Unzip the door. Breathe. Remember to be quiet. Make no promises. Try your best to say the right name. This is not the best place for monogamy and you know it. So does he. It is undoubtedly late, the after hours party has died down, and the campground is silent as you each strip down in the dark tent, only seeing the others’ body in silhouette. The air mattress is firm underneath your bodies. The constant chirping of crickets is your mood music, and every time a zipper opens nearby, you pause. You are no longer shy with him, or anyone for that matter. You’ll be passed out, naked, draped in each others’ limbs with a warm blanket or four, until the voice over the intercom wakes you. Groan. Sit up. Stretch. Then begin to dress. Put on skirts and your chemise. Pull on your nice leather boots, make sure you buckle all nine buckles, and then turn to your temporary tent mate and request help to lace up.
You like your job. Every weekend for seven weeks outside with the bawdiest people you know. Dirty jokes and innuendos fill the air; going over the heads of the small children and eliciting smirks from the parents trailing just behind them. You love the work day. Clothes that accentuate your best parts. Men in kilts. Women in corsets. Mead. Deep down though, you know the best part of the day is seven o’clock when the cannon blows and patrons file out. It’s not that you don’t like the patrons but you just want to be able to undress, eat, and drink all the lovely booze that you’ve been unable to drink while on the job. Even if you are able to drink some while on the job. No matter how much you like your job, you will like the after party better. Some nights you’ll acquire more liquor than others, but no matter how much you drink, the decadence of the evening will not lessen.
You see him ten feet away with a mug of Johnny Jump Up, talking to a pair of gypsies who are now wearing short shorts and sports bras. You made no promises, but jealousy is often fickle. Ignore him. Find Captain Teach. Find a fire-eater. Find a mime. Whoever you find they will be male, and they will have alcohol to share. When he glances over at you, make sure you are touching your new friend. His chest will work. A kiss will work better. You know none of it matters by the end of the season. You will act like none of it happened if you see each other, but right now you want him to see you touching/hugging/kissing/loving this other man. Maybe this is where it will stop. Most likely not. Often you’ll end up taking a walk. The uneven ground is somehow traversable despite the darkness. You know every rock, hay bale, and bench around the grounds. You know the nooks and crannies security does not check.
You’ll leave feeling dirty, but you’ll get back to the party and find that one of the two gypsies is gone and he is nowhere to be found. In the morning, you know it won’t matter. Off in the distance you can hear people shouting. Familiar voices yelling, “I do believe in fairies!” Homemade absinthe is the drink of the night. And though it tastes like black licorice rolled in dirt you will drink it anyway. Now you can see the fairies too.
When you finally stumble down to your tent you are dragging someone down with you. Maybe a guy. Maybe a girl. Maybe it’ll rock your world. Maybe you’ll wake up with regret. Either way you will be sleeping with someone else. You will repeat the process from the night before like a ritual. Shedding your clothes like an old layer of skin. Not every night is like this, not every weekend. Some nights you are all alone in your own big tent. Some nights even the floor space is filled with the temporarily displaced. You’ll go home Sunday night to a warm shower, a soft bed, heat or air conditioning.
These are weekends of hell: weird costumes, embarrassingly drunk patrons, and so much dirt your snot turns brown. But despite it all, you love it. When you can’t be here, especially in the middle of a long Minnesota winter, you long to be here among your makeshift family. It is home.