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Circus Memory

Updated: Mar 19, 2022

Once a year the Circus came to town. Just like in a storybook or a movie, we looked forward to the arrival of the circus which took place at Madison Square Garden rather than in a red and white striped tent in the middle of an open field as I had always imagined. To get to our circus we took the train to 34th Street and walked quickly behind our mother who was always just as exited as we were. Once there, we could immediately smell hot pretzels, hotdogs, popcorn and elephant shit. The music, which was always live, could be heard getting louder as the escalator arrived to the second level where lines formed at the concession stands. We searched for our entrance and got to our seats and waited for the concession people, who walked up and down the steps selling soda, cotton candy and popcorn, to come to us. Mom let us get whatever we wanted as she scanned for empty seats below so that when the lights dimmed we could run down for better seats.

I liked that there was live music and how it coordinated with what was happening in all three rings. I was fascinated by the timing of the lights that would feature one ring while the others remained just dark enough for the circus stagehands to set up the next act. My eyes moved from one ring to the other constantly until it was time for the trapeze acts which fixed my eyes high above the rings until the end of the act when the trapeze artists would fall one by one to the safety net below, flip off the edge of the net, and end in their final “Taadahhh” pose. I remember the ball of death! Actually, I’m not really sure what it was called; I just know that a guy in a small motorcycle got into a large metal ball and rode all around in it, picking up enough speed to even ride upside down. As he got faster the sound got louder and he became blurrier to us. Then, just when we thought he was done with all of his tricks, they would open the ball to let a second guy in. Now they had to remain focused on their individual patterns in order to not crash into each other. It was all about the timing, which could be heard as the motorcycle tires dug into that metal ball. And then, just when we thought is was really over, and felt relief that they had both survived this incredible game of chicken, the ball would open one more time so that a girl in a sequins leotard could stand in the center of the ball while they repeated their routine around her. By the end, despite the fact that our eyes had remained glued to this spectacle, we were all glad it was over.

[excerpt from Loose and Connected Thoughts, By Damaris Iva Ferrer Santana.]

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