She was an optical illusion at an age when most children were cowboys or indians.
Her figure and ground kept flip-flopping through a multitude of contradictory images.
Later, when the confluence of biology and self-awareness allowed puberty to baptize her in its blood she became an asymmetrical inkblot on a rorschach test. The viewer and the angle of the view defined her in ways she never imagined or understood.
Oftentimes, she was simply the negative space.
She hated games because winning and losing seemed like the same thing. Apparently the socialization mechanism that assigned positive and negative value associations to winning and losing failed to engage before a critical moment so she inadvertently stared too long at the bigger picture.
As an adult she became a juggler at the suggestion of an astute high school guidance councilor. She might have become an artist but she learned at her mother’s knee that artists can’t make a living. She also learned that she wasn’t pretty enough to attract an alpha husband, nor was she dumb enough, having been cursed with intelligence that refused to be hidden behind even the most severe of foundation garments. (Foundation garments were very popular from the victorian era all the way through the ‘60s when the Women’s Movement finally tossed them into the pyres of revolution).
So a juggler she became and she played to the crowds that came to see the circus. This in spite of her persistent fear of clowns and the hideous lie that they painted on their faces. She never understood why their obvious pain and humiliation incited such unrestrained glee in the onlookers, but in the absence of a plausible explanation she learned to accept it and averted her eyes whenever possible.
She could have become a lion tamer, but ever the anarchist, she did not believe in deterring a creatures natural inclinations. Every night she secretly wished for the lion to devour the arrogant little man with the whip and the chair, thinking that would be a much superior entertainment.
She enjoyed spending time with the freaks from the sideshow. Despite the fact that she wore normal skin they graciously allowed her to take sanctuary in their tents where she smoked cigarettes, drank cheap wine and smoked joints that the tattooed lady smuggled in from her expeditions into town with the fire-eater. They never embraced her as one of their own however, much as that would have made her happy. The man with the x-ray eyes died several years before she joined their little caravan, and only he could have verified her anomalytic form.
But, damn she could juggle. As a host of ever-changing mismatched objects wheeled over her head she deftly caught and tossed each one in turn and sometimes two or three at a time. It created an illusion similar to the pictures of rooms that were at once upside down and rightside up, or staircases that climbed endlessly despite being contained in a rectangle of ink on a page. Sometimes, just to prove that there were no mirrors or other trickery being employed, she invited the audience to toss in their own objects. This was generally a crowd pleaser and she juggled childrens toys, shopping bags, ladies earrings, men’s shoes, and one time an elderly gentleman’s toupe.
She always ended the night by terrifying the onlookers with a swirling array of stiletto blades and flaming torches. The entire tent was breathless for minutes at a time. She was the perpetual motion eye of the storm.
Smiling at her pounding heart.
Smiling at her nerves sending jolts of electrical adrenalin to every part of her body. Smiling at her fear.
Smiling because only she knew that this was no longer an act, but the razors edge of life and death.
Smiling because only she knew that her skin, opaque though it appeared, was no more resilient than the velvet petals of a butterfly’s wing.