Stuttering, cold and dampIt was a total fluke and yet there I was. Dressed in leggings and a skin-tight t-shirt while they put chaulk on my hands, forearms, knees and feet. Hair in a bun and secured seven times over. It will take me the better part of an hour to find all the elastic bands and bobby pins used. Enough makeup to rival the clowns. It took Lochlan scrubbing my face for an hour with soap to get it all off later.
feel the warm wind, tired friend
Times are gone for honest men
And sometimes far too long
For snakes in my shoes
A walking sleep
And my youth I pray to keep
Heaven send Hell away
No one sings like you anymore
Hang my head, drown my fear
Till you all just disappear
Zero risk, for the net is tight and the lines have been triple checked by Reza and then by Lochlan, three times in fact. I cannot die on Lochlan's watch, he says or he will never forgive himself. At the same time he is fairly grinning with stupidity and anticipation.
Reza put his hands on my shoulders. I am paying strict attention. He looks stern. I want to make him relax so I tell him that I am listening.
You will fly, Breegeet. (Everything is heavily accented in Reza's universe.) Enjoy eet.
My brain kinks, badly. These are my instructions? I turn and give the goofy-fear face to Lochlan who steps in and tells me to start swinging and then bring my legs up through my arms and simply slide backwards, letting go with my hands while continuing to hold on with my knees. The moment I feel the hands on my arms I am to disengage my knees and I will swing from Reza's hands. If I fail to pull away from the swing, I am going to fall forty feet. There is no alternative. Too many steps. Can't compute.
I shake my head when he asks me if I understand and tell him I'm going to be sick.
He laughs. Pukey-excited or pukey-scared?
Then go with excited. It's going to be amazing.
The acrobat I might be replacing got pregnant and ran away with the hired accountant. Currently no one is paying us until the owner arrives and yet the show must go on. I am fourteen years old now and I feel as if I have this huge responsibility to entertain the entire town sufficiently or all will be for naught and we have worked so hard here.
(Daily I am remind to tell people I am nineteen, if asked. The circus was not the midway, I have to be of age here and I'm so not prepared. Looking back at photographs I defy anyone to believe my age unless they were blind. Some of them were, though, in our defense, since they gave us lots of money for what I would call disposable memories. Being in the circus is like being a court jester. You are employed to entertain the passive crowd, who watch. That's it. It isn't hard if you are good at what you do. But this is different. The stakes are high with this act. Forty feet, to be exact.)
Lochlan kisses my forehead and whispers that he loves me. I am biting my lip and too nervous to speak. I think I have changed my mind and I'll go back to calling for the games and running for whoever needs me and filling in wherever I can for the show instead of being one of the main attractions.
I think I'd rather run away too right now but this is away. This is escape and the imaginary place where nothing ever goes wrong, only everything has already gone wrong, Bridget and here I stand risking what they say is nothing but in reality it's everything and I have a long way to go before I crawl out of this hole of recklessness and an inability to outwardly panic and gee, I hope that they notice soon and save me from myself because I seem to have it in for me.
And then I flew. And I fell. And then I did it eight more times until I wasn't crawling out of the net on my hands and knees, rope biting against my skin like barbed wire, muscles flexed and aching, mind soaring. I didn't know what to think of this.
Well done, Breegeet! A star iz born!
I didn't hear Reza. That's what Lochlan told me he said.
All I heard was the wind at the top of the tent, a delicious, frightening song just for me. When my feet touched the ground for the last time on that very last night of that show, I knew this was not the life for me, even though I did go back when I became an adult, for a time.
Just to make sure.