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Martine April 12, 2009

Posted by Girlbird in writing.
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[just something I wrote one day. Maybe the start of something bigger?]

What hurts is not the way her body is starting to ache more and more with each performance these days, nor that the money circus tickets sell for is becoming increasingly less than it was years ago, that now it is a stretch to put a meager meal on the tiny table in her trailer to feed herself and her son. It is not the way her skin is starting to fold and crease in the corners and in the places no one – or hardly anyone, that is – sees. Nor is it the way her stomach is slowly growing rounder, softer beneath the corset bindings of her leotards.

All these inconvenient changes induce a dull pang in her stomach when Martine thinks of them – mostly she doesn’t. But what aches, what truly aches, is when the lights go out under the big top, when the applause fades away and she is no longer Madamoiselle Martine, the sparkling, daring trick rider who amazes and frightens audiences into gasps and applause, who holds their hearts still with her showy beauty, only Martine Reynold the single mother who sleeps alone, rejecting the occasional, cheeky offers of fellow acrobats Jean Marceau and Pierre, and fighting back the more serious, almost menacing advances of the ringmaster Vasser.

What aches is the sense of being trapped, the feeling that her life is half over and she will fade into lonely nothingness. Only a few more years are left to perform in this cheap, struggling traveling circus – never to know fame, or glory, or anything better, really, than this life of drifting, half-empty existence.

What aches most is her resignation to her situation. There is little she could do to fight the truths, and even less of any conviction to do so, when there was a time when she would have jumped to struggle and push against the bars of her prison until she broke out.

All this travels through Martine’s mind as she extinguishes the lanterns that hang from various hooks in her trailer and looks at the sleeping child – Léon will always be a child, a silent, strange, volatile child, for his brain will never develop as a normal boy’s – who lies curled on the cot in the corner. Here, though, asleep with his slow-moving eyes shut tightly, he could almost pass for healthy, for any other child. Martine smoothes the pale brown hair from his forehead and presses her mouth in a kiss there on the smooth dusky skin. Asleep is the only time these days that she can truly touch her boy, for rarely during the day will he tolerate her affection without screaming or shrugging off her hands. Sometime in the last year or so, he has become even more difficult, regressing further behind the ramparts into his own, untouchable world. But asleep, he is her little boy. Asleep, he is her angel.

Peeling off her glittered, sequined leotard, Martine shrugs into the soft sanctuary of a man’s shirt – a man whose name she can no longer remember, but whose hands she remembers as being surprisingly coaxing and gentle, a man who stayed only a hair’s breadth of time, but who somehow managed to leave his mark in a few forgotten articles of clothing. She blows out the last light and climbs into her own narrow little bed, where the nighttime sounds of the circus at rest will surely lull her as they always do into a few fleeting hours of sleep.

Measures January 25, 2009

Posted by Girlbird in aspirations and dreams, life, love, prose and short stories, writing.
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Have you ever wanted something so much, she mused, that it made you want to burst into tears… but at the same time it was so wonderful that you couldn’t really cry over it? That you reveled in your sadness?

He looked at her then as she sat turned a little away from him, silhouetted against the stars, her skin illuminated by the moon, hair intertwined with the same light. With her flowered dress and her bare feet, wet from the dew soaking the grass, she looked like one of those dryads or whatever that he had read about in the fourth grade. He breathed. She, this scene, the question she had just asked was every cliché he’d ever read or watched, but somehow he couldn’t bring himself to care. Although he was the boy who tried to escape every expectation, every social grace, every conformity, every Hollywood theme, somehow in doing this he became the very ultimatum of the classic social rebel.

She looked back at him, lounging in the wet grass, his long limbs stretched out and his head thrown back as if he hadn’t a care in the world. She took in a breath. Through the ragged locks of hair that flopped over his forehead, his eyes appraised her, and for once they weren’t filled with a bitter, biting cynicism. There was no curtain there tonight. They were piercing, certainly, but for once it was as if he was really looking at her for the first time, and perhaps he liked what he saw.

She blushed and lowered her gaze, seeing the unspoken answer in his silence.

Have you ever felt that something was so wrong for you and so right at the same time? she asked then, her heart pounding.

He shrugged and tipped his head back up to look at the sky. Is anything every really… right? Or wrong? How can anyone judge that?

She trembled. There has to be some measure of it.

He shook his head. Sometimes people set too much in store by rules. You get too caught up in rubrics and precedents and measuring cups.

But without measures, how could anyone have goals? How could we move forward? How can we decide what we truly want, making choices, if there’s no way of determining which is better?

He could see she was nearly crying now, for although her face was darkened by the night, he saw the tears glistening on her cheeks and heard the hysteria building in her voice.

Hey, he said softly, as if speaking to the stray and skittish dogs he had used to work with at the local animal shelter, sitting up. Come here. She scooted forward, and he took her hand and placed it against his chest, over his heart.

Her fingers curled and she closed her eyes, feeling the quickening pulsing beat radiating through her skin and down her bones. She looked at him questioningly, their breaths mingling. He pressed her hand closer and met her gaze.

This is how we tell.