The tightrope untravelled

He stood at a great height awaiting his time. He shifted his weight uncertainly from his right foot to his left and back again; giving each limb a nimble shudder in an effort to unlock his stiffened muscles. But they tensed all the more. And moments ago when he had relieved his drink bottle of half a litre of water, his throat had remained course. He suddenly became conscious of some form of involuntary heart surgery that was being performed unto his chest. The cavity below his rib cage burned in ripples and his heart pulsated violently. A feeling. Or was it the absence of a feeling? A poignant reminder of his mortality clawing at his quivering fingertips and toes. Palpable danger lay ahead. His scepticism frightened him. But he chose to ignore any glimpse of doubt.

In his peripheral vision, he could make out faint shadows far below him. These blotched outlines appeared to him as though all the colours of the rainbow had been splat indiscriminately upon a canvas and layered carelessly until dull. Occasionally discordant sounds of applause erupted from these blotches. They were far away and did not resemble anything to which he could attach meaning. So he fixated his eyes instead on a stream of light illuminating an otherwise fruitless pathway directly ahead of him.

In that moment, his mind wandered and he recalled the time when he first saw her. It was not the girl herself that drew him in, neither the unblemished skin nor the striking brown eyes, but a certain quality she projected. It was heart stopping. But he could not pinpoint what impression she so effortlessly imparted upon him. No matter how long he examined her being, he could not bring himself to look away. And his lips could not help but curl at the corners to form a crescent moon. To him, she was something so pure that she must never have seen cruelty, let alone be one to carry the potential to inflict harm onto someone else. But this was a misguided assumption.

She hid behind a perfectly painted face and lived her life much like a performance. Staged and rehearsed, she appeared sincere only on the exterior. She was not capable of loving, only of allowing herself to be loved by strangers, and was responsive only to confident advances where little affection was expected of her.

When they lay intertwined, his chin resting on her shoulder, his warm breath would tickle its way down the minute pathways of her ears as though trying to revive her. ‘Save me’, his sigh seemed to demand. But this was not a memory. It was but a brief moment in time that never quite played out. Only in his thoughts did he ever win her over.

Awakening from this daydream, he could not detect whether his feet had, during this time, moved forward at all to advance toward the distant spotlight ahead. He could sense her absence more than ever as he stood half-swallowed by the darkness under the watchful eyes of the shapeless blotches. She was nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

The muscles in his chest were now so severely contorted and throbbed like nothing he had ever experienced. He felt a numb foot lead the remainder of his body to surge forward and another steadily followed. The air was heavy. He felt it weighing down his body, applying pressure on every exposed, sweating pore.

He had genuinely loved her. But his vulnerabilities rendered her merely a lost chance.

He walked onward, but she continued to linger. So no progress did come. The luminous objective came no sooner. Engulfed by the dark surroundings, as when dumped by an unforgiving ocean wave, he could not be certain of what direction was up or down as his feet gave way from beneath him. Falling.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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