we never sat atop those painted steeds and wished for something better—I've counted them all.

    And now, here you are. Back on the island.

    Of course, I know you're not here to see me. I've already noticed the blueprints that are rolled and tucked into the crook of your arm. I see the yes-men in their safety vests who await your command (just like they did your daddy) and I realize that it's you who is driving this project.

And I think you’ve forgotten what you promised me—so, I will remind you.

    Before the sun sets and the rain comes, and the darkness chases you away again, I will remind you...

    Do you remember life on the island in '96? It wasn't all it was cracked up to be, despite the swaying palms and colored coral reef...only a couple of local kids like us could attest to that. That's what we bonded over. The banality of wet-season island existence.

We'd sit on the empty beach, eat leftover lime skittles and listen to Nada Surf on the Walkman that your daddy bought about how boring it all was.

    "I just wish something would happen," you would complain as we took shelter under pandanus trees. "Something other than rain."

    I used to nod and agree, all angst and ripped denim and teenage crush.

    And then something did happen. Your daddy bought the carousel.

    "He's going to build a big amusement park," you told me, taking me by the hand and helping me through the wire fencing. The signs said not to trespass, but you didn't care much for his rules back then. We walked through dense island brush until we found the proposed site. It didn't look like an amusement park. The rides were mostly dismantled, scattered like mechanical dinosaurs in a metal boneyard. But the carousel was perfectly intact.

    It's hard to reconcile that grand old girl with the crumbling structure scheduled for demolition today. She was such a beauty in her prime. Regal and decadent, with gold braiding and a horse in every bleached and faded like our once vibrant reef.

    Do you remember how we pretended to ride those horses right to the stars? To the mainland? To anywhere but here? And how you kissed me between the rainbow pony and the nobleman's steed amidst sips of passion pop and mosquito bites?

    I move closer now to remind you.

    There's a crowd gathering, and you haven't noticed me yet. You're busy waving in excavators and backhoes, and I know such is the nature of progress—that sleepy islands become amusement parks, which become resorts with wine bars and two-bedroom villas—but for fuck's sake...the carousel? Is nothing sacred?

    The excavator pulls in to start the job, and I move closer again. Stand right behind you. Breathe you in. You don't smell like skittles anymore, just cigarettes and stale beer and betrayal. And as they start to dissect our carousel, I wonder if you can smell me too. Like dampness in the sultry air.

You check over your shoulder, eyes glazed and indifferent as you look right through me. I move closer still.

    Do you remember when you said you were leaving? How you took me to the carousel and told me your daddy was sending you away? That you had no choice. And how I screamed at you? Cried. Begged you to take me with you, like you always promised...

    Our carousel is in pieces now, and I am crying again. Or is it raining? You glance behind you a second time. Still don't see me.

    "Everything ok, boss?" A yes-man is looking concerned. Maybe he's heard the erosion rumors—how they're all saying the new resort will simply crumble into the sea.

    You smile. Reassure him with that gap-toothed grin. "Everything's fine."

    Do you remember when you told me that same thing? "Everything will be fine." I knew you were lying. I knew you were leaving and never coming back, and that I would be stuck here. Stuck in the wet season. And how you walked away from the carousel as I came undone? Left me in the shadows of that metal graveyard. Left me broken and grieving those mundane days of rain and sand, and you and me.

    And how I chased you in the darkness. Tripped over the nobleman's steed in the wet. Landed with a sickening crack!...

    The carousel is gone now. Nothing left of the grand old girl but the concrete slab she sat on—the one your daddy had his workers lay soon after they found my body, my neck broken like promises made amongst fiberglass horses. A quick cover-up to avoid any bad publicity.

    "Should we pull up the concrete?" the yes-man asks.

    The rain starts to fall. A chill cuts through the stagnant air, and I wonder if you can smell my bones, still buried beneath the sand.

    "No," you reply.

    And as the inevitable storm sets in over the island, and you prepare to leave once more, I hold you to your promise.

    I breathe you in again. Attach myself to you. To skin and nerve and muscles, long dormant. You cannot shake the coldness. The damp. I mount you like a carousel horse, and you are bridled and bound to my will.

    And now, my love, to the stars. To the mainland.

    To anywhere but here.












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