Original Work: You'll Always Find Your Way Back Home, Chapter 11, Part 6
Chapter 11, Part 6
I couldn’t help but feel that, as crazy as it was, he was talking about me. I was trying to be someone that I wasn’t and every time someone asked me a question, I had to ask myself how Emilia would respond, like I had somehow become some sort of schizophrenic weirdo. But, if I was myself, I wouldn’t be the person he thought I was and probably wouldn’t say two words in passing to me. “It must be hard,” I said instead of trying to condense all of that into a concise thought, “you never know if people like you for you.”
Joshua nodded. “Exactly. But you know how it goes.”
Emilia might know anyway. How would Emilia answer that question? “I don’t really care why people like me, so long as they buy me a drink.” Joshua gave me a look, completely shocked by my words and not sure what to say. “I’m kidding.” I laughed and Joshua relaxed slightly. “I’m turning a new leaf, remember? No more benders.”
Joshua smiled. “Good, I like you better without them.”
Before I could really let these words sink in, Joshua informed me with pride that we’d made it to his favorite spot. It was where sand and endless stretch of relaxing beach had given way to cracked asphalt and sporadic patches of grass and windblown sand. On the asphalt was what could have been a traveling carnival, but given the fact that Joshua had been going there since childhood I had the feeling it was a little more permanent than that. There was a glittering Ferris wheel towering over the other rides: bumper cars, a carousel, some sort of ride that looked like its only purpose was to spin the occupants around until their brains were completely scrambled and so many more I could hear but not see. There were game booths dotting the landscape, representing all the usual knock ‘em down and win the prize fare. The smells of sticky sugar, burning meat and something frying all mixed in the air to create the odor that every man, woman and child associated with all the carnivals and fairs and circuses they’d ever been to. At the moment, even standing slightly back from the start of the miniature amusement park, I could see that it was crowded, that there were children picking at cotton candy as they drug their parents around with sticky hands. It was the last thing I expected to see plunked down in the middle of a California beach.
Joshua glanced over at me, as though to see how I was taking in the sight of the carnival. “I know it might be a bit cheesy but my parents used to take us here on weekends and, sometimes, when I need to clear my head or when I’m trying to write a new song or something, I still come here.” He shrugged. “Something about this place just helps me think.”
I realized that he was trying to justify his decision to take me here, trying to explain himself before Emilia started bitching and complaining. I knew that Emilia probably would have had something to say, she would have complained about the normalcy of the scene before her; Emilia was more at home in a place like Antonio’s, the stiff and high class restaurant where Joshua and I had both seemed so uncertain and uncomfortable. But now, he seemed more relaxed (albeit a little nervous), more himself here on the beach, like he belonged here playing Frisbee on the beach or going on the Tilt-A-Whirl. I wondered where this differentiation between “normal person” and “celebrity” had come from, because Joshua seemed as normal as Zach and my other classmates back home. But Emilia…I hadn’t seen any “normal” behavior from her since I stepped through the front door. If Joshua was the boy next door, then Emilia was Drew Barrymore in her pre-adolescent years, making it hard not to make the distinction between “normal” people and celebrities who ran rampant on the steam of their own popularity.
I looked at Joshua and arched an eyebrow. “Do you take all the girls here?” What a cheesy Hollywood line. That had somehow discovered a place in my life.
Joshua shrugged nonchalantly. “Well…my mom but it was more like she was taking me here.” He smiled. “It’s not Antonio’s.” He admitted.
“That’s probably a good thing, my legs are still recovering from our last visit.”
“I can assure you you’re safe here from angry, soup-flinging actresses.” Joshua promised with mock formality. “I have it on good authority that Michaela Foxx has never been seen lurking around here.”
I smiled and gave a definitive nod. “Well, in that case, I think a little round of bumper cars is in order.”
When Joshua smiled, I could see pleasure and relief mixed on his face; he’d anticipated an argument over his venue of choice, an abrupt end to the afternoon, but now he wasn’t getting one and he looked confused and slightly pleased, the way he always did when he proclaimed, “You’re different than I thought you’d be.” I had the feeling he wanted to use those words now, but he decided to avoid sounding like a broken record and just took my hand again and tugged me through the entrance (which was really just a spot in the metal fencing that had been pushed apart wide enough to let people slip through).
As could be expected, heads were turning and eyes were widening the second we stepped inside. So much for the illusion that Joshua and I were here on just any old, regular date. I’d never been asked for an autograph while on a date before. But, at least I was getting good at signing Emilia’s name; it was becoming like second nature.
Joshua finally managed to clear a path to the ticket booth, shooting me an apologetic look around the heads of the people clamoring for our attention. I shrugged, but I’m not entirely sure he saw because his attention was focused on the man in the ticket booth. As I posed for another cell phone picture, I wondered if I was going to be posing forever or if Joshua and I were ever going to get a breather.
Luckily, when Joshua returned with a handful of tickets, people seemed to take that as a sign that the autograph session was over and dispersed, somewhat grudgingly, to whatever they were doing before. “So, where to first?” Joshua questioned as though we hadn’t just been mobbed by eager fans. “Any special requests?”
I glanced around, trying to take stock of the amusement park around me. Booths of food were stuck in nearly every available space, selling everything from funnel cakes to candy apples to gyros and chicken skewers. In between the food booths were game booths with stuffed animals and other prizes stuck in the wiring around the frame of the foods, while barkers tried to lure people over to play their games. From where I stood I could see a miniature wooden roller coaster, a tea cup type ride, bumper cars, a miniature and out of season haunted house, as well as the metal legs of the Ferris wheel toward the middle of the park. It reminded me of the traveling carnival that came through Independence once a year, providing a weekend worth of entertainment that nearly everyone could be expected to attend. It felt weird to not be surrounded by Jordan and Zach and our other friends, bickering and shouting over each other and the noise to decide which ride had to be ridden first and who was in charge of getting the snacks. I wasn’t even sure where to start.
“Uh, well…” I looked back at Joshua uncertainly. “Which one is your favorite?”
“The Ferris wheel.” Joshua replied without hesitation. “But we have to save that one for last, when it’s getting dark. You decide, your wish is my command.”
I had to admit, it felt good to be in control again.