Excerpt for I'm in the Circus by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

I’m in the Circus

By Leah Symonne

Published by Leah Symonne at Smashwords

Copyright 2017 Leah Symonne

Dedicated to the adults with the lost childhoods

I’m in the Circus

Art’s only purpose is to make people feel the whimsical wonder that it cannot feel itself.

My hair is big, bright and red. It’s huge, but still falls flat on my face. It’s dull in comparison to the flames of my sadness. Vibrant and lifeless. Much like myself.

I have a lot of things to say.

I look at myself in the mirror. My face doesn’t match my neck. Makeup artists never seem to have the correct shade of brown for my skin tone. Maybe, it doesn’t exist. They say don’t worry, the crowd won’t notice. That’s all that really matters I guess.

I looked at the table for the makeup bag. It’s gone. I just want some brown foundation.

The audience screamed. The heathens. All I’ve ever wanted was this. Them. Their attention. Their admiration. For them to come and see me. Like me. They weren’t here for me. They’re here for the show. The circus. They came to see the circus.

If you can have a life that no-one pays attention too, I urge you to live that life. If you can be someone without the bright red afro and squeaky nose, be them.

The audience yelled. I heard a cue, and began to count down from 40 in my head. My time was soon.

Humans surely weren’t meant to be showmen. I’m positive of that.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted the makeup bag, with brown foundation poking from the top of it. I grabbed the bottle, pumped some into the palms of my hand and slathered it.

How much art are humans expected to ingest before it’s too much? At what point does art do more damage to us, than good?

When you invest yourself so much that you become the show piece. You’re not enjoying, you’re what’s to be enjoyed. You don’t feel it anymore.

Time for stage. The widest white smile spread across my face and I ran through the curtains.

Lights glimmered above me and a sea of darkness applauded and cheered. The stage lights were much like my God. They decided. They decided that they can all see me, but I can’t see them. They decided to make my vision so blurred that when I step off stage and back in front of that mirror, I can hardly see me. Stage lights allow you only to see themselves.

If ever you can live your life outside of art, do it. Inside of it, you lose.

Art’s only purpose is to make people feel the whimsical wonder it cannot feel itself.


“Why do you think she did it?”

“I don’t know. Does it matter?”

“It could.”

“I don’t know. I think at this point she’s just as sick as she’s made me.”

He shifted in his chair and crossed his legs.

“How do you feel the medications been helping?”

I winced.

I hated taking the medication. I expected them to feel a bit like a heating pad. Like you pop the pill twice daily and will just be overcome by a warming sensation that makes you feel fuzzy inside. The sensation of being engulfed by a duvet right out of the dryer. It wasn’t that. To be frank, it was the opposite. You felt nothing.

“They work, I guess.”

“Why, I guess?” he pressed. Therapy was always hard. I struggle to say the things I need to say. Often, I wrote things down and made him read them. My mouth couldn’t physically open to say the words. That made them too real. When something’s written, it can still be only yours to know.

Once you throw the paper away, the words die.

When you say things out loud they have a tangibility that you can’t take back. Kind of like, when you take someone’s innocence, I guess.

“They don’t really make you feel good.” I said, “They make you just kind of feel nothing.”

“We can try a different—”

“No,” I cut him off, “I don’t mind. Maybe I’m not ready to feel ‘good’ yet. Maybe nothing is okay for right now.”

My journey with my mental health has been extensive. I never once blamed myself for what’s happened to me. I’ve always known I didn’t make myself ill. However, I do regret letting myself get this bad. I feel like PTSD works like a cancer. It will only get worst untreated. For a long time, I didn’t know what was going on. But I knew it was bad. For a long time I also didn’t have resources to do better. But even when I did, I fell in and out of help. It’s not easy.

The only way to put your demons to rest is to confront them. Which is weird that somehow that’s the scary part when I’ve lived with them every day of my life for the last 12 years. To heal a cut, you have to touch it. But, it’ll hurt regardless.

I guess I never saw the point because I was still in the environment I got sick in. With no real way to leave it. Too poor to move out. In too much debt from school to step forward with any certainty. A major that wasn’t panning out. And now, crippling anxiety.

“What exactly is it that you want to feel?”

I thought.

“Happy?” he pressed.

I stayed quiet.

“No. Just peaceful.”

“And you equate feeling nothing to peace?”

I exhaled sharply.

“Not really. I think there’s some comfort that you can’t achieve when you feel absolutely nothing. But, I think nothingness is closer to that peacefulness than constant elation would be.”

“That’s fair”

My knee started to bounce.
“When was the last time you spoke to your dad?”

I thought.
“I texted him a few weeks ago, I think.”

“What did you guys talk about?”

“I don’t remember. I think I was asking if he’d remembered someone he went to school with.”


“My mom wanted to know.”

I liked talking to my dad. I’m not sure if he could say the same for me, admittedly I’m a bit of a freak, but I always have gotten really excited to hear from him. We don’t talk much since we live apart and he’s a busy guy, but whenever we did I really valued that time.

“What about your aunt?”
“Yesterday. She asked me to replenish a gift I got for her on Christmas.”

