The Carousel

The parking lot in front of the amusement park was empty except for the security guard’s truck. The rides were quiet, the park lit only by an occasional streetlamp along the bordered paths. Jasmine said good-bye to Donna, the security guard, and watched as she pulled the gates closed and snapped a padlock through a huge iron chain that linked the gates together. Donna, a long time friend to Jasmine, had easily agreed to let her stay in the park for awhile, after closing time. Donna knew she could get in big trouble if anyone found out. But Jasmine had been so troubled lately, and rarely asked any of her friends for favors. Besides, Donna was on duty all night and had to be at the park anyway. She would study inside her guard booth till Jasmine was ready to come out.

Jasmine thought walking around the park after hours with no one else around, no kids yelling, no barkers calling, was just the thing to help her think through some big issues. Well, really just one big issue: Greg Hinkson.

Three months ago, Greg joined the software testing team Jasmine coordinated at Dynamic Data Systems. Greg was tall, muscular, effeminate, even feminist (though Jasmine thought a male feminist was an oxymoron), and very straight. He seemed to break all the stereotypes Jasmine had about men.

It took only a few days for Jasmine to fall into a comfortable working routine with Greg. Then, because of an imminent project deadline, they began to meet after work and on weekends to go over test results, streamline reports, and the usual work-related stuff. Jasmine felt an increasing tingling sensation when she was with him. He must have felt it too, because finally, he asked her to dinner. For a “real date,” he called it. She had no qualms coming out to him. She laughed as she said to him, “Are you blind? Can’t you tell I’m a major dyke?” He calmly looked her in the eye, flashed incredibly white teeth against creamed-coffee skin, and said, “So?”

Jasmine accepted the invitation.

Over the next few weeks, she became more disconcerted about her attraction to Greg and where it might lead. She had never before questioned her sexuality: she was a die-hard lesbian. Period. She never even considered the possibility of being bisexual. But these days the lines got more and more blurred. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do about Greg, or why she needed to do anything. She did notice that she seemed less drawn to women. That scared her.

She had spoken with Greg about her feelings. He was open and sensitive and never pushy. He seemed to feel that whatever happened would be okay. His easy going manner made it even harder for Jasmine to deny she enjoyed being with him. He simply said, “Sometimes it’s good to take a risk. You never know if you don’t try. I’m here if you’re ever ready.”

Part of Jasmine wanted to be ready. She wanted to take the risk with Greg. It didn’t mean she had to change her life. Just add something to it. She had never been with a man sexually. She had been attracted to women from the time she was a young girl. “Maybe I need to find out. Make sure it’s what I don’t want,” she thought, but never said aloud to Greg. She felt comfortable with Greg about a lot of things. They swapped ex-lover stories as easily as Jasmine did with her women friends. With any other straight man, she would have said he was only getting off on hearing about lesbians being together. But she couldn’t say that about Greg; somehow he was different. There were some subjects she was more comfortable talking about with Greg than with her other friends. Like fishing and Renaissance literature. She had never before felt such emotional intimacy with any man. There was a trust with him that she had only felt with women. If he would just do something really prickish, or something really gross, something that would make her say, “See. All alike. I can be friends with a man, but I could never sleep with one.”

Still, Greg was a nice guy with a great body and there was a chemistry between them that they both felt. Jasmine tried to understand the risk to her own emotions, to her own identity, that she would be taking by having sex with Greg. She felt torn, and berated herself for not just going along with what she felt. But she wasn’t really sure what she felt, other than lust. That seemed strange enough in itself: lusting after a man?

Another issue for her was the fact that she viewed herself, basically, as butch. She always went for the most feminine women. Jasmine liked a woman who wanted to be escorted down the street when they went out; a woman who wore lace, silk stockings and who painted her nails and lips bright red; a woman who wanted a tall, handsome dyke to lift her legs around a slender, dark-skinned waist and carry her to bed.

So what the hell was she going to do with a man who could almost be her androgynous twin? Maybe that was the attraction. Sort of like falling for herself. It was all too confusing. That’s why she wanted to be here in the park, alone.

When she was a kid and her parents took her to the amusement park in her hometown, she would deliberately get lost when it was time to go home. She’d hide in the carousel pavilion and wait till the lights shut down. Then she’d climb onto the carousel and walk around the platform, touching each gorgeously curved animal: horse, giraffe, elephant. She was mesmerized by how beautiful everything looked in the dark. Some kids might have thought the animals looked ominous. Not Jasmine. Far from being frightened, she felt an excitement at being alone with such a huge toy. And at the same time, a kind of peace, like she belonged. She thought the carousel animals were even more beautiful in the dark than in the daylight. The shadows played along the curves of horses’ backs and elephants’ trunks. They cast a softness to the bright colors that was less garish than in sunlight.

She knew she made her parents frantic, and finally after a couple of times, they caught on and stopped taking her to the park. They said it was less trouble than trying to make sure she stayed with them till they left.

Tonight the empty park seemed the perfect place to mull over taking a risk. Amusement parks were made for risk. Isn’t that why people came to them in the first place? Children and adults liked being taken to the limit—pushed to the edge, in the name of fun. “Amusement parks are a socially acceptable risk-taking environment,” Jasmine philosophized as she walked away from the gates into the eerie silence of the darkened park.

