I went to the circus twice when I was a kid. The first time, I waited for a magician who never appeared – the oldest trick in the book is when people don’t show up. The second time the magician was nowhere to be seen again, but instead of crying about that absence, I fell in love with the circus building because it has to be built again and again – every time they go to a different city. Being a child that dreamed frequently about living in her own tent in the woods, a circus seemed the ultimate fantasy. It was sort of like a huge tent, with all different kinds of possibilities. There was no woods per say, but I’d always be on the move.
How could I be a part of that team of misfit artists? For someone who felt a high level of social inadequacy, there was a lack of obvious activity to be done about it. Yeah, yeah. You don’t belong – so what? I went to the circus a third time, though I went alone and kept myself hidden. It was, however, my most important visit – because it never ended.
I watched the whole presentation trying to find one thing I could do – my idea was to sneak in a trailer and they would have nothing left but accept me. Forcing an interaction never made anything better for me before, but somehow I thought this time it would work.
I divided the skills in categories:
– There were the things I couldn’t do: The acrobats, the contortionist and the trapezist all fascinated me, but I knew I could never achieve that level of body training. Anything else depending on thinking and acting fast, like hoops, unicycling and juggling were also out of the window.
– The things I wasn’t interested in: The animal training charmed me, but I always thought that deep down they were starving and tired. Miming was boring (to me) and so was ventriloquism.
– And the things that I was afraid of: The clowns scared me to death, and that’s that. Knife throwing, fire eating, trampolining, tightrope walking and the globe of death were all life riskining.
I was detached to all those activities, even if I’ve never had tried any of them. I sneaked in anyway. Might as well try and fail at all then getting stuck at this city I live in. Deep down, my gut was telling me I’d figure it out. But whenever I concentrated on that thought, it vanished. Like it wasn’t the right time for me to find out what my circus profession would be.
After two years wandering around and being the assistant of various presentations, I discovered it.
I was helping the fortune teller to clean out her trailer. I loved going there, because it was so mysterious – and tangible at the same time, since I saw the old woman every day. I’ve had my palm read before, but it was always by her insistence. Of course I wondered about my future and I thought it was fun to participate in all sorts of divinations, but since I had no idea what I was looking for in life, the somewhat vague predictions could apply to anything I tried – and I didn’t want that. I needed to figure out what I wanted and then get some guidance about the signs and obstacles along the way.
This time, I asked her to read cards. I brought my own tarot guide – I wanted to consult it whenever I had a doubt about something and also to mark which cards appeared for later. She started with palmistry anyway, saying that was how she got to know the person.
After analyzing my heart line and talking about the loved ones I lost, she started putting the cards down on the table. I didn’t know much about tarot, but seeing the first card exposed, there was no doubt things were about to change. It didn’t take too long. She smiled and teased:
– Ah. The Wheel of Fortune. Care to indulge my imagination on your view about that one?
I opened my book and read:
– It could mean a superior force which one cannot avoid… Sudden events. A turning point, if you will.
– That’s rather curious, don’t you think? If one thinks on how you got here in the first place…
She turned over the second card. I could swear that the wind started whistling the moment I eyed that man.
– Would you look at that. The Magician. You know about this one too, I suppose? Better than the previous card, I bet.
– Uhm. It says here: “The character symbolizes a connection between life and death. It may also mean determination, initiative, power and the ability of not hold back”.
There was a nod in approval. But the soft expression didn’t stay for long. She then asked:
– Don’t you think it’s odd that our circus doesn’t have a magician? Why do you think that is?
I had already given up on the idea – I simply convinced myself we were a circus without a magician. As I thought over that, she turned the third out of five. Each turned card creeped me out more than the other – and I’ve seen some creepy stuff, I worked at a circus, for crying out loud.
– Come on, they’re all bad cards. I sense I’m going to die soon or whatever.
– Quite the contrary… This one is a personal favorite of mine – it doesn’t appear that often. And when it does, it cannot be ignored no matter how hard you try.
– What does it mean?
– The Hanged Man. Giving up; Letting go. In one word: Patience. There are things you can’t control.
– It doesn’t make sense. The previous one was about determination. How can that be? Maybe my goal in life is to never let go of giving up – how does that sound?
– Perhaps an overview later, when all cards are on the table?
I was irritated for wanting the cards, frustrated that I didn’t know much of their meaning and curious as to what she would say in the end – I needed encouragement or I’d end up hanged myself. The forth card I didn’t know even if it was good or bad.
– Well well well. It seems something really is about to change. The tower means hard times and realization of the truth. It can also mean revelation and crisis – among other things that a transitioning time might suggest.
– Shall we just turn the last one and get it over with? Like a band-aid. And later you can give me your thoughts…
As soon as I saw that skeleton riding a horse, I started crying. This was it: I had cancer or my best friend was dying – maybe both. When she saw my face, she started explaining:
– The Death card doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing – in reality, it doesn’t even mean literal death. It means transformation: something has to die in order for something new to be born. This card means the ending of a cycle; elimination of old patterns.
– My book says: Being caught in the inescapable; self-awareness.
– That’s right. Now, does your little guide there tells you anything about the order of the cards we’ve read here? Do you know what the meaning is?
– Well, it might be in here somewhere, but I’d rather hear it from you.
– The first one is related to your present position. That would be The Wheel of Fortune. The second one, your present desires – The Magician. The third one is about the unexpected, which fits The Hanged Man quite well. The fourth, your immediate future.
– Everything is changing, basically. I’m a living breathing David Bowie song. What about… the fifth card, Death?
– That’s the outcome. If you think about the description in your book, it doesn’t seem so bad to have that as an outcome, does it?
It really didn’t seem like a bad thing. It seemed like my life was finally starting – which was odd, since I had nothing to start it with besides smokes and mirrors. Predictions, sure, but what to do with it? How to actually achieve it?
– You didn’t answer my question before… Why do you think we don’t have a magician here?
– I don’t know, really. You guys never looked for one…
– Well, yes. But truth is we never look for anyone or any kind of circus artist – there are no job positions or interviews. They simply appear – very much like you. Tarot readers, for example, do not buy their own first deck of cards – it is given to them by someone else.
– So, I’ve been here for 2 years and I needed to be told my future, which was given by the tarot…
– The cards don’t show you your future. They reflect your current moment about an especific part of your life. You can change your future whenever you want. This event here, maybe, happened only to let you know that. What you do with your life is completely up to you. You had no developed talent and yet you wanted to come with us anyway – that was you choosing your future already. You weren’t ready to take it all at once.
– So all this time I could be the magician. But I didn’t know that or what was expected or where to even start.
– Haven’t you lived enough based on other people’s illusions, child? Don’t you think it’s time you create your own tricks?
And just like that, I went to find a hat and a rabbit.
listening while writing: The Weeknd – Kiss Land (the whole album)