Nicola de Vera
Circus Act (CW: accidental self-harm)
The bright lights can be blinding. But I hear them around me. The clapping. The cheering. I can feel the tent bursting with energy. I am the final act of the night. Don't they always save the best for last? I enter and do my rounds at center stage—my legs preoccupied, paddling on my unicycle. The ringmaster tosses three bowling pins my way, and I start juggling with both hands. I hear the aahh's and oohh's. The ringmaster lobs a ceramic saucer toward me and I catch it, perfectly balanced on top of my head. While juggling the pins. While riding my unicycle. They're impressed. The cheers keep coming. He throws another saucer and I catch it again. Still juggling. Still cycling. Still cheering. He flings a third saucer when a laser beam hits me right in the eye. I drop the third ceramic—the smashing sound drowned out by the collective shock from the audience. The ringmaster flings a fourth saucer, and I miss it again. This time, I have no excuse. A heckler screams. I probably deserve it. The ringmaster flings a fifth saucer, and I miss it another time. The ceramic falls and breaks apart. The single heckling now turns into a symphony of boos. The act isn't over. I still have one final trick to salvage the night. I ride my unicycle. I juggle the bowling pins. I balance the tiny plates on my head. I then transfer the pins to my left hand for solo juggling while my right hand receives a sword from the ringmaster. He gives me a stern look. Don't fuck this up. I tilt and slide the two saucers from the top of my head to my forehead. As I cycle and juggle and balance, I insert the sword into my mouth and push it half-way down my esophagus. The audience stands and applauds. Success. It gets them every single time. I push the sharp object further down. This time, I feel a piercing pain. My insides are bleeding, I am certain. I am choking, I am certain. But rule number one in this traveling circus is to never stop smiling. So I keep smiling.