I slowly walked up the tightrope, placing one leg in front of the other in a careful sequence that I dared not violate. There was a lump in the back of my throat that despite my best efforts, I could not get rid of. I tried to convince myself that my fears were completely illogical. After all, no professional tightrope walker of sound mind, like myself would perform without a safety net. I peered down at the net to provide myself with reassurance. Yet, when I looked back up, I still felt panicked. If there was absolutely no chance of me falling to my death, what was I afraid of? Was it fear of disappointing my adoring fans? I looked to them. Tons of men and women in the circus tent, gazing at me with amazement at the courage and perhaps insanity I must possess in order to perform this terrifying endeavor. I had already lost the focus of the little kids, who usually prefer the clowns. With pink stained mouths from cotton candy, they tugged on their parents sleeves trying to steal their parents’ attention away from me. I was not about to let that happen. I quickened my pace on the tightrope and feigned an almost- slip, which is an old trick of the trade. My audience gasped and now they were completely enthralled. I twirled and did a small jump, landing back on the rope on my toes like a self- confident feline and they cheered and clapped for me. The audience loved to watch me literally dance with the perceived danger. The glamour of it all dazzled them and kept their eyes on me rather than the safety net below me. They had actually fooled themselves into believing that if I fell I would die, fooled themselves into thinking I was brave. All of a sudden, in the swirl of nerves, both the audiences and few of my own, I asked my self a most complex question. How did I end up here, at this time, doing this? It may seem to be a ridiculous question to ask as I was attempting to balance my entire body on a thin rope; however, the human mind is naturally inquisitive and does not really follow a convenient schedule of when to pop certain ideas into your conscious thought. I had opened up a mental door and could not help but enter. It was definitely an interesting question. Not many people are lucky or clever enough to join the circus. Yes, I spend my days with freaks and clowns but in truth, most people do. The difference is that that my freaks hold all of their eccentricities outside on the surface; whereas, the everyday weirdos who the average man is constantly surrounded by hide their sinister idiosyncrasies from the rest of the world. I, for one, prefer to associate with the obvious freaks who use their uniqueness to entertain people rather than be tricked by the masquerades of the secret nutcases of the world. I hate illusions. Trust me the bearded lady is nothing compared to some of the real weirdos out there. Circus freaks are just my kind of people I suppose. It’s probably because I am one of them. I am no wolf man, nor do I have two heads or possess any visible abnormalities but I am every bit as strange as the rest of my colleagues. I have not actually spoken to another human being since I was seven. That’s truly bizarre, right? It’s not that I am physically unable to speak. I have spoken sometimes quietly in private just to make sure I still can. I just prefer to listen and observe. Perhaps I am just too afraid to speak because of the perpetual fear that I will say the wrong thing. The same fear of failure was keeping me from finishing my tightrope walk. I remember when I ran away from home, after years of being misunderstood and ridiculed for my lack of speech. My parents would constantly argue about whose fault it was that I would never utter a word. I was known far and wide as a creepy silent lunatic. As I walked through any area I could always hear whispers about me. Parents would never want their kids to spend any time with me because of my reputation as a psychopath. Ironically, now parents drag their kids all the way to the big tent circus just to see me. It’s funny how things can change so drastically over time. I remember the exact day I ran as fast as my nine year old feet would permit. The circus had been in town and there was this lady who claimed she could tell the future. I ran up to her trailer behind the circus tent and knocked on the door. A woman answered but she looked nothing the glamorous fortuneteller she had been the night before. She wore no turban, no bright stage make up, and no shining jewels. I just looked up at her with deep dissatisfaction. It was as if she had lost her sparkle. She waited for me to say something but then she realized I would not. She sighed and reached beside her and put her turban back on. “Don’t look so disappointed” she said. I simply kept staring at her but somehow she knew what I wanted. Maybe it was because she had seen a lot of kids come to join the circus or maybe it was freak to freak telepathy. From that day on I was a member of the traveling circus. I chose tightrope walking because it allowed me to do what I could never do in everyday life. It gave me a voice. I establish a deep connection with my audience which my lack of speech prevented me from having with other people. It allows me to face my fears. Plus, the other circus freaks have never judged me for my strange muteness. They understand that everyone has something that makes them different. Some are just more obvious than others. With that last thought I finished my tightrope walk. Tomorrow I will do it again in a different town. Traveling with the circus, you are never in the same place for long and you never look back.
The Tightrope Walker
June 26, 2011