It’s a tightrope across a ravine, a deep ravine, dark and filled with a sense of not presence but absence, somehow. Although it can’t be bottomless, it feels like it is. I don’t really know how I got here. I only know that I am here. I am holding a bar for balance just like they do in the circus! Only I’ve never done this before. I’m no acrobat; I have a dodgy eye – I can’t even catch a ball properly, so why the heck am I here, on this tightrope, above the largest drop imaginable?
Taking a deep breath, I look ahead, to the other side. I see green, grassy hills and clear sunlight playing off mounds of yellow spring gorse. I imagine I can smell the coconut-scented flowers. I like gorse. I would like to be there, on the other side of the ravine.
Behind me? Well, I don’t want to look back. I can’t look back. I think it must be as bad behind me as it is down there. So I block it from my mind. Which leaves me… right here.
As my toes reach forward to take the next step, to shift my weight oh-so-gently, to move, inching, inching, out of the corner of my eye I catch sight of a bridge. People are merrily moving across the bridge, slapping one another across the back, singing praises to God – hands-raised, high-fiving hallelujahs!
I look at the bar in my white-knuckled fists. I wonder how I came to be on a flippin’ tightrope, when they’re walking – running even – on a bridge. What the…?
And one of them – I think I know her, she seems familiar – leans over the side of the bridge and waves at me, smiling brightly.
“However did you get yourself there?” She calls.
I have no idea, so I don’t reply. I know it wasn’t my choice to be here. It’s not as if I can even move – you know, cup my hands around my mouth and yell back – not given my situation. The constant, constant, constant pressure at the back of my head and in my lungs and in my heart is urging me to do one thing only: try not to fall.
Because I don’t reply, the woman shrugs her shoulders and moves away to be with the rest of them, raising her arms and praising God, “Hallelujah! Lord, you’re so worthy!”
And I’m stood here on my tightrope, trying not to wobble.
Another person stops on the bridge. He raises a hand to his eyes to peer across at me. The sunlight shines brightly on the sleek marble, bouncing off the occupants like a heavenly blessing.The man shields his eyes from the light.
“Hey!” He calls. “Be careful. Don’t look down!”
Don’t look down?
DON’T LOOK DOWN!
Oh dear God, now all I want to do is look down! But I know if I do I will fall, tumbling and turning, turmoil and tumbling, over and over into the bleakness and the gloom and the final, black oblivion.
Would oblivion be better than this?
No. I don’t want that. I squeeze my eyes tight shut. A tear slips down my cheek. I open one eye; one eye, unscrunched, just a little bit. I tell myself to breathe. Opening the other eye, I bring my gaze to rest on the yellow gorse on the far side of the ravine and I imagine inhaling its scent. Before I realise what I am doing, I find myself tentatively moving my other foot, toes reaching forward, reaching, reaching, shifting weight, wait for it, wait for it… until they touch the rope again. Such a narrow rope. Such a long,
Don’t look down.