"He told me that he didn't feel right about going on that night.
"He just didn't feel good.
"He didn't want to perform.
"He decided to go on anyway, at the last minute, and that was the night that he died."
It was at that moment that I realized that clowns aren't supposed to be seen up close. They are meant to be seen from a distance, from the crowd. When you look at them this close you can see how the red around their mouth and eyes and the white covering the rest of their face smudge together. You can see the dark behind the makeup under the red eyes. You can see their wrinkles. They put on fake eyelashes, or at least this one does, to enhance the visual of their emotions while they perform but at this distance, about two and a half feet away, the eyelashes look thick and scary.
Lou, the clown, was sitting on a white fold out chair in front of the camera as I asked him questions about what had happened that night. Lou felt uncomfortable talking with me. I don't think it was the questions that bothered him but possibly the chair he was sitting on. At one point he put both of his hands between him and the chair, palms down, but that didn't last very long. It must have been hot for him because he was wearing gloves. This part of the interview wouldn't have been seen on the camera. The shot was of the top of his chest and his head.
I ended up asking him only six questions:
"What is your name?"
"How long have you been with the circus?"
"I started in 1971. So, 36 years."
"Has this type of thing ever happened before in the past 36 years?"
"No (pause) or, yes. One time one of the elephants got loose after somebody in the crowd lit some fireworks. It killed one of the men that I worked with when he tried to calm him down. The elephant stepped on him and he just kind of crumbled beneath his foot. I remember it pretty well and it was 34 years ago. I saw the man raise his arm as he crouched in front of the elephant. His legs creased in several spots before he completely collapsed as the elephant's front leg crushed him. Nothing like this has happened since."
"Where somebody died?"
"Would you like a glass of water Lou?"
"No, I'm ok, I just need to go soon."
"I just have a couple more questions. What happened the other night, Lou, to the acrobat?"
He answered me with four sentences and then he told me that he had to go finish getting ready for that evening's performance. I thanked him and I told him that his interview would be on the news that night at eleven. As I watched the footage in the studio of the acrobat falling through the air, caught by an audience member's video camera, and the interview, I didn't think about how my voice sounded when I asked the questions, which I usually do during this time and I didn't think about the acrobat. I thought about what Lou was doing while he was watching the interview. I pictured him sitting in a hotel room, lying on a bed and leaning against the wall. He would be sitting on a blue mattress because the sheets would be on the floor. I think his makeup would still be on because he was too tired to wash it off. Maybe I think this because I don't know what Lou looks like without his clown makeup on. He would also be eating. I think he would be eating Chinese food that he ordered a couple days before from the Chinese take out restaurant across the street from the hotel. I also thought about what Lou would be thinking while he watched his interview. I think he would be sad about the death that he was talking about with me, but Lou would be just slightly excited to see himself on TV.
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