She shoved her hands into the pockets of her jeans and walked toward the carousel pavilion. Her mind couldn’t stop tossing around the pros and cons about Greg. Hopefully, tonight would give her a chance to clear her head and think about her relationship with him with less emotion, or at least, less lust.

As she neared the carousel, she shivered, not from the cool May night, but with anticipation. This carousel was one of the few restored originals left in the country. The animals wore bright coats of paint over smoothly carved wood. Remembering the details of jewels, bridles and saddles on the animals’ bodies made Jasmine smile. The black horse with the red saddle and gold mane and tail was her favorite. She turned right and headed down the flower-bordered path to the carousel. Glancing behind her, she realized she cast a shadow on the path. But there was no moon tonight. She looked up to see the lights lit bright on the carousel.

“What the hell?” She hurried toward the pavilion. Only the top of the carousel was lit. The red and white stripes on the canopy glared in light, while the animals, forms circling in shadow, danced beneath.

Jasmine stopped abruptly, just out of reach of the light. “Who else is here?” The words raced in her head. Her mouth opened to call out, but something stopped her. She fumbled for a cigarette, then decided it was better not to draw attention to herself.

Caught by the strangeness of the circling carousel, Jasmine’s nervousness slipped away. She watched as the animals moved rhythmically up, down, around. As the carousel turned, she found herself looking for the black horse with the red saddle.

There it was. Its golden mane flowed back, frozen, caught in an invisible wind created by the carver’s tools. “Oh!” Jasmine caught her breath. There, astride the black horse, sat a woman clothed only in a shimmering, sheer white bodysuit. Auburn hair flowed down her shoulders, her hips slightly rose and fell across the hard, red saddle. Her breasts, small and round, brushed against the curves of golden mane.

Jasmine sucked in her breath. She felt a twinge, a pinch, an ache, between her legs. She stood, watching, absorbed in the beauty of the improbable scene. The black horse came into full view. Jasmine was close enough to see the unfamiliar face. The woman on the black horse leaned forward, eyes closed, mouth slightly open. She loosely held the brass pole that rose out of the horse’s back.  Her neck arched back; the horse rose and fell. Jasmine watched as the carousel turned till all she could see was the horse’s golden tail flying stiffly behind the woman’s back. Then the music began. Carousel music, light and merry, dancing through the air and across the park.

Jasmine turned and peered into the dark; nothing out there, she was sure. All movement, all sound, centered around the carousel. A feeling of worry flitted through her, then quickly left. She was curious, awed, mesmerized, yes; but not really worried. She thought briefly of why she had come here in the first place. Greg seemed worlds away.

The horse and its rider disappeared as the carousel circled into deeper shadow. Jasmine took a few steps forward, not wanting to be seen, yet wanting to be closer. She stood just at the edge of the light and waited for the black horse with the red saddle to circle into view. Finally, she could see the pale body of the woman; now she had wrapped her legs around the horse’s neck, leaned back, held herself with her palms pressed against the horse’s rump. As horse and rider drew closer, Jasmine could see the muscles in the woman’s legs and thighs as she pulled and pushed herself against the brass pole. Jasmine heard the woman’s moans beneath the carousel music as the black horse rose up, came down. With exquisite control of her body¾her bottom quivering above the saddle, her legs hugging the horse’s neck¾the woman thrust her pelvis against the glistening pole.

Jasmine breathed hard. A rock sat on her chest. She hadn’t been this aroused by a woman in a long time. She wanted to step forward, jump onto the carousel, slide up on the black horse, behind the woman, and slowly move her hands along those breasts, that stomach, those thighs. She longed to press her fingers into the hair between those legs; the soft, curly hair that must surely be soaked with sweet juice and wanting long, slender fingers sliding inside.
The black horse was gone again by the time Jasmine realized she had just exercised one of her greatest moments of self-control. She needed a cigarette. “No,” she thought. “I need that woman.”

Jasmine stood, waiting in the darkness, as the carousel turned. The music began to soften. A different tune played into the night. The dark horse continued to circle in and out of shadow. Each time it came into view, the woman held a new position on its red saddle. In one turn, she lay on her stomach, her head arched up against the pole, her pale bottom moving up and down in syncopated rhythm against the horse’s gleaming black flanks. Another turn, and she sat backwards, pumping against the rim of the saddle, holding tightly to the golden tail.

With each breathtaking sight, Jasmine stopped just short of walking into the light, and onto the carousel. As much as she wanted to go to the woman, she felt the scenes were too beautiful to be interrupted. So, instead of moving forward, she moved her right hand to the waist of her jeans. The zipper slid down and a low moan rumbled up her throat as Jasmine’s fingers found her own wetness. Her left hand crept up under her tank top and found a nipple. She pinched, lightly at first, then harder, as her other hand played softly around her clit. Her teeth bit her bottom lip; she sucked in her breath and focused all her energy on not crying out as she moved inside herself. That was no easy task.

