Jack had red hair and rode a skateboard - that’s really all I needed to know.
My dreadlocks and facial piercings tended to attract a certain crowd and he was perfectly positioned to take notice. It didn’t help that I wore short shorts and high-tops with my state fair staff shirt in the 100 degree heat.
I was 19 and spent two and a half months looking for a job on summer break from college back in my home state. I finally landed a position as a parking attendant at the state fair for the final two weeks of summer. Every day for 12 days in a row I took two busses and a train before walking across the entire fairgrounds to take my post at the Underwood parking lanes. I walked between slow moving cars selling parking and fair tickets off rolls nestled into a two-foot-long metal fanny pack. I had bruises after just 30 minutes as my hip bones jutted perfectly into the sides of the box.
I worked 10-hour shifts in the blazing heat, taking breaks to stay hydrated, use the bathroom and calorie load on iconic fair food. We were lucky - the attraction next to our staff trailer and selling zone was a local skate park. There were high and low ramps and plenty of teenagers and young men milling about. My long days were punctuated by the sounds of metal trucks grinding along rails and wooden decks temporarily gripping ramp coping. The park pumped top 100 hits all day, providing a club-like background even at 8 a.m. as families lined up to head into the fair.
The back of the ramps was right next to where my fellow parking staff and I sold tickets all day. The skaters would watch us hop from car to car, and even saw as we ushered through a speeding suburban escorting Gene Simmons’ guitar to the grandstand. Entire families came through our lines that night in full KISS makeup, long-haired grandpas and tiny tots alike.
All day the skaters performed tricks and goofed around raising excitement about the local park. Elementary boys showed off their impressive skills while middle-aged midwesterners looked on in awe. The little skaters wore full padding while the veterans donned only helmets as they showed off more daring moves, one breaking his arm on site.
Each night when darkness came the heat finally eased off. The skate park bleachers turned into a crowd of dancing neon lights as the skaters tossed glow sticks to the eager audience. With an hour or so left at the end of every shift, the parking ladies and I were exhausted from standing and the heat. Dancing while we sold the final few tickets was a great way to stay upright and have a little delirious fun. Our hectic and g-rated moves were not unnoticed - we gained a collection of glow sticks and admirers from the skaters who not-so-casually gazed down between runs. Who wouldn’t be attracted to our bright orange traffic reflector vests? Safety first.
Soon the fair rumor mill came my way - a cute redhead was into me. And so I met Jack at the prompting of my fellow staffers and the hoots and hollers of his skating buddies. Jack was short, blue-eyed and funny - he had my attention. We’d talk on our breaks and exchanged phone numbers, much to the delight of everyone in the square block that made up our little fair world. Nothing says summer like a carnie romance.
Through texting and random flirtatious exchanges on the clock, Jack had learned I was a musician. With just one day left of the whirlwind fair I had finally agreed to play for him after my final shift with the parking crew. I lugged my massive plastic guitar case and prized Taylor on those two busses and a train and through the fairgrounds. I was too nervous to even consider trying to find him to say hi so I stashed the instrument in our staff trailer and hit the parking lanes, my face a perfect shade of raspberry.
By the end of my shift I had heard nothing from Jack. He had sent a skater friend to tell me he was sick and so sorry he didn’t get to see me perform. This was supposed to be the big night where we’d finally kiss or whatever so I was disappointed. Really I was more relieved that I could hide my embarrassment and Megabus back to Chicago for my second year of college.
I assumed Jack was over it and the distance would quickly smother our tiny spark of interest. I was wrong. For a few weeks we texted back and forth, him telling me about skating and me sending photos of my freshly tattooed rib cage, bloody bandage and all. One night he sent me a weird text. “Yeah, I’ve made out with a few guys,” Jack sent out of the blue around midnight with zero context.
After mulling it over, I asked what he was talking about. Several hours went by and I fell asleep. The next day Jack finally replied, “Sorry, I meant that for someone else. I’ve made out with a few guys... but maybe you can make me straight. ;)”
My immediate reaction was a combination of shock and disgust. I didn’t care that he’d kissed boys, but he clearly did. And then there was that winky face, like him wanting me to “save him” from his sexuality was a sexy honor I’d been bestowed with.
I don’t recall what happened next. I’d like to think I said something like, “Yo, dude. It’s totally cool with me that you’re into both genders but it’s clear you’re not cool with that yourself,” and left it at that. Our conversation fizzled out and I don’t remember talking much after that. Someone who actually lived in my city came along and I was not interested in trying to continue something with a boy who thought I could be his personal savior.
There is nothing wrong or embarrassing about being bisexual or even being confused. You don’t have to choose liking men or women. Be yourself. Love whomever you love and fuck whomever you fuck. That’s the kind of sexy I’m into - red hair and a skateboard just doesn’t do it for me anymore.
Hatie lives in Chicago where she runs Whoa Mag, an online magazine about badass ladies who work and play in the outdoors. She believes in sexual fluidity, women's rights and the amazing power of getting outdoors."