by Karen Schauber

The crowd has ballooned by the time we arrive. Mathieu does his wheely thing. A Cirque du Soleil improv. The multitudes are mesmerized, buzzing with excitement as the rhythmic hammering of the cymbalom and snaking of oboe arpeggios enchant, leading attention astray. I rifle through pockets and half- zipped purses, filling my pouch with every nugget I can pilfer; sifting through the loot will come later. The crowd gasps and laughs with nervous delight as Mathieu wheels atop the unicycle weaving to-and-fro losing his balance threatening to crash into onlookers and recovering within the very last inch with nothing to spare, thrilling the crowd. The Quartier is a mix of exhilaration and danger. Danger when the first onlooker reaches into their bag to retrieve their coin-purse, their iPhone, their keys; their shrieks no longer register pleasure, the pitch a little higher a little thinner as their breath is dislocated in their chest gasping and hyperventilating in panic. One after the next goes off like a pop toaster. Catchy like a virus.