Risk

As a young girl, she learned how to juggle fruit: apples, oranges, sometimes pears. There was little risk, little drama, and people smiled politely and then moved on. But they started paying attention she could manage to juggle over 5 objects, and when she started juggling wooden sticks, so that she could train herself one day to juggle knives.

She was the circus laundress, but wanted to be so much more. So, she tried teach herself a skill, so she could be part of  the show. She wanted an entire act just to herself, just for her talent. She wanted to make people dizzy with the amount of colored balls she could juggle, so fast until they turned into a single rainbow streak. She was working with the sticks, trying progress to heavier and heavier scraps of wood, so that she could possibly move on to blades, and then in some far future, full size flaming swords, dazzling with both her skills and the moving lights. A dangerous act but a masterful performance. That’s what she wanted.

She dreamed of being showered with flowers when she was done, like nobody else was at the nightly show under the big tent. She wanted people to flock there just see her; she wanted her act to be world famous.

She wished for such splendor, but it wasn’t time for any of it yet.

She tried to learn and work on her act even while she had to attend to her regular duties, those being washing the whole camp’s dirty clothes. An endless line of leotards and tutus awaited her. A big bucket and a washboard and the smallest piece of soap you had ever seen, that was all she had to work with; the rest of the force was provided by her scrubbing the daylights out of everything in order to even hope that they were clean.

But she always left time for juggling. It was her only hobby. She couldn’t do much else other than juggle and wash clothing, and so she thought her only possible road to success was through the former. She had no other skills; she couldn’t read or write. She had’t very much money to her name, since her pay came as food and a place to sleep at night.

She knew it was a long shot, in the back of her mind. But she continued with her regimen, for the hope of a bright future, which was in truth hopeless. She knew that there was no way for her to accomplish so much, or at least the chances were so minuscule it wasn’t worth the effort.

But… but. It was always this way with this sort of thing. Hoping, and knowing that it was unlikely, but only hoping more because of it.

Maybe such a transformation, such a rocketing into stardom didn’t exist. But she was certain she had seen it happen before, and she wanted it to happen for herself.

She wished for such splendor, but it wasn’t time for any of it yet. Perhaps it would never be her time to shine. But that couldn’t stop her from looking at the stars and yearning for something more.

On the bench

She wasn’t sure why she liked doing this.

Every Saturday, she went to the city square, sat down on a park bench next to the fountain, and simply looked at the people who milled about.

The city square was a mixture of restaurants and shops, and it was always busy on Saturdays. She would lunch, and continue to people watch.

That was what she had heard it be called before. People watching. Like bird watching, but with people. But not really.

She did not know any of the people milling about; it wasn’t like she was looking for a particular breed of  bird. She just looked out on the crowd, wondering where they were going and why and what they would be doing.

In short, whenever she saw someone particularly interesting looking, or maybe even completely ordinary,  she imagined a story in her mind for them. She would create a story for them, one that was completely separate from their real lives, one which she had concocted solely based on how they looked and how they walked.

If someone was moving fast, it was obvious that they wanted to get somewhere quickly. They wanted to get to the store which was just about to sell out of what they wanted, they were late for a date, they had just stolen from a shop and was running to their getaway car.

There were others who went slowly and took their time, enjoying the open air and the sun on their faces, with faraway looks in their eyes as if they were not in the center of town.

People who were alone always gave way to a puzzle; were they waiting for someone, or nobody at all? Had they been blown off, and how did they feel about that? Why were they so alone? It was interesting to think about.

People who weren’t alone were always interesting, too. Families with rambunctious children, running circles around their parents while they strolled and took their time enjoying the good weather. Anyone holding hands made for an interesting thought experiment: siblings, boyfriend and girlfriend, or spouses?

In her mind, it was for her to decide what their story was; with the story she invented was simply be how she invented them.

She did this regularly enough that she knew there was a pattern to how thought about these people. In the back of her mind, she knew that the way that she saw them was dictated by how she was feeling; sometimes the old man with a cap was strolling along slowly for his own enjoyment, to enjoy the sun and thinking back to when he was younger, and had met his wife in this square. Other times, it was because he had nothing to do, because he had just come from the hospital with his own death sentence and didn’t know what to do or where to go. Or maybe he didn’t have a home anymore. Maybe his family hadn’t wanted to come with him, or had decided that he would be shut up in a nursing home, or an assisted living home, or whatever they called it these days.

The possibility of such contrasting scenes in this same proximity interested her, situations that seemed like they should only take place miles away from each other, but somehow fit in this place. It was a mixture of restaurants and shops, a mixture of stories.

Two hearts

The doctors had never seen anything like it. She was a perfectly healthy little girl who just happened to have two hearts. The only explanation they could offer was that she was supposed to have a twin, but that they had only just barely split apart. But that did not explain why only a single organ had been duplicated.

Due to the rarity of this condition, being that it was completely unheard of, we had no idea what to do. For now, she seemed fine. But complications would surely come one day in the future. She had already been advised against any strenuous activity, against exerting herself by, for example, going out for recess. So, she spent that time in the classroom alone, drawing, while every other child went outside.

Some of the doctors argued that it was counter intuitive to let her be so sedentary, to allow her to be so inactive and let both of her hearts weaken. They also argued for the girl’s social life, for her mental well being, for it wasn’t normal to spend so much time alone.

She likely couldn’t help but feel different then everyone else, though she tried to put a positive spin on it by proclaiming to everyone that she met that “I’m special because god gave me two hearts to love with.” It was a sweet thought, but she obviously didn’t know how much of a danger that fact could be to her health.

There wasn’t anything which we knew to do or recommend, so I was one of a few who thought that we should perhaps allow the girl to just try and live a normal life; if she did in fact start to experience any issues, then we could do from there.

But others still argued that it would better to be safe than sorry, that the girl would be risking her life everyday if she attempted to live so unrestricted.

It was quite the conundrum, and I was predisposed to wish that the former strategy could work, so that the smiling little girl could run and play freely, without having to remember or be told not to strain herself.

She was meant to be free like a bird, and yet her extra heart kept her in a cage. If she was to live, she couldn’t live freely. It wasn’t much of a choice. She had such a limited deck, and all of them were bad cards. It would inevitably be a short game. And a tragic game no matter what she chose, then.

Those doctors, including myself, got a front row seat to this sad story, though a very interesting one at that. Some of them were merely in it for the fact that this case was so unique; even though they didn’t have anything to contribute, they came just so that they could say that they worked on this one.

Me? No. I wanted this little girl to have the best chance possible with her two hearts.