Through an open window I can see that the circus has come to town, planted itself on the top of a grassy knoll, where I stood a week ago in awe of the city spires, drenched in dusk-light. Walking past it now, in the chill of early spring, I don’t see the city spires, but hear the music. Whimsical; accordions and whistles. The big-domed tents and the splashes of red-and-yellow and the grass, eerily bright at this time of night. The twinkle of lights. I can’t see any people; are they inside the tents? Are they ghosts? How has this series of structures, this thing which is to me more an idea than a reality, come to be so suddenly on this grassy knoll? I hear the familiar squeak of my bicycle wheels; I fail to understand the apparition.
And what, anyway, do I actually know about circuses? Nothing really. Once I read a book in which a girl and her brother, wounded in combat, limping, dour, soured by years in the trenches, visit the circus. Once I knew a girl who objected to circuses because of the animals. She didn’t say why and I didn’t ask. Once my parents went to see the Circ du Soleil, the circus in the sun, the circus made of human bodies, with some friends. They’re things I know only from the outside, circuses.
Coming down the hill that I cycled up hours earlier, my fingers turn to ten fat icicles, it feels. I no longer know when I’m squeezing my brakes. I arrive home and it hurts just to turn the lock in the door. The city is indecisive; is she playful, or cold and somber? Is she warm or is she still rapt in the throes of winter? Does she–and do we, by extension–miss her students, in this time of their absence, or is she reveling without them, a feather set free upon an April wind?
Impossible to tell, tonight.