It’s extremely sweaty under my velvet collar. I can tell that the lights are dimming, even on the other side of the curtain. People are shouting and cheering. The “wah-wah-wah-wah” of the announcer bumbles through the space around my head. Then, a crash.
The monkeys are loose. Again. I can acknowledge it only in my mind. I refuse to turn to the noise in a panic.
They are tearing off the sequins on the petite blonde acrobat’s body suit and now she is screaming. A scuffle and then the smashing of metal on metal as the cages are sealed, monkeys and sequins safe to scuffle another day.
Another loud noise, a man’s yelling. Right in the faces of my most loving and dedicated crew members.
The strong man is complaining that his set is too short. That his craft is not as appreciated as tiny blondes or fabulous monkeys. The crew stands around unnerved, reassuring him that I will address it at a later time. They notice my decision to not turn around. I refuse to allow him to ruin another opening.
The bottom of the curtain crawls an inch, and then another.
A few of the clowns are positioned on the wrong side of the stage and scurry in front of me, knocking me backwards. My black skirt catches on to my ankles.
I am on the floor.
What a botched opening. What a way for the audience to see how we hold court here. The curtain remains at five inches off of the floor. The announcer booms another few buzz words so that the crowd continues going wild.
But I can’t react. The tiny blonde is now standing over me accompanied by the crew. Then the strong man. Then the clowns. I try to remain composed when I simply want to cry out in embarrassment and dash off to my dressing room to pack up my life and run. My face twists. I can taste the tears in the back of my throat.
Then the lobster boy appears out of no where and helps me to my feet. We make eye contact. He brushes dust from my face, actually concealing the one tear that had managed to escape. I feel blood rush through my face. But I am unable to react.
I nod. I smile. I mouth “thank you.” He smiles back and steps aside. Once far enough to the side he stops, still smiling and gazing at his feet.
The stage empties. I step close to the curtain again and it resumes its steady rise.
At the knees, one last swipe at my cheeks to check for rogue tears.
At the waist, one last pose before I am revealed.
At the throat. One last breath.
My eyes look out at hundreds of faces, blindly. Faces I will never make out or see again. And the light graces my simper, I explode words at all of them.
The ringmaster. A fully operational automaton. No need to wind me up and wait for me to work. No need to rile me up in order to get my energy up. I go. Period. I hop on the platform and tell you what an electrifying show we have tonight. Why I will have you gripping the edges of your seats. Why you will leave my big top with memories to last a lifetime.
But I can never leave my own circus.
It is brilliantly colorful horrorshow. And the show must go on.