Eric Ankrim

English 101

Creative Essay

The Fair

So, I’m at the fair, and as far as I know, the whole place just opened today. It surrounds me with smells, sounds, and sights that are strangers to my senses. As I wander through this world of unknown danger and excitement, I feel the gravel crumble beneath my feet like tiny details lost in a storm of theses. My parents serve as guides, friends, and role models to their inexperienced son, and I don’t complain. After all, they seem to know their way around this endless circus better than I do. Fortunately, I am able to stay out of trouble, with a little help from my parents, until I am familiar enough with the territory to venture out alone. Knowing that I am a mature, responsible son, my parents allow me to explore the fair on my own. Whether or not I am ready remains to be seen. Adventurous.

With wide eyes and a beaming spirit, I ventured into the dense maze of people and rides, not knowing what to do, or where exactly to go. My first thought was just to follow the crowd and see where they lead. Most people seemed to have a pretty good idea of where they were going, and since I didn’t, they provided a good enough path for me to follow. Well, the group of men and women I trailed lead me directly into a small area marked by two rides. On the left hand side stood a classic merry-go-round, with elegant horses and carriages decorating the interior. On the right, a shiny neon funhouse lit up the sky with music blasting and signs blinking. Something mystical drew me to the merry-go-round, but then I stopped to examine the lines. It seemed as though everyone preferred the funhouse. The line stretched for at least a quarter-mile, like the biggest game of follow the leader you have ever seen. On the other hand, the merry-go-round almost rotted in its place, losing all of its business to the louder alternative. Finally, I decided the hundreds of people waiting patiently for the funhouse must have known something I didn’t, and so I joined with them. Obvious.

As the line shrank in front of me, I was able to peer into the house to see what the other people were doing. The only attraction I could really make out seemed to be an oversized mirror for people to examine themselves in. Apparently, people found it endlessly entertaining to look into them. Well, eventually I reached the mirror, and approached it with very little anticipation. Then, the image the glass shot back at me nearly knocked me down. I realized I had never really taken the time to compare myself to the other people at the fair, but when I saw my image in that mirror, I knew I didn’t look the same as everyone else. My proportions were grotesque, and my face looked like it had been run over by a car. I wondered why my parents never told me that I was a freak. My embarrassment drove me to run from the funhouse at full speed, desperately searching for something to cover my face. Well, as luck would have it, I came across a booth hidden behind the burger barn in a space that I remembered empty the last time I saw it. The silent man behind the counter beckoned me with his eyes, and I knew he had the solution to my problem. I read the sign, "Face Masks: Cheap" Perfection.

The boy with the new face felt strong, renewed, and proud of his new identity. He strolled through the fair showing his mask to everyone who would look. All the children smiled at, complimented, and envied his mask. Some told him they really didn’t think it suited him, but he knew they were just trying to make themselves feel better, since they didn’t have a mask. His mask was the best one at the whole fair, and everyone else was just jealous. He was the best, and they weren’t. Period.

Of course, there were some problems with the boy’s mask. For one thing, he couldn’t take it off when he was by himself. It was a permanent mask. Also, it pressed against certain areas of his face uncomfortably, since it wasn’t made to fit perfectly. He even felt his face beginning to alter itself to fit into the mask’s shape. He thought that was scary, but realized the mask was more attractive than his face, so he accepted the change with a smile. The mask was great to wear in front of others. Everyone loved the boy, and they listened to everything he said. He felt important, powerful, and accepted. But when the boy sat by himself, he wished he could take it off and breathe every once in a while. Just breathe. Once.

I felt the mask begin to wear down, and a small chunk broke off at the corner. The part of his sweaty face that was revealed under this crack was red, scratched, and soft, like the skin under a popped blister. It felt great. Part of him wanted the mask to stay, fearing the reaction people would give to its complete removal. But the other part of me wanted to break free. Breathe. Once. As his right hand tried to protect one side of the mask, my left hand tore the other half to bits, leaving no trace of the mask but my raw face, which now glistened in the sunlight. Breath.

My mind was in shock, like a murderer pardoned on death row. How long had I been in prison? Am I free? Time was immeasurable, and I wondered where my innocence had been taken. My eyes squinted at the sight of so many things previously unseen. Love.

I now sit on the merry-go-round, and witness children peering into the mirror for the first time. What choice do they have? The lights begin to fade, and I see the fair is closing down for good. I am sure there will be other fairs, other worlds, and other masks. Life.