The Show Goes On

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Despite the approaching night the air defies the laws of color tonight; royal blue sky and golden sun combine to create soft pink air that lingers on the streets of downtown Colorado Springs. I tumble down the sidewalk alongside my mother, wrapped up in conversation with her friend Tina. Whirlwinds of leaves fly past us, caught in the wind, red, green and yellow circus pinwheels. No cars pass through the streets, deserted save for a street musician lingering in a doorstep, pattering on his tambourine. My mother, Tina and I unconsciously fall into rhythm with his melancholy beat like snakes swaying back and forth to eerie flute music, hypnotized and charmed. East Bijou Street reminds me of a frozen Halloween street carnival, the type with shady, lurking characters dressed as zombies and ghouls. A surreal aura cloaks the street, but without the chaos and bustle of a carnival. Soon, late afternoon will fade into evening and the landscape will come alive, but for now I pass through unnoticed, unhurried.

We continue to weave around Asian eclectic shops, Jerusalem Cafes, and dingy nail salons, all closed for the evening. Exotic scents and languages seep into me from every window display, from turmeric to acetone to Korean to Arabic; how ironic that a huge breath of cultural fresh air comes to me in Colorado Springs. I expected Colorado’s breathtaking nature to come with breathtakingly bland cities. How ironic, then, that as soon as I venture downtown, I roam onto a street that bombards me with unfamiliarity. I stumbled into a funhouse, my perceptions of urban Colorado warping in the smoke and mirrors, twisting beyond recognition. After all, superfluous décor does not always indicate a carnival nearby. Perhaps on an evening without this precise combination of pink air and tambourine music, I would have hurried through without a glance at my surrounding. But tonight, East Bijou Street shakes me alive and awake and out of my stupor. It tosses me into the pink evening air like an acrobat with no safety net.

From under my black NorthFace fleece, my stomach growls, a tamed beast rounding on its helpless trainer, roaring for fresh meat. At the moment, however, Mexican sounds muy sabroso. My party of three leaves the slightly questionable East Bijou Street behind the corner in favor of the more domesticated Main Street; my Oriental spell lifts. Even the mainstream area of downtown lies deserted: a single group of youths lounges in a doorway, laughing at the clown among them who smiles with distant eyes and flicks cigarette ashes on the stony gray pavement.

Turning into a blissfully familiar Tex-Mex restaurant, we politely haggle the hostess for the table by the window, the one with the best view. We unwind, snacking on tortilla chips dipped in spicy green sauce, sipping tangy limeade. Outside, Colorado Springs prepares for night, illuminating letters of restaurant signs and filling its streets with cars and pedestrians. The street now bustles with a heterogeneous mix of people, as different from each other as a lean acrobat and a bearded lady, but all part of one show, the show. Everyone has their own niche, their own role that they execute as best they can. Clowns with painted-on smiles frown with their eyes; grad students’ and working moms’ and fire jugglers’ hands are busy working overtime just to keep their lives from tumbling down and catching fire; showgirls prance in glitzy dresses, baring all for their audience. Sometimes, we sense an unseen, omnipotent circus master directing the show. Sometimes we forget: are we in the performance or watching it? Maybe only those moments, rare and fleeting but truly beautiful, give us reason to stay alive. Suddenly, time halts. A silver, glittering acrobat’s ribbon on a backdrop of navy blue velvet, gone in an instant, seared into my mind, encompassing all of eternity in its graceful curve: a shooting star.





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