I found a stall with a wall for a neighbor, locked myself in, sat down, pulled my feet up. That’s about the most private place you can find in an airport. I tried to sleep as best I could. There was a little dent in the metal divider wall that my head fit into just right. My mind was full of those plastic carnival ducks, bobbing endlessly, swimming in circles until a giant child hooks you and looks at your bottom. Waiting, swirling, wet, and cold. Twenty something minutes later I woke up with my left leg in the toilet bowl going around and around.
How had I got there? I was not a lucky duck.
One of my exes collected decks of cards – 52 species of dinosaurs, 52 wilderness survival facts, 52 wildflowers, 52 reasons to leave. She had this set of German cards that I found after she moved out. The playing card suits went leaves, hearts, bells, and acorns. Spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds? A clown like me doesn’t fit in with those.
Toilet water. Getting to Barcelona had been more difficult than I thought. I sold off my cassette collection, my laptop, all my embroidery, and any clothes I couldn’t carry. I asked my parents for money, and when they said no, I emptied out my savings. I got rid of everything I could, but I still had my losses.
It’s times like these I wish I had a magic dog like in an old cartoon. It’d be able to shrink and fit into my purse and then grow when I needed a cuddle. Now would be a good time to unshrink it, keep unshrinking it until it blots out my entire existence. Woof.
Disguise is a very important part of being a clown. If you don’t have make-up, people think you’re acting inappropriately or that you don’t know how to dress yourself. If you do the face right, you could wear a pantsuit and people would still know you were a clown, or, on a bad day, a mime. If you try to clown around without the face then you’re just doing improv. And I don’t do improv because I’d like to think I’m not a pompous, self-important, little shit.
I have a method for getting Remy, my clownsona’s face ready. When I’m getting her face ready, I try to check her mood. I have to listen. I quieten my brain. One time Remy went poof and I got her all wrong. It was at one of my old venues, Lair de Clune. The face ended up distorted and macabre. It wasn’t Remy – it was just paint. The crowd was laughing when they should’ve been crying, creeped out when they should’ve been in love. That was the first time I got fired from my troupe. I really let Remy down. I didn’t go back to the Lair De Clune, and Remy didn’t come back for months.
Without her I was all side-dish and no menu. The paint was dead without her. I was a joke and not a joker when Remy was gone.
Used to, I’d look for Remy’s mood by imagining I’m a grain of sand in some salty lake. Sometimes a storm comes along and I get agitated, but most of the time clouds form, the night comes and goes, and I just sit at the bottom. Time is in this big compressed archive and when I finally feel it closing around me, a clam sucks me up and I get stuck inside it. I’m just that grain of sand in some sticky squishy clam. It’s easier to listen there. And slowly I feel each layer grow over my body until there’s a Remy-shaped pearl. That hadn’t worked for a long time.
When I’m not in my clam, I wait to be asked to leave. I try to go before that happens.
So I sat there in the airport bathroom with a soaking foot thinking about all the tattoos I wanted to get at some point but didn’t, and tried to see where they’d overlap. Mapping out a butterfly on my right thigh, a long panther down my calf, a cactus sunset in the middle of my left thigh, a dagger on my thigh up high, a smiley face on my chest, a bootleg mickey mouse, a daisy, a tooth, a kiss, a girl’s name.
Like always I was somewhere, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. The one thing I can’t juggle is balance. I should be the patron saint of failure.
This was no good. I was no good. My mind was filling the bathroom stall.
I was having a total melt-up.
My emotions welled inside of me, but it was all waves crashing into each other and never cancelling out. I could pinpoint a current rushing one direction and just underneath it another current rushing the opposite direction. Looking down, my guts were a churning mess. My mind failed in looking for me. But I also knew that out of this rippling chaos rose a tangible, physical experience. Knowing that didn’t help. It just made my experience more alien to me.
There was a book I sold to get here that started all this. I was in the wedge-shaped used bookshop that got messier and bigger as you went in when I found a book postcards. Each card sent me to a palace of spires and emerging nautical delights. It was an Atlantis emerging from the water. A perpetually unfinished sanctuary unfurling in the most decadent textures by a guy named Gaudí.
I wondered if it attracted perpetually incomplete people. Regardless of whether it will actually be completed or not, most would say it is a wonder to behold. It’s arrogant to compare myself, but I hoped that someone would afford me the same assessment.
I make choices like a funny animal character, except I face pathetic person character consequences. I sat at gate A10 with my shoe wrapped in paper towels and braided my hair. I didn’t remember packing, so I took my luggage and unpacked it so I could see it all. I had my travel case of makeup, pencils, a small brush, my sketchbook, underwear for a week, a couple pairs of pants, two t-shirts, collar dress, tulle skirt, my tiny purse, a toothbrush where the blue bristles had turned white. Every pencil and brush felt like a club in my hand as I held it. All the clothes felt brittle. There was something wrong with my hands.
I started cramping and hated everything. I didn’t know what to do, but I could guess what she would do. As I repacked my belongings, I tried to distract myself. But I could not escape the cramps parading through my stomach. Things kept happening all the time. I felt my body rejecting my senses. I could feel the blood in my abdomen forming a ballast to reach some balance.
I paid to stow my luggage in a locker for 24 hours. I wasn’t going to lose my clown stash to a bindle snatcher. After getting my stuff put safe I slipped into a customers-only bathroom and tried to slip into my old self. I needed Remy, but she was gone. I tried anyway, putting on my best solo effort. Clown white around the eyes, with pink little dots down my nose, red earlobes, eyebrows starting with big circles and little circles on the edge, a punchy heart lip. When I first started clowning I wanted the highbrows to think of Claude Cahun.
My face shifted in the mirror like plate tectonics. Slow, crushing movement under the surface. Grinding and melting. I was repulsed by the sheer physicality of it all.
I used the last of my setting powder to keep my face parts in the same place.