Look at him nowHe says my name and I inhale sharply, frozen in my position on the platform. Ben stands in the center of the wire, balancing. My heart is in his hands.
He's paler somehow
But he's coming round
He's starting to choke
It's been so long since he spoke
Well he can have the words right from my mouth
And with these words I can see
Clear through the clouds that covered me
Just give it time then speak my name
Now we can hear ourselves again
I'm holding out for the day
When all the clouds have blown away
I'm with you now
Can speak your name
Now we can hear ourselves again
Main attraction. No net.
The wire strains under his weight. The biggest of men are relegated to the ground in the show for a reason, the strongman, the giant, other circus sideshow freaks because everyone is intimidated by them, so let's single them out because they're different and take the upper hand. The builders, the ones you don't pay attention to. You should pay attention to this one.
The wire bends lower still. He begins to inch forward.
A chorus of fear erupts from below and he smiles and shakes his head, squinting. He's amused that his certain death is going to be witnessed by so many.
No, it isn't.
I use my hand signals and motion for the spotlight. I'll fix this. I'll save the night. I'll save the clown, though you would never know it. Clowns never ever wear black.
I am blinded and I let my eyes unfocus as I smile wide, holding up the lace parasol and putting it over my head daintily, the worst thing a superstitious person can do with an umbrella, and yet the crowd has already turned their attention to me. Not only is he going to fall, but she's going to raise the bar of difficulty and go out and push him off.
The smile is beginning to hurt, and they think I am evil.
I weigh nothing, reaching him in seconds. Don't look down, princess, just play the role you were born to play. Walk the tightrope, leave them breathless. You are braver than anyone else on this show, in this world.
To my surprise, the voice in my mind causes me to falter. Just slightly but it's enough and I hear a tight scream from below. I can't see the crowd, the lights are between the ropes and the stands. A low murmur begins to reach my ears. The Ringmaster calls for quiet, please, so the performers can remain focused!
Only the one in the center isn't supposed to be here. Will he get credit? Will he get paid? Will he be asked to stay on through the next town? When the last question marks reach my eyebrows and raise them slightly my hand makes contact and he grabs it and holds on tightly. An uncontrollable cheer goes up from the crowd that is quickly silenced and he shakes his head again. We haven't done anything yet. Don't be premature.
I begin to slide down toward him.
I balance myself against his hand and let it happen. If I fight it we'll both die. Besides, the angle is ridiculous and I am wearing tights. The rope does not bend when I do this alone. I slide right in against his feet and the wire begins to wobble horizontally and I tell him to keep going. Keep moving. Come on! If you pause we're not going to make it. If you breathe, we're not going to survive the fall. We'll make the headlines and the show will come to a grinding halt forever. We can't let down our friends, and we cannot scar the crowd for life. People avoid circuses for the clowns but secretly they live for the thrills that lie behind their fears.
They live for this.
And so do I.
You can do this. Come on. Fast, baby. Don't look down. I am sliding. Backwards now. He is pushing me, with his hands in front, still holding my heart which he hasn't dropped, no, not even once and I am grasping his sleeves and shifting my balance to barely compensate for his errors. He has the important part and he trusts me not to let go.
We reach the platform. We are safe.
The tent erupts in a roar of relief and excitement. His eyes are bright. It is contagious, this feeling. You have pleased them, now reap the reward of applause. This is nothing new to him though, he did this every night for years. I turn and wave, blowing a few precious kisses to the crowd below. I still cannot see them but the sound is deafening to me, I can't imagine what's like for him. I must be underwater, blind and mute to this incredible moment. Giving a final wave, I turn back and follow Ben down the ladder to the relative security of the hard dirt floor, swept smooth.
And then he breaks into a run, leaving the tent, leaving the show behind, taking my heart with him.
We couldn't catch him if we tried.
It's okay. He'll circle around and catch up with us on the way to the next town. Somehow he won everyone's hearts, even though he only ever wanted mine.