The Art of Losing (short story)

Copyright Klara Piechocki


“I want to change my act,” she tells me. My lover is a performer. Her feet grip the leather saddle, round tan toes curling for balance, live skin clutching long dead skin. Her hands come down, calloused fingers splayed like octopus tentacles and the audience is like the noise of a wave breaking on a rock.

We are together. I love her, and I think that she loves me. She is home. She wants to change her act- I don’t want her to. She wants to flex and stretch her limbs beyond my protective sphere. She wants to reach higher than I do.

She is upside down. Her lips are pursed with concentration and her taunt arm muscles stay just supple enough to allow for the horses rocking gait. I see her tilt her body weight, testing, to her left arm. She begins the process of peeling away her right hand from the saddle. She lifts her palm first, transferring the weight onto the pads of her long fingers. Her body continues to stand vertical; pointing downwards like a swimmer mid dive. She has a beautiful neck. Her hand comes away from the saddle and the crowd cheers. I look away.

I once lost my family in a house fire. I wasn’t there when it started but I arrived in time to watch the roof crumble away. I am since afraid of bricks and mortar, but she is neither. I am used to losing people as well as bricks. Losing my family felt like I’d expect a trapeze artist to feel without their safety net. She holds my heart and I am still terrified.

I have the power to stop her, but it’s not that simple. It is not a case of blowing out a match. There are chemicals to think about, waiting to ignite at a hint of friction. She is a gymnast. She belongs in the air but my own feet belong on the ground.

She gets her act together and begins practicing every day. I lost my keys once, and I couldn’t open my drawer for a week. Through losing those keys, I lost access to my papers, her lock of hair and my mother’s ring. When she refuses to marry me, the ring goes back into the drawer and I lose my keys again.

She begins to practice early in the morning before the circus is awake, so I do too. I practice the art of losing- I leave my keys wherever I go and will them to disappear. I leave my hat and my whip at the ring, but they are returned to the stoop outside my trailer. I don’t want you to do this, I tell her. She asks me if I trust her and I tell her that I love her. She says that it isn’t the same thing.

I’m in my trailer. The crowd is roaring like a fire, and I know that she’s up on her feet. The cigarette between my fingers steadily consumes itself. I will not watch this again. My face is hot and I cannot move. She is on fire and I am on my hands. I can feel the heat on my cheeks and behind my eyelids. I am not there, and she is not here.

My drawer is locked and I can no longer get inside of it. Losing my keys never gets any easier. I think of them in the grass behind the main tent, under the yoghurt pot, where their metal; like my mothers ring; will never see sun again.

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