by Diane Greco

In September, the fairground smells of approaching cold, elephant dung, and greasepaint. The year dwindles taut in the air, a high wire spooled out, breathless after summer’s distractions: those roaring, blazing nights under the big top. The high wire, devious and seductive, invites one step, then another, and another. All it takes, the wire seems to say, is a little courage, which might, under the right circumstances, become a kind of virtuosity.

I am a virtuoso of bravery, a connoisseur of courage. An acrobat with a weakness for metaphysics, I perform death-defying acts, the better to perfect my rage for order. I bust boundaries, I push envelopes, I’m well over the speed limit and when I visit the butcher’s I am revenant and vastly ungrammatical. My performances limn the world. I’m lost, I admit, in a world without edges, and when the world softens, when I seem to have gone somewhat or entirely to the bad in my failure to perform my daredevil stunts often enough, or with enough in the way of sprezzatura and arpeggios, then the world’s frames, the outlines for which I have gone to so much trouble, appear to disintegrate, melting, fading, or falling away — and this, I am not afraid to tell you bluntly, this scares the shit out of me.

Then it is time to go back. Back to the circus! New stunts!

My latest dissolution may be dated precisely. One night, a man I only vaguely recognized kissed me  extravagantly under the big top. He wore white greasepaint and spoke with his hands, which I found perfectly charming until I developed a weeping rash that crusted my lips with hieroglyphs so I was forced to speak like him, in pantomime. What I feel I must tell you is this: I have come to believe that when he kissed me, he used his tongue to inscribe under mine something terrible, a curse or the name of God. Yes, the kiss undermined me, and at once I was his golem: a stone monster in sudden animation, haunting the city limits, scaring children and pets, animated with the force of someone’s desire, though I couldn’t say whose, exactly.

We were disturbed, protean, rejected. I tried to make him speak, but for all my frantic questioning — all fingers, all thumbs — he wouldn’t answer. Where I wanted a world of chattering, he vouchsafed only a tombstone silence: sphinx in my bedlam.

Now, I’m infected; I’m on the phone, I’m on the wire, I’m talking blunt. The universe shoots like noisy rhubarb from my mouth; from immense heights, I spout prayer, psalms and unsolicited advice. Despite everything I still give coins to clowns and trinkets to men in greasepaint but I have learned to use caution when kissing them under the big top. When performing well, I forget the net and avoid the guidewire. What keeps me in the air, the only rule: transact, transact, transact.

Diane‘s work has appeared in The Laurel ReviewThe Saint Ann’s ReviewPoets & Writers MagazineThe American Book Review, and Art New England. She is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in New York City.