Founder of the Broadneck Writers’ Workshop in Annapolis, Maryland (www.broadneckwritersworkshop.
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Luigi Zamboni is still dashing, like Robert De Niro with a goatee, only he wears a poet’s shirt and ruffled doublet. A trapeze artist, he performs his old routine daily on a stage with a Jackson Pollock backdrop, his torso as rigid as cardboard even after forty years. The tiny box theater where he performs is just that –a decorative box with a window. For my first crush is a paper doll.
Hands grasping a bar that juts from the wall, he flips round and round: arms pivoting, feet scissoring, legs swinging –in tandem, in splits –his strength coming in fits, like my chuckles, as he cranks out each flagging somersault.
Decades in a closet may have dimmed his youth, but he outlived the spectator who retired him. When I turn the box to wind his motor, it groans with shifting sands and rubber bands I fear are on the verge of breaking. Luigi’s not as fast as he used to be, but then neither am I. Preservation be damned, though; when he flies, we are both young again.
Today he flies in my bag on a plane bound far from home. I’m bursting to share him with someone, my seatmate perhaps –a woman my age –yet I hold back until we land, frozen with the childish fear of judgment from a total stranger. She has more important things to do. She will feign interest at best. Or will she? Maybe I’m the judgmental one.
“Would you like to see something special?” I ask, wincing at my own awkward words.
She surprises me with a Yes, and I show off my share of the inheritance.
Luigi does a half dozen dizzying flips, pauses, and with superhuman effort pulls off one more.
My companion, spellbound, smiles. She says she owned the same toy and muses where it could be now. She exits the plane shopping eBay on her phone. I don’t know her name, but I think of her now as my friend. Maybe friendship was always that easy, but I just didn’t know it.
Luigi and I, being past our prime, appreciate the time left to us all the more for it. Our shifting sands and rubber bands aren’t what they used to be, but we still have a few tricks up our ruffled sleeves. People need us.
~ J. C. Elkin