In the cool of the evening, when shadows darkened the Fair Grounds, Templeton crept from the crate and looked around… [His] keen nose detected many fine smells in the air. The rat was hungry and thirsty. He decided to go exploring. Without saying anything to anybody, he started off. “Bring me back a word,” Charlotte called after him.
— E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web
* * *
Scientific fact: whispers whiz fastest between those 11-to 17-years-old. On any given day in any school hallway, the sole identifiable phrase that floats above the din is, “Oh my god. Did you hear?”
Yes, everyone’s heard–but everyone wants to hear it again anyway. And like the playground mondegreen game “telephone” (a.k.a. “whisper down the lane,” or the less-PC “Chinese whispers”), what everyone’s heard isn’t likely the truth worth hearing.
Case in point: Rumor mill Monday morning after the Maui County Fair weekend, early in my sixth grade year: “Oh my god. Did you hear what happened? Richard and Puanani fingered on the Ferris wheel!”
“I heard they did a blow job behind the game tent!”
“I heard they did it on The Zipper!”
All of it implausible–but we didn’t know that. Mostly because we didn’t really know (but I guess found out) what “fingering” or “blow jobs” were, let alone how to go about “doing it.” Nor did we know how to feel about all of this, and our embarrassed opinions vacillated like the Music Express: shock and disgust, jealousy and admiration–and we stumbled off the grapevine ride bemused and catechizing.
I certainly wasn’t ready for all this fuckery–seeing as I still spent my after-homework hours brushing my American Girl dolls’ hair and ad lib-embroidering images of studious apples and piles of books onto homemade pencil bags. Though that’s not to say I wasn’t under the sway of all the County Fair romance in the air, and I indeed pined a la E. B. White’s Fern Arable, gazing at the Ferris wheel, “wish[ing] she were in the topmost car with Henry Fussy at her side”; the riskiest business hoped for to simply “swing [the car and] see everything for miles and miles and miles.”
So for dorky me, the rumors of Richard and Puanani were like candied apples on the Tree of Life. Suddenly I felt I needed a fig leaf or five, and my humble daydream of my crush winning me a panda bear prize after a cotton candy stroll through Orchidland, flew apart like The Swings’ chains snapping in a to-Oz tornado.
Turns out, I never did go to the fair with a boy until just before Bill Murray and I divorced. (As “Scarborough” sadly serenades, “he was once a true love of mine” and so on.) Like knowingly playing rigged ring toss, it was one of those last-ditch efforts that couples sometimes make when the end is imminent. Even the Pharaoh’s Fury flipping us heels over head couldn’t revive our long-dead lovers’ belly butterflies. Flying saucer crash landing.
Not exactly what I’d long wished for, but then again, what ever is? I’ll rewind further to attempt another example:
From, like, first to fifth grade at Kula Elementary School, I had a two big crushes: Cavan and Sterling, the two tallest boys in our class. I’ve never been good at masking my emotions–an affliction ever worse in my giggling, pre-double digit-age days–and being a silly little crush-struck girl, I’m sure I unwittingly made my affections pretty damned obvious.
Cavan’s hair looked like it was cut with a bowl and parted down the middle by Moses himself. (Oh, and I shudder to remind you this was the achey-breaky early ‘90s, wherein which the rattail was acceptable, if not applauded.) Paired with a Bugle Boy shirt, I thought this was becoming.
Meanwhile, Sterling rocked what looked like the seedlings of a ruddy fro and after lunch was always conscientious to pointer finger-brush Oreo sludge from his teeth, which I thought classy.
Sterling was buoyant and cool–but maybe too cool; so I focused my daydreams on Cavan, who was dark and tortured beyond his years, and lived 18-Mississippis-by-school-bus down the road.
Anyway, when The Lion King first came out in 1994, our class took a field trip to Kihei’s Kukui Mall to watch it. From the moment mom signed the blue field trip release form, I began concocting some ridiculous fantasy that I might get to sit next to Cavan during the movie. This, of course, did not happen.
The most ridiculous thing about this little fantasy was that, nearly 18 years later, it was the first thing I thought of when I saw that The Lion King had been reissued in 3D (as I clickety clacked film capsules for MauiTime’s showtimes listings; which you can read every week on page 17ish).
Not just embarrassing, this memory’s rather pointless; and if I was smart I would have expunged it from my psyche entirely. Did I do that? Of course not! I told one of my good girlfriends, Rose Potter, all about my crush and The Lion King daydream.
After Rose (who’s full of flirty ideas) finished howling at my silliness, she gushed with you-go-girl flair, “You gotta find him on Facebook! And ask him to see The Lion King with you!”
I’m no flirt, but I’m devilish with dares. The easy part was finding both Cavan and Sterling on Facebook. The impossible part was working up the nerve to ask some boy I knew in elementary school–who’s now grown up and likely has a family, and perhaps isn’t even on Maui at all–to go watch an animated movie re-released from our youth for no other reason than (hopefully) humor.
So after a few failed drafts, I gave up and didn’t send any check-here love notes. Even if I had convinced Cavan to see The Lion King with me, it would have been horrifically, needlessly awkward–even for the likes of this column. And anyway, to what end? It didn’t matter then, and it really doesn’t matter now.
The Lion King’s limited rerun has run out; and in the real world of love and loss’s school of hard knocks, the lesson I learned is that Fern gets fingered on the Ferris wheel, no one notices Charlotte’s web and Wilbur becomes breakfast flavored with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. ■