I was having a hard time coming up with something to write for Fiction Friday, so I took to Twitter and asked for a writing prompt. My friend Caitlyn came through. She tweeted back: “Describe two visits to the circus from the point of view of someone who’s bipolar. On one visit, he’s manic, and on the other, he’s in a pit of despair.”
I did something great for myself today! I bought myself a ticket to the circus! I haven’t been to the circus since I was a kid and, I don’t know, something about that commercial with the clowns and the elephants and the acrobats just spoke to me. I needed to be at the circus.
When I got to the civic center, the old guy at the door scanned the bar code on my ticket and I passed through the turnstile. I was so excited, I thought I was going to jump out of my skin!
Before I found my way to my seat, I walked around the outside of the coliseum. I could smell all the different foods they were selling at the concessions stands. I wanted it all: the popcorn, peanuts, hot dogs, cotton candy, soft pretzels. But I told myself that was ridiculous.
Instead I walked over to where a clown was making balloon animals for a group of kids standing around him. He was bending balloons so quickly, it had to be some kind of magic. I watched for several minutes as he made a dog, a giraffe, a sword. I wanted a sword. But I told myself that was ridiculous.
I finally made my way to seat 1 in row F of section 102. I had a great view of the center ring. I checked my watch and saw that we were only a few minutes from showtime. The overhead lights were still on, bathing the floor with light. I knew that, once those lights went off, the room would fill with mystery and magic and I would be transported to a time when I was 10 years old and sitting between my parents and covering my ears to block the sounds of explosions that seemed to be constantly happening throughout the show.
I was suddenly jealous of the people who were visiting the floor and riding the elephants and meeting the tightrope walkers. I sat in my seat, waiting impatiently as the seconds ticked by like days. My leg was bouncing so quickly, I thought my foot might crack the concrete floor under my seat.
Finally, the lights were lowered. Three spotlights were fired up and they each found the center ring. Out stepped the ringmaster. He shouted his welcome into the microphone with his game show host voice. He removed his top hat and bowed to the crowd before introducing us to a woman who rode a unicycle as if it were an extension of her own body. I don’t think she could have fallen off that thing if she tried.
I was so excited I couldn’t stand it. When the unicycle lady finished her act, our attention was drawn back to the center ring where the audience was treated to the most amazing trapeze act I’ve ever seen. I have no idea what they call all of the moves they were doing. But they were flipping and somersaulting and basically flying around in the air. There was no net beneath them. It was terrifying and breathtaking and incredibly exhilarating.
There were so many acts! Even the clowns were amazing. I didn’t see the balloon animal maker in the act. I guess he was still out in the hallway making balloon animals for kids who went to the bathroom during the show. But the ones who were part of the act? They were hilarious. They took pies and seltzer water to the face. They piled into a VW Bug. They took pratfalls like pros.
Before I knew it, it was 97 minutes later and the ringmaster was wishing us all a pleasant evening. My heart was racing as I left my seat. I stopped by the box office and asked if tomorrow’s show was sold out yet. The lady at the window said, “Not by a long shot!”
“Great!” I said as I handed her my card and bought another ticket for the circus. I didn’t care if I would see the exact same show all over again. It would be totally worth it to feel this great two days in a row!
I did something really stupid to myself today. I don’t know what I was thinking. I bought that ticket to the circus thinking I’d want to see it all again. But what’s the point? Clowns? Acrobats? Animals that are probably being tortured? I should have just stayed in bed.
But then I’d just be angry with myself for wasting the money on a ticket that didn’t get used. So I went back. The same old man scanned my ticket and I walked in, desperate to avoid eye contact with anyone and everyone.
There were so many people there. I don’t remember this many people being there before. What made today different? I couldn’t figure out what the draw was that made today different. That same stupid clown was making stupid balloon animals for another group of stupid kids.
I really didn’t want to go into the coliseum to find my seat. I just wanted to pretend like none of this was happening. I wanted to be ignored. But you just can’t get what you want, can you? That balloon bending clown somehow found me and held a balloon dog in front of my face. It was all I could do not to swipe the dog out of his hand and pop it right there. In fact, it was all I could do not to shove the clown.
Instead, I tried to be polite and just gave him a no thanks as I shook my head and walked into the coliseum. I found my seat. At least, I think it was my seat. I didn’t really pay close attention. I didn’t really care. I was already ready to leave.
The seconds ticked by like days. I knew that the sooner this thing started, the sooner it would end and I could get back in my car and drive home. I just wanted to be back in my bed. I wanted to shut the world out. I wanted to shut this bright and loud and crowded place completely out.
Finally, the show started. The ringmaster did his thing. The lady with the unicycle did her thing. The trapeze artists did their thing. It was all very unimpressive. Oh, and the clowns. Ugh… If I never see a guy with a painted smile on his face again, it’ll be too soon.
I left before the show was over. I knew it was almost over. I felt like I got my money’s worth and I walked out. And I walked out as quickly as I could without actually breaking into a sprint. “Greatest Show on Earth,” my butt. More like most miserable show on earth.
If I ever decide to go to the circus again, I hope someone will just punch me in the face instead.