We reached for the brass ring. It gave us something to do. Going around in circles was exciting in its own way, for a while, but after a few times around, the novelty began to fade.

But the ring would always be there, offering us another challenge, something not quite so easy to get as merely straddling a horse and watching the world spin by. Because the difficulty made the experience rare, wrapping our fingers around it became all the more exhilarating. And we would usually be expected home before the novelty could wear off.

We fought one another quite fiercely for them, sometimes half-jokingly, other times with more anger than our rational minds could justify. What was a ring after all, barely worth anything more than the memories attached to it. Still the experience of grabbing hold was quite disproportionate to its actual value. It was one more justification, one more reminder, that our trip that day was worthwhile.

If one or more of us got one, we might eye one another with jealous rivalry, comparing our relative abilities to accomplish our goal. But if none of us succeeded, we shared one another's disappointment, comforted each other with an understanding that only came from shared pain.

One time I left empty-handed, one of my friends offered hers to me. "Here, for you," she said. "I have enough for now."

I accepted it with some gratitude, but it wasn't quite the same as getting one myself. More a consolation prize than an achievement. Still, I felt better for it. She gave me some tips on doing better next time, like some sort of carousel coach, yet we were fishing in the same waters. Any time I succeeded would mean one she would miss.

I could see the disappointment in her eyes sometimes when I would take one before her, but we were good enough friends that we tried to be happy for one another, even when we couldn't perfectly share one another's success. They were lessons in friendship I suppose.

We were so young then, muddling about the world half-blind, but we were learning. A few steps forward some days, a few steps back on others. Rivalry was always most intense in the heat of the moment, but it was in the hours afterwards that we truly bonded over the memories.

And when the seasons passed, when our lives took us in different directions, different cities, when we were no longer able to get together on slow afternoons by the carousel, we would tell each other stories about what we remembered from those days, correct or not. Even if our memories weren't so great, a story told enough times gained a life of its own, perhaps not the best snapshot of the past, but a memory unto itself nonetheless.

The mall containing the carousel was eventually closed, as the businesses there slowly faded away. Occasionally when I returned home, I would invite an old friend to walk by it with me. Nothing was operational. Weeds grew in the cracks where the cement was once seamless. Time was not kind to our old haunt, but in my mind's eye, I could almost see the ghosts of children running around the now broken-down ride, their voices echoing like spirits from a long-dead culture.

I can't find any of my rings anymore. I'm sure I still have them, maybe buried in an unused suitcase or thrown haphazardly among the contents of some unopened cardboard box. Sometimes I wished I could still hold them in my hand, to feel them between my fingers. Would it still be the same after all these years?

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to go digging through old things anymore. I had more practical matters to attend to. Any digging through the past would have to be limited to the memories in my head, and if I was lucky, a friend or two who used to try to show off their skills those sunny Saturdays of our youth.

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