They met at the pharmacy next to the theatre—her in a colourful costume, him in all black. He was a lighting director on dinner break, and she’d just finished a shift at the hospital. The Harlequin’s suit, the rainbow wig, the red ball nose, the garish makeup, and the oversized shoes she wore outside of work hours had become her silent statement on society. Amateur clowns and their devices were everywhere, so why shouldn’t she engage in a little mockery?
His aloofness was nothing of the sort. A dread of life’s unknowns had forced him inward. Most people mistook this for spiritual detachment of some kind, when really, he was just a prisoner of his own mind. But she wasn’t like most people. Her perception was keen and spotting fearful men from twenty paces or more was easy because their eyes looked into their skulls. Backward eye syndrome she called it, and his was an extreme case, so much so that her foot shot forward; far enough to bring him down from his ivory tower. He’d been staring at his phone while rushing by her in the birthday card aisle. Breaking his fall meant letting go of his phone which then cartwheeled across the floor before coming to rest in front of a Hallmark display. In Banana Years You’re Bread, read the closest card.
He was too young to command respect, yet too old for relevance. Even the number of his age seemed divided against itself; what with the three and the five standing stiffly, back-to-back, poised for a duel over the loss of youth. Past woes and future struggles had monopolized his mind, forcing him into a permanent state of yellow alert. Weariness ensued along with a reluctance to participate in what he called the sad circus of life. A few years previous his doctor diagnosed him with high blood pressure and this, of course, was a symptom of being at odds with his surroundings. Generally speaking, he despised surprises. Unexpected developments were viewed as threats to personal sovereignty not opportunities to grow. Being in constant retreat from the world robbed him of what it means to be alive. Life’s daily bread had been left uneaten. Black curtains covered the windows of his mind. He needed to be broken out of his own jail, she thought.
Turning away from the birthday card, he glared at her oversized shoe lingering in the middle of the aisle. Then she stepped forward, introducing herself as Percy Flage the Unsuspecting Clown before offering to help him up—an offer gruffly refused. Next came the pat apology, implying an accident had occurred, but he was having none of it because there seemed to be a soft malice in her voice and a knowing gleam in her eye. Can you at least tell me your name so I can write you a formal letter of contrition? His eyebrows lifted in silent rebuke as she pulled a notepad and an absurdly large pen from her pocket. Come on, tell me your name, she insisted. You tripped me and now you want my name… Are you mocking me or something? It was clearly an accident and now I’d like to write you a formal letter of contrition. What you did was no accident. Yes, it was. You’re lucky my phone didn’t break when it fell. Just tell me your friggalicious name. Friggalicious? Look, my name’s Sebastian, and this’ll be the first and last time we meet. No, it won’t. Yes, it will. How’s about I address this letter to Bash, she replied, her soft malice and knowing gleam still apparent. Nobody calls me Bash, and I don’t want your letter.
Pink and blue on black. Those three colours were destined to play against each other on the Harlequin-patterned banner that hoisted itself above their love, half-masted by the constant nearness of death and torn by the cold, prevailing wind. It was love in the loosest sense but it found the heart’s deepest soil, and there it became immortal. Presently, however, Bash was not in the mood for love of any kind, or in any sense. He wanted to get away from her as fast as possible—that is, until her costume reminded him of the lighting palette he’d been struggling with, just prior to dinner break. The solution to his problem was right there in front of his face. In a flash of Spanish pink and Egyptian blue, the cold resentment he felt toward her melted into a warmth of gratitude and at once he found himself charmed instead of irritated. Having seen the sudden change in his demeanor, she folded her arms under her breasts, framing them like Caravaggio’s fruit. The air conditioning in the pharmacy had hardened her nipples. The stolen glance was quick but didn’t go unnoticed. Take a picture, they’ll last longer, she said, blunt as a ball-peen hammer. No, I—I was admiring your costume, came his mealy-mouthed response. Oh, well, thanks, I just got off work at the hospital; I’m the entertainment in the pediatric cancer ward, she explained, knowing he’d lapse into awkward silence… It’s okay, everyone’s like you, they go quiet after I tell them what I do. Looking now for the first time into her brown eyes, he noticed her prettiness, plain to see beneath the makeup. Then an image of him fucking her flickered in the middle distance of his mind, within range of her perception. I’m on Instagram, why don’t you look me up? You might also be interested to know that I go by Kinky the Curious Clown on OnlyFans, and her costume’s much tighter than Percy’s. His silence went from awkward to stunned. Don’t be shy, Bash, we’re all sexual beings, even us clowns, she said while forming her unwritten letter of contrition into a paper airplane, launched at a downward angle. When it connected with the crotch of his pants, she bobbed a curtsy, turned, and walked away.