Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Man on a Wire or Balance

The man on the wire took another step and with it, a shallow tentative breath. He held the pole out in front of him gripping it tightly, his knuckles were white and sweat between his palm and the rod made his hold a little less sure. A breath of wind sways the thick steel cable beneath the soles of his ready feet. In this moment he swallows, lowers his eyelids, and reminds himself once again how to place one foot in front of the other. He practiced for this so many times in his back yard between to oak trees. This is different, very different. The cold morning fog hugs his skin and plasters his thin shirt to his tense muscles. He remembers. The sun of a summer day one year ago melts away the mist of the morning and fills his eyelids with the flickering picture of memory. Birds sing in the treetops and bees drone over the flowers on the ground. The ground is only three feet below the suspension line. A drop that couldn't hurt an infant. He totters, falls, gets back on the wire. Repeat. Over and over, repeat. Practice makes perfect. If at first you don't succeed, he tries and tries again. If he were to make one such mistake now – to fall off of his wire – its best not to think of things like that. Again the line quivers and his eyes open, not quickly, every movement matters. His eyes take in the scene before him without his head conveying their direction. In front of him the narrow pathway stretches into infinity through the clouds before him he knows that behind him are over fifteen feet of cable, another thirty stretch forward. There is no turning back now. Another careful step brings him that much closer to his incredible goal. One at a time. One at a time. Slow. Steady. He does not dare look below him. To look down could mean the end of everything. He cannot even think about not averting his eyes to see what lies beneath his feet. His mind is steeled to the danger contained in the distance between himself and the hard unrelenting earth. Out of sight out of mind. The farther he is from the crust of the revolving earth, the nearer he encroaches on his certain demise. None of these thoughts cross his focused mind. The wail of sirens somewhere in the ocean of water-heavy air and the bite of what feels like shards of ice are not lost on his sharpened senses, but are quickly packaged and stored away, cleared from the mind's palate which must be relied on to keep his body steady on this line; better suited to carry a cable car than a human being. He felt the weight of his body tensing the wire and imagined each of his muscles doing the same. His chest rose and fell slowly, and his arms ached with the effort of keeping the pole steady before him. If he were to waver now – if he took one step an inch too far or too short. He steadied himself and drew his foot forward again. Again. He felt firm metal beneath his feet. The building. He dropped the pole and turned around. From there he gazed out at the city and then he looked down. Down, down, down. The world lay at his feet. One thousand three hundred and sixty eight feet below.

More on Balance later...