This braless woman could have just been a memory had her story never been told.
Damn, it feels good to be a scribe.
UPDATE: Chad Conine was so inspired by this drawing that he wrote a backstory for the braless lady. It's a good read!
Carla Wallenda caught a glimpse of herself in the side of the building. One of those downtown buildings with green-tinted mirrors covering the exterior walls. "Whose idea was this?” Carla wondered. “How many people want to see themselves trudging along the city street and in tinted green at that?"
Not Carla. In fact, Carla always found it jarring to see herself in an unexpected mirror. In her head, she still looked like Farrah Fawcett. And she could still see that part of herself in the mirror in her bathroom. She trained herself well at that mirror. In front of it, she could maintain the image in her head. But then, out of nowhere, this unfriendly mirror that just didn't understand. Whoever built this building might as well post someone outside to criticize each passer-by. "Hi, Carla, you're much heavier than you think. Your bright red glasses do not match your mustard yellow, olive green and musty orange top. And, for heaven's sake, wear a bra."
As such the Farrah Fawcett image was struggling to maintain itself. So Carla took a deep breath and told herself that this frumpy lady had her place as a disguise. A disguise, it should be noted, that had taken years to properly develop and served her well. After more than 30 years, she appeared to be in the ideal place between normal and crazy, the way most people look when they're stumbling around a new city, sleep deprived but determined to see the sites and snap a few pictures. Her hair had slowly faded from brunette to salt-and-pepper to its current leaning-gray grandma-do. The bright red glasses were the finishing touch. Carla knew it the minute she found them while online shopping. She felt like a trendy teenager when she clicked on the "add to cart" button. Could any other item accomplish the dual task of making her feel young and hip while appearing old and batty. Carla doubted it.
Regardless, the entire ensemble might as well be an invisibility cloak. As if to prove her point, a spiky-haired, tribal-tattooed young man walked past her on the sidewalk. Nothing. Not even that patronizing, "hi, granny" smile she sometimes received. "You silly punk," she thought. "I would've stopped your father in his tracks."
And she would've, too. For the better part of two decades, Carla had been a professional object of desire. Exalted, sort of. At least literally held high for thousands to marvel at her grace and beauty. In a short, glorious time of life, Carla had been the centerpiece of the Flying Wallendas. The youngest daughter and slightly cuter than her older sister, Valerie. OK, so trapeze artist didn't exactly rank with movie star or supermodel on the desirability scale. But it accomplished the same thing when the circus, featuring the Flying Wallendas, landed in cities and towns throughout the country.
Carla sighed to herself. No one would believe half her story if they stopped her right here on this street and asked her, which they wouldn't anyway.
The 70s were almost over and the Flying Wallendas were almost to the safety of the platform when Carla's story changed forever. She and her sister were twirling flaming batons while Carla's brother-in-law Bruce, Valerie's husband, held Valerie and Carla above his head, one on each hand, which was not quite as comfortable as a bar stool. Bruce sat on Rick's shoulders while Rick carefully pedaled his bicycle across a tight wire extended 100 feet above the ground with no safety net. Rick Wallenda, Valerie and Carla's brother, had guided his bicycle across the tight wire plenty of times before. But this time something — Carla could never stop wondering what. A fly? A flash? She had no answers — startled him enough to wobble. That wobble led to a tilt and then a fall all the way to the concrete in the center ring at the Detroit State Fair Coliseum.
Only Carla survived. She landed on Bruce's broad, muscular buttocks and rolled over on her sister.
It was all so gruesome and sad that Carla preferred not to remember that part of it. She was able to hold on to the brilliant memories of the excitement and then cheers and traveling with family and the pretty leotards.
Come to think of it, that's how Carla had fallen out of the habit of wearing a bra. When you spend way more than half your life wearing leotards, and then you change out of your show clothes into a night shirt and fall asleep, the bra becomes an object relegated to special occasions. Only you don't have so many special occasions. And then practically your whole family dies and you go a bit numb and stop worrying or even knowing if you're wearing a bra or not.
And then one day you're working in your garden, having quit the circus, and wondering what would to do next and two men in black suits are suddenly standing in front of you and you notice for the first time in 18 months that you are not, in fact, wearing a bra. Oh well.
The CIA turned out to be a perfect fit for Carla. The same fearlessness, not to mention athleticism, that served her so well when she was swinging from the trapeze or traipsing across the tight wire came in handy. Dangerous, strange situations didn’t bother her either. Surreal had been the jumping off point for Carla’s life. With a healthy dose of detachment mixed in, the world became a lucid dream. Carla hadn’t done much after the accident, accept gain 40 pounds and grow antsy for a return to a more exciting life. That’s where the men in black found her, ready to be crafty and invisible.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, Carla wandered through the cities of the world on the U.S. government’s dime. She was a perpetual tourist, acting lost and a bit overwhelmed. All of it a clever ruse to mask reconnaissance. Carla reckoned she had the acting ability to win Oscars, if only her performance weren’t for an audience of zero.
In reality, Farrah Fawcett had nothing on Carla.