A Brief Encounter at the Fair

Joe Lanzon

Richard Evans and Joe Barton, both in their fifties, bachelors and long-time friends, were walking in the park. They crossed the narrow make-shift wooden bridge and headed towards the river bank where they would sit on the grass and talk on whatever takes their fancy at the moment. It was a lovely Sunday in the Spring of 1999.

There’s the annual traditional fair next week Richard. It’s been sometime since I’ve last been there. Shall we go and see what’s happening, what do you say?” asked Joe as he sat down on the moist grass. “The Fair eh!  I don’t know Joe. I’ll tell you what happened to me at the Fair years ago. I haven’t told this experience to anyone else before.That is if you are in the listening mood, of course,” replied Richard.

Yes. Yes. I’m listening. This must be interesting if you kept it to yourself all these years,” said Joe.  Richard sat down beside his friend and began recounting his story:-

It was a day like today. Sunday, the end of Spring heralded the Summer season of exactly thirty years ago. The Fair was on. I was one of the thousands who went to visit it, more out of curiosity than for anything else. I sort of surprised myself that day. As you very well know, I am a very shy and introvert person who does not make friends easily. I always keep a step or two back from entering into a conversation, or from saying ‘hello’ to a person smiling at me, or from encouraging any familiarity whatsoever. 

I was roaming from one place to another, watching people, young and old, enjoying themselves with the various kinds of entertainment being offered from the many stalls, tents and booths. It was a lovely day, the sun was shining after a bad winter and the people were making a day of it. 

I was watching people on the merry-go-round as I clutched a small bottle of water in my hands. Then I saw her. She was wearing a short multi-coloured summer dress tied with narrow black belt at the waist. She was so pretty!  She was holding on to her dress as she spun round and round on the merry-go-round. 

She saw me looking at her and smiled at me. I felt shy to smile back. Then, on the second round, she appeared again in front of me, still clutching her skirt with one hand. But she waved at me with her other hand. I just lifted my hand slowly and sort of waved back. I made just a small movement with my hand really. 

When the merry-go-round stopped, she got down, looked out for me, joined her friends and went to find other entertainment. I was mesmerised by her. I moved on, looking here and there, seeing what’s available, what’s interesting, more to pass the time than to take part in any ride or join in the fun. Then I sat on a bench to rest, taking a sandwich out of my case. I saw her again half an hour later. She passed in front of me with her two companions, recognized me, waved directly at me and smiled. What was I to do? I did smile back and waved again but did not leave the bench to follow her. Maybe I should have done that.!

Then she dropped a leaflet she was carrying, could have been the Fair’s programme or something. Maybe she had dropped it on purpose hoping to encourage me to come near her and talk to her. I was pondering whether I should run after her, pick up the leaflet and give it to her. That should have been my immediate impulse of course, but I was caught in two minds. I was rooted on the spot. It was my shyness of course. Suddenly a young man stepped forward, picked up the leaflet and gave it to her with a smile and a bow. They started talking and, to my dismay, he kept walking with her. I was the nearest person when she dropped the leaflet but was too slow to act. I didn’t see her again. The sun was setting down and I made it to the exit and took a bus home. But her face, her smile and her wave kept coming back to me every day. The ‘meeting’ with this beautiful girl, brief and from a distance as it happened, was always on my mind.  

For thirty years after that, every year without fail, I went to the annual Funfair in the hope of meeting her once more. I was determined to talk to her and, at least, learn her name. But I never saw her again! Last year the Fair was back again as usual at the beginning of the Summer season. I went again, more out of  habit than anything else. I had been walking around among the stalls and rides for some time, felt tired and sat down on a seat overlooking the merry-go-round. 

A middle-aged lady came and sat next to me. She looked tired too and I was sure that there were tears in her eyes. Then she looked at me and said. “I used to come here every year when I was a young lass.”  “So did I” I replied. “I met my late husband here,” she went on. Then she smiled at me. There was no mistaking it. It was her!

I was dumbfounded and just looked at her in disbelief. Then she said. “I nearly met a nice young man at this Fair one year, many years ago.”  I just listened, still could not believe my eyes. “He was eyeing me and I was sure that he was interested. So I dropped my programme hoping that he would pick it up and we would start talking”. I did not speak one word, just listened to her recounting the incident which for so many years was still fresh in my memory.

He was such a nice young man”, she continued. “But he never picked it up. I think that he was going to, however the man who became my husband beat him to it!” she said. As Richard stopped his long recount, Joe brought his hand to his mouth in surprise. “What a sad and fascinating story,”  he said. “You know something? I don’t like Fairs. Never have done!” Richard responded calmly. 

You don’t like Fairs? And you kept going there every year for thirty long years!” said Joe. “No. no. This was just a story. I made it up! Just my imagination! It never happened. I’ve never been to the Fair!” replied Richard.