You Were: The Traveler

August 23, 2010

(Today’s victim/volunteer is the girl peering over the edge.)

In the 1970s,  you were the star of a Soviet acrobatic troupe. Your specialty was the trapeze, and you could hurl through the air like perfectly aimed bullet. Everyone assumed you were fearless. The truth was, you had always been terrified of heights. But you were the sort of girl who refused to be ruled by her fears. (And you’ve always been a extremely hard-headed.)

Every year, your troupe toured the Soviet Bloc. Your death-defying act grew so famous that Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev himself caught your show when you passed through Moscow. It’s a little known fact that Brezhnev had once fallen in love with a trapeze artist, and you reminded him a great deal of the girl from his youth. So when he greeted you backstage after the show, he decided to grant you a wish. You told the Chairman of the Communist Party that you’d like to visit the United States.

A statement like that could have gotten your butt shipped to Siberia. But to your great surprise, Brezhnev thought it was a splendid idea. How better to showcase the athletic superiority of Soviet youth than to send your fabulous troupe on a tour of America?

Of course, just because he thought you were cute didn’t mean you got to skip the mandatory KGB background check. For weeks, agents eavesdropped on your phone conversations, read your letters, and interviewed your friends and family. The one thing they never uncovered? The black market copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road that you kept hidden inside your pillow.

It wasn’t your favorite book. You didn’t even think it was particularly good—certainly nothing compared to the works of Russia’s great writers. But On the Road had scared you in ways you had never expected.

As a star performer, you had always enjoyed a cushy life. You were given good food and an apartment with all the modern amenities. But your days were planned to the minute. You always knew exactly where you’d be in a week, a month, or a year. And the truth is, you’d grown comfortable in your routine. Too comfortable. And when you’d first cracked open On the Road, the idea of setting out on an endless journey with no destination scared you to death. So you decided that was exactly what you needed to do.

When your troupe reached Chicago, you checked into a hotel downtown. Your room was eight stories above the street and a guard was stationed outside the performers’ rooms. Neither of these proved much of a challenge. As soon as night fell, you dressed in black, stepped out on the room’s balcony and climbed over the rail. A swing, a flip, and a couple of leaps later, you were on another balcony four floors below. You borrowed a few items of clothing from the businesswoman asleep in her bed (leaving the last of your rubles behind on her nightstand) and hit the road.

Chicago winters are notoriously harsh, but to you, the frigid weather felt almost balmy. You had no money. No friends in America. No idea where you were going or how you would survive. You were scared senseless. And that was just the way you liked it.

I’d tell you all about your travels, but I have a feeling you’d rather set off on new adventures than read about old ones. But I hope you haven’t lost the desire to scare yourself  silly. It’s the secret to leading a well-lived life.

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One Response to “You Were: The Traveler”

  1. Bridget Says:

    Thank you so much Kirsten! You can’t imagine what a thrill it was to be in one of your stories, since you are my absolute favorite author. I’m so happy and I love my past life (she was such an interesting girl!)
    -Bridget


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