The circus looked like bubblegum so she asked a young guy with a name tag on- it wasn’t laminated- if he had a stick. He handed her a cigar instead like she was a 57 year old man with a tear in his skin that transpired to his heart and she laughed because bubblegum always makes her gag but her grandma’s cigars just made her nose spark. He asked her if she wanted to see a tiger and walked away before she could answer. It was in a cage, painted pink like the half of the stripes on the big top. She asked him, putting her cigar out on the cage’s cross, who had more stripes, the big top or the tiger. He told her he’d never really counted. She asked if the tiger was his and he scratched the skin behind his neck, scraggly and rinsed, before shrugging. “He’s always been here, I guess. With me, other places.” She nodded, wishing she was brave enough to stick her fingers though the weaves, brave enough to ask for bubblegum again. She asked him where they’d been and he gritted his teeth, told her he never remembered their names, the goddamn circuses he meant, always left and let them fade away. They weren’t any fun or maybe they could be, sometimes, but not enough to store them. She asked him what his first love’s name was and he walked behind the cage, grabbed a bucket, ignored her words. He asked her where her mom was, why she was so nosey and she sat on the grass and looked at a blue slurpee someone had spilled 5 feet away. “How did it smell?” He sighed, sat down next to her, pulled out a stick of gum for for himself. She wished she was wearing a dress so she could spread it out, put some distance between them so she wouldn’t seem so little. She wished her jeans had tears in them so maybe he’d offer her another cigar. “How did what smell kid?” he asked, the sound of him smacking his gum louder than his words but not louder than his heart beat.
“Your first kiss, the second circus you worked at on a Wednesday afternoon, your tiger when her eyes droop closed, breakfast at your favorite place.. memories I guess”
He was quiet for a minute before he whispered, “My tiger’s a he.”
She nodded and wondered silently what it was like to live life running, dropping things off, leaving memories on front porches and dinner tables and kissing booths at 3rd rate circuses. He must of her heard her, somehow, because he leaned over, smelled her, then got up and disappeared into a small tent she hadn’t even noticed, a scaled down version of the big top, with thinner stripes and a newer glint. He came out with a pen and half a piece of notebook paper. He wrote something on it, then handed it to her.
Girl, about 17, nosey as hell. Smells like my cigars, mountain dew and remembering.