Wednesday, 24 March 2010

One Hour Fiction: Trapeze

“No, Cecile.” I slumped down onto the stool and rested my elbows on my legs. My shoulders were heavy, rounded in tiredness. We had only a few minutes.

“Why?” she practically spat at me as she spoke, “You always say no.” Hands on hips and wearing a comical yellow leotard and tutu, nose painted red, Cecile did not at first glance appear to be much of anything. A small angry child, perhaps. Somehow, however, she had the ability to get inside me and break down my defences, not in love but by force.

“It’s too dangerous,” This same conversation had been reoccurring with increasing frequency over the past weeks. Cecile wanted us to perform our routine without a safety net. It wasn’t that I was scared, or anything. I wasn’t scared, and just wasn’t confident. Of her, of me. Of us.

We had met 5 years ago, in Berlin. Me, the young upstart trapeze artist in the circus and her fresh from ballet school trying to make a name for herself. Me a young buck and her a gentle fawn, both wandering lost in the clamor of what we used to call “Showbiz”. I suppose I had given her her first big break, comparatively. They had asked me if I would tutor her and partner her, get her ready. It was good back then. We danced, performed, drank and, well, we lived. Who wouldn’t want that?

“It’s not too dangerous and you know it,” she replied. Like I said, I disagreed with her on that point. She pierced me with her eyes and I hung my heard, staring at the floor.

“Cecile, I -”, I what? Everything seemed to be going wrong and I knew we were going with it.

“Is it me?”

“No.” Yes.

“What is it then?”

“I don’t know.” You.

Trapeze is not easy, of that much I’m sure you’re aware. Split second timing, reaction, instinct. Anyone becomes frail when they are soaring through the air one hundred feet above the ground, doubly so when another’s life is in their hands. If you cannot trust, or do not like, your partner then trapeze is not worth doing. It’s a death sentence, even with a safety net.

Perhaps we had gotten old, fat, lazy. Metaphorically, I guess. Old and fat and lazy when it came to each other. There was the money and the success and the attention, and they were a seductive cocktail. When was the last time we had had a day together away from the circus, from Charles - our boss and mentor and friend and constant thorn in the side – from life? I couldn’t remember. We made excuses, mostly. Oh, I have an interview with such-and-such. I promised to have dinner with my sister. You know what I mean. Easy excuses. The crime of it all was that neither of us cared enough to catch the other in the lie, the evasion.

Do you want to spend time with me?

I do not.

And so, in the most sepia over-exposed cliché, we grew apart.

“Well you’d better find out,” she said to me, her words clipped and pointed. I suppose I had.

“We’re not good enough, Cecile.”

“What are you talking about? You’re the best in France and I’m not far behind you.” Her eyes softened slightly as she remembered the first couple of years, “We’re a team. We’ve always been a team.”

“I don’t mean our performing.”

“Then, what?”

I paused.

“We. Us. You and me. We’re not good enough.”

“What has that got to do with it?” Exactly.


Was this it, was this that time, the boundary that, once crossed, cannot be returned over?

“2 minutes Monsieur and Madame Sebastien!” came the call from the other side of the curtain. Neither of us said anything for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably no more than a few heartbeats. At last, I raised my head.

“I can’t do this any more,” I said at last, almost in a whisper.

“Well you’re going to have to. Come on.” Had she understood what I meant? I couldn’t tell.

She turned and pulled the curtain back. The roar of the crowd turned from muffled white noise to the roar of a great waterfall, surrounding us and hemming us in. She was right; I really did have to. I stood up behind her and walking forward, grabbed her hand. Slightly taller than her, I looked Cecile in the eyes and she stared defiantly back. We lingered for a moment and then she pulled away. Was she embarrassed by the tenderness of a gaze passing between husband and wife? Did she feel it to be somehow inappropriate?

We walked slowly hand in hand, rounding the corner to the ring. The crowd was deafening and the spotlights were blinding, we were trapped in a cavernous tunnel of light and noise. Smiling now, as we always did, Cecile looked at me and I looked at her, and then as one we surveyed the crowd. They welcomed us and we welcomed then. We threw our arms high in the air in triumph and the cheering grew even louder. Almost imperceptibly, I felt her right hand squeeze my left and her arm rub mine as she pulled me in closer.

Perhaps, after all, she did not hate me. And perhaps I did not hate her.

1 comment:

  1. Wow....awesome feelings here, very well and crisply conveyed. Thank you for sharing it with us.