All the while, Jasmine kept her eyes on the carousel, searching out horse and rider with each turn. The other animals, their colors muted in shadow, rose and fell in a protective cadence around the black horse.

Just then, unable to control her desire to come, she stumbled forward, into the circle of light. And in that moment, the horse rode into view. This time the woman sat side-saddle, legs spread apart, one hand slowly pumping up and down on the brass pole, the other rubbing, circling slowly between her spread legs. As the horse rose up, the woman opened her eyes and looked straight at Jasmine. She grinned. Not a surprised grin, but a grin of acknowledgment. Jasmine started to speak but couldn’t. The carousel circled on.

Jasmine pulled her hand from her pants, dumbfounded. She thought for sure the woman would get off the horse, or at least wave, now that she had acknowledged Jasmine’s presence. But she didn’t. As the horse danced away, the woman peered out into the darkness, legs spread, still moving her hand over herself.

Jasmine lost all self-control. She had no idea what was going on, why this woman was here, who was operating the carousel, or if anyone else was around. None of it mattered. She had to move now.

Her long legs swiftly crossed the short distance to the circling platform. Beads of sweat glistened on her dark skin as she jumped up onto the platform; her arm shot out, catching the hind leg of a yellow lion to get her balance. Carefully, she moved forward between the animals, searching for the black horse. The music was louder here, but still slow and melodic.

Soon she caught sight of her horse, its tail flying out from behind; the red saddle, empty. She quickened her step and grabbed the golden tail. Jasmine anxiously peered into the shadows. The darkened animal forms rose up and down, oblivious to her. The carousel kept circling, the music kept playing. Where could the woman have gone? Jasmine slid her hand along the still-wet saddle, then pressed her cheek against the brass pole and breathed in the musky, female smell that lingered. She had to find her.

With each movement of horses and giraffes, lions and ostriches, Jasmine turned, straining into the shadows. Finally, she came full circle around the carousel. Nothing.

Jasmine began to feel a little foolish. The woman was probably standing in the darkness at the edge of the circle of light right now, laughing at her. Just then, she heard a movement, not the now-familiar squeak of oil-hungry brass poles, but something soft: the light swish of legs sheathed in nylon rubbing against each other. Then came a deep giggle. Jasmine turned. The black horse was just behind her. She hadn’t even realized she had stopped near it. There on the horse, leaning against the golden mane, knees up, hands holding on to pole behind her head, sat the woman. She smiled.

Jasmine allowed herself a hungry look, then stepped forward. As she placed her boot into the carved stirrup, ready to lift herself up, she asked, “What’s your name?”

“I’m the one you want,” came the low reply.

In one swift movement Jasmine was astride the horse, the luscious woman right up against her thighs.

Jasmine curled her fingers into the auburn hair that flowed out from the slender neck. She leaned forward and brought a fistful of hair to her face. “Hmmm.” She inhaled the wild aroma that emanated from this woman.

“What are you doing here tonight?” Jasmine, still curious, whispered.

“Shhh. Don’t talk.” The woman brought her lips to Jasmine’s ear. “Just come here.” A pale hand found Jasmine’s dark one and moved it deeper into shadow, to her breast. “And here. And here.” The woman moaned. Jasmine slowly ran her hands over the diaphanous fabric. She followed a path on the inside of the woman’s thigh and found the moist center. Forcefully, yet carefully, she pulled at the sheer crotch till the fabric gave way. Slender, dark fingers glided in.

Jasmine let her own body flow into the rhythm of the rising horse. She moved her face forward and pressed her full lips against small, firm ones. Their mouths opened and danced to each other as naturally as the light flickering and dancing with the shadows in the circle of the carousel.

The woman tugged at the edge of Jasmine’s tank top and pulled it up and over her head. She found the fly at Jasmine’s waist and unzipped it. Jasmine lifted herself, pulled one leg, then the other, out of the jeans and tossed them down on the platform. Then in a quick, graceful movement, the woman repositioned herself, her back against Jasmine’s breast, her buttocks pressed into Jasmine’s crotch. Jasmine reached out to hold onto the pole to steady herself, glancing up as she did. There, hanging just above the black horse, was the carousel’s brass ring. She hadn’t noticed it all night. She smiled and grabbed it. Her other arm encircled this strange being, who brought her hands up to Jasmine’s face, and felt the smile there.

The carousel circled. The animals danced up and down, around the platform, and Jasmine and the woman made love: to each other, to the horse, to the shadows, to the night.

Later, they lay in the dark on the grass across from the carousel and told each other about their lives. Jasmine thought only once of why she had come to the park, and in that thought she knew what her decision would be. She was amazed at how easy it was to take this risk with an exquisite, strange woman, and how difficult even the thought of it was, with Greg. She pulled the lithe body closer to her. The woman reached up, stroked Jasmine’s face and curled her fingers into thick, raven hair.

Jasmine breathed deep, filled herself with the smell of this woman, the night, herself. She lifted her head and caught sight of the black horse with the red saddle, standing sentinel in the shadows on the platform. The music was silent, the animals still. Only the stars wheeled above, a giant carousel of women, dancing.