Bubble Man

Bubble Man

There is a man making bubbles by the Archibald fountain in the park — a street entertainer drawn here by the crowds. In this place at the northern end of the park all the pathways converge and the sound of water announces the confluence, a pedestrian eddy of suits, tourists, joggers, charity pedlars, shepherded children, ringed by the elderly and indigent who watch from the outer benches.

It is a beautiful day for bubbles: overcast, very still, barometric pressure 1023 hectopascals. He stands with his back to the dark avenue of Port Jackson figs and this, along with the filtered light, low in blue spectrum, makes the opalescent purples and greens of the bubbles pop in high contrast.

The Bubble Man is required by city regulations to mark out a magic circle on the ground, which he has done with rope and yellow plastic cones, preventing bystanders from becoming unexpectedly entangled in his twirlings. And within the rope outline he spins on his heel. His wand held like a single spoke at right angle to his body and a cascading Oh! of bubbles forming a rim. The scene is a concentration of concentricity: an epi-centre inside and to the side of the circles of city, park, fountain, rope, and twirling man — all reflected off each bubble. Kids wheel and plunge, jumping, hands outstretched or paddling fiercely to catch them, calls rising over the sound of water — intoxicated with the delight of predators falling upon their natural prey.

His glory are the giant bubbles he makes with a special bipartite, lasso-tipped wand. He makes them to fascinate the walkers, arresting them, even forcing them to stumble into one another as their eyes lock on the Paspalescent lunarity above us, animated by tensions, quavering with breathless conversation. It is as if he had cast a line from his bubble wand and hooked a soul; as though somewhere else a body has crumpled to the ground with a ruined eye through which the soul was jagged and reeled away. And now it — the naked soul — trembles in the air above us, beautiful and shivering. Then with a whimpered “Pop!” becomes just a trail of spit on the polished granite paving. The watchers flinch, tremble themselves, and try not to hear the inner conversation.

Bubble man is an arcanist of surface tensions, wielding centrifugal force, atmospheric pressure, optical refraction to call into being things that have nothing for a centre. He makes bubbles for money. The city makes money for bubbles. Perhaps he is even its secret creator.

I watch entranced for two hours, drop five dollars in his clear plastic box, and then the rain comes and washes us all away. When it is quiet he makes a paseo of the fountain and smokes.

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