The Circus at Night

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.