I've always been intrigued by the circus.
The performers do death defying things. They wear stellar costumes. And the makeup is impeccable.
Especially the clowns.
They have a permanent smile painted on their face. Their identity is anonymous. They are associated with fun.
You have no idea what's really going on in their minds. Maybe they really enjoy being clowns. Maybe they hate their jobs and are thinking horrible things while making a child a balloon animal.
I wish I could be so ambiguous.
But then again, I know someone who is, and she's standing right across from me, nothing separating us but air and a big, black coffin.
Today is the day that my good friend Lily lost her last known relative.
She stood there in her small, black dress, not shedding a tear as the priest spoke. Her face was blank, a canvas just waiting to be colored with emotion. Her brunette hair hung loosely, ending at her shoulders, no volume or bounce to it. The black eyeliner around her blue eyes was smudged, but not from crying. It was as if she was in a rush to get ready.
She was beautiful.
Fourteen years earlier
"Ow, Matt, you fuck!" I grunted, taking a mean bump on the side of the trampoline. Sure, we had already jobbed in the WWF, but keeping up practicing at home sucked when we didn't have a proper ring.
Trampoline wrestling is the pits.
I held my hand on my lower back, the contact with the edge of the trampoline still fresh in my nerves.
"I'm sorry, bro," Matt laughed. "Stop being such a pussy."
"Stop being such a cunt nugget!" I yelled back, shoving him.
"BOYS!" our dad screamed from the porch. He must have heard us.
"Sorry, Dad!" Matt and I both yelled at the same time. He didn't like our swearing problem, but what of it? I'm seventeen and Matt is twenty. We're grown, but we do still live with our pops, so I guess we should follow his rules.
Our dad was always stern and strict, but not mean. He looked at us as if he was disappointed, but we knew he was proud of us.
"Jeff, you have a visitor," Dad grumbled.
I looked at my brother, confused. I had no idea what was going on. It wasn't like I really had many friends now that high school was almost over and Matt and I were pursuing becoming wrestlers full time. Besides, I focused on art and music, so I didn't have time for friends.
So when I went and answered the door, I wanted to slap myself when I saw who had rang our doorbell.
Of course. Lily.
Our fathers worked together. She was a year younger than me and the person outside of my family that I most often saw due to my father being good friends with her father, as well as working with him.
She was normally happy. She wasn't popular, but content with what she had.
But today was different.
I felt a bit self-conscious because I probably stunk a bit from wrestling. I didn't want to scare her off; not with her looking the way she did. She looked sad and broken, slightly damaged, at best.
Lily sniffled, looking up at me with dark blue eyes.
"Lily, what's wrong?" I asked, cautiously placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Jeff…My mom died."
That was the day Lily's soul died.
I had been in that same situation before. My mother had passed when I was at a young age, but I still had Matt and Dad.
Lily had no siblings. Both of her parents were the only children in their families growing up. No cousins. No aunts or uncles. No more living grandparents.
And here we were, at her father's funeral.
I stood across from her, blocking out the priest's words and prayers. She was all I saw, and all she saw was the black coffin encasing her father.
It was impossible to read her. She showed nothing. I wish she would show something, even the urge to jump after her father once he was lowered into the ground for eternal rest.
I've never wanted to splash paint around more in my life.
All I saw around here was black. Everyone's clothes were black. The coffin was black. The trees and grass were black. The sun and sky were black. The mood was black. It needed color. I could just imagine how it would look. Matt would be bright blue and green. The priest would be yellow and white. Lily would be every single color imaginable, just like I remembered her from our childhood. I would paint a permanent smile on her face, just like the clowns I was so intrigued by.
A funeral is supposed to be a celebration of life. This funeral, for me, at least, was the mourning of Lily.
As they lowered the coffin, I saw a bit of hope. Lily's mouth opened and her blank stare turned into a look of astonishment.
I was scared.
I slowly walked over to her, patiently waiting while family friends gave her their condolences, all of which went unheard by the poor girl. Nothing got to her. Nothing.
Once the tide of people fell, I stepped next to her.
"It's okay to cry."
She didn't answer.
I saw Matt walking back to the parking lot. I knew he wanted to leave, but he knows how hard these things are for people. He'll understand.
She sighed, and I took that as a response. It was better than nothing.
"Look at me."
It was as if she was the moon orbiting around the earth. That's how slow she turned, but at least she did. Her eyes stared at my shoes. I placed two fingers under her chin and lifted her face so she could look upwards.
Everyone has to look at the sun sometime.
She didn't speak. She didn't have to.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small jar of red face paint. I know, it's a bit of an unconventional prop for a funeral, but it's art on the go for me, if you will. I unscrewed the top and dabbed my pinky finger, covering it with color.
So I did what I was aching to do. I painted her. I painted a smile on her face, blush on her cheeks, and a heart on her forehead.
It still wasn't the same. The paint couldn't hide what Lily was going through.
Masquerades just weren't the same anymore.
It had lost all of its magic.