The earnest young man we’d met last week writes in shock for his newspaper that the acrobat once had to perform her trapeze act high over the ring while menstruating. Einmal musste sie sogar… I read the article out loud in the dressing wagon and my friends giggle. The older Italian bicycle artist tries to cough disapprovingly, but I can see her secret smile in the mirror.
A nine-month performance season, with shows every night. Additional matinees Wednesday through Sunday except on travel days as the circus zigzags across Switzerland over and around the Alps.
Zürich, Geneva, Basel, Bern.
Bellinzona, Lausanne, Lugano, Zug.
And all the towns so small that we arrive one day and leave the next.
The girls are still chortling as they lace up their sequined leotards and disappear down the wagon steps to the sounds of the orchestra swinging into the climax for the strong man act. I think about that journalist and wonder if he didn’t understand how a circus works. Or how women do.
JULIA LYNN OFFEN is a writer and anthropologist living in central New York. She spent a great deal of time earning letters after her name (including MFA and Ph.D.) in California. She also spent two years working with a circus traveling across Europe. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction from her observations and experiences.