“How are you feeling now?”

“Still want to die. But too sedated to do it. These meds work.”

It’s weird to want to die, but quite literally also want to give life a fighting chance. I don’t think I could have been handed a messier deck of cards. Still, I want nothing more than to sort it out. The scariest part of it all for me is that I don’t know when it ends, because that’s kind of my call. With physical ailments there’s a date and time you’ll either heal or die. And you’ll know. Okay, the cancer is stage 4, you have no life insurance. Give it a month. You broke your leg, here’s some painkillers. Give it 2 months. When exactly have you heard, okay you’ve got depression, anxiety and PTSD from childhood trauma, give it 5-10 business days. Never. If you succumb to your mental illness, it’s eventually going to be on your own accord. Date and time.

I don’t want that choice. I want it almost to take me, but I take me. It’s scary to think that there’s some people who should have made it. But didn’t.

“How much of a chance do you think I have to make it?” I asked him.

“All the chance you give yourself.”

“I don’t know if that’s true. Some people don’t.”

“That’s true.”

“People who did it. Who were successful. Built a life. Had a career, a family, lots of money. Everything that it should take to make it out and they still don’t make it.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“I don’t know. Sometimes it’s just stronger than you.”

To win this battle you have to fight your damaged brain with that very same damaged brain.

He looked at his watch. I nodded, before he even spoke.
“Do you need another prescription?”

I did.

“No.” I lied.

“Well, our times up for today. See you next week.”

Our Flag Will Fly

A rally cry,
A rally cry,
From valleys deep
And hills so high

For Negros young
For Negros old
Our flag will fly
Our flag will fly

Our fists held high,
Our blood runs dry,
Our flag will fly.

Our flag is a tale

Of lives that mattered

Of those that fought

Of dreams un-shattered

I’ll tell my kids this tale of hope

Of fights we fought

Of nights too dark.

Held high in the sky

Our flag will fly.

Tears Are Warm

Tears are warm. They fall nicely as a welcome against your scorching cheeks. Your eyes wish only to cool the warmth of sadness that causes blood to rush so forcefully to your face. But they can’t.

Hands are cold. Hands get clammy. They hurt in the middle, your pulse gyrates. Your heart beats with the consistency of a gallop, and you just want to stop. You'd like to stop feeling so much. You'd like to wake up with the same vigor that's in your bones, in your soul. You're not sure what feeling exactly you'd like to stop, because a part of you loves the fact that you're feeling.

But you're tired. So, very tired.

You often have bouts of feeling, much like a flu. You never quite wake up with the warmth of tears or blushed cheeks on most mornings. Often you wake up with a gentle sea breeze. You're not happy, but you're not sad. Which usually means, you're still a little sad. You're not feeling right now, and you hate it. But then you start to feel and you get overwhelmed, but you're also scared. Petrified.

You're introverted. Telling your feelings to people you aren't extremely close to doesn't come easy. It's simply not your nature and you hate yourself for it. The regret of the one, two, three, four and five that you let slip away might not ever leave you. You allow things to cut deep and then you heal slow. You take it each minute at a time, and let the salt sit in your wound.

Feelings are lukewarm. It's hard to enjoy emotion a lot of the time, because they're hard to understand. Wrap your head around the fact that someone has made you feel. They have made chemicals in your brains do things beyond your control and now you're left to sort them out. That's what it is to feel. 

Souls can adapt. Souls are very quick to feel cold in the cold and warm in the warm. A lot like denim. Souls are very much like denim. When you've walked out on a cold day with a denim jacket, it grabs the cold and holds it to your body. It's almost as if inside your denim is colder than the rest of the world. Sometimes it seems like a soul may be hurting more than the blow it took. But you don't know. I don't know, either.

But, the sun is warm as well. It’s almost as warm against your cheeks as tears are. It will always remain warm and will always shine outside for you to find. Lay in the sun.

Stay Sad

Hey kids!

And thirty year olds with no families and crippling depression.

Are you sad?


You should never feel!

Walk and smile!

Click your heels!

You should stay sad. Happiness? Overrated. Smiling? Leads to laugh lines. Not worth it.

Clap your hands!

Click clappity clap!
Smile real wide!

Or, I don’t know, fap?

I don’t know where happy is. But, it isn’t here. At the end of this book. It’s probably just what you feel when your dog is excited to see that you’ve made it home. I’m pretty sure that’s as good as it gets.

Us, with depression

A lucky few

Look at all the cool things we do!

Depression, really, is all the rage,

Put some pseudo deep quotes

On your Instagram page!

But really,

You should stay sad.

It’s not that bad.

Or if you don’t stay sad, at least stop searching for happy. Give yourself a break. You can’t find it and hold it. It’s running faster than you can chase it. The full range of human emotion is never best at an extreme. You won’t always have happy. The same way you won’t always have sad.

What’s that feeling when you’re just kind of both? The middle? It’s warmer than sadness, but not as hot as happy. The middle ground? Peace, maybe?

Don’t panic every time you’re sad.

Wait for peace. Stay sad.

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(Pages 1-15 show above.)