Take a strip of bitumen, and a painted white line. Eyes fixed ahead, as you carefully walk, one foot ahead of the other. Each step finding that strip of paint, arms outstretched and dead straight. Never wavering, an arrows flight of muscle and bone. A challenge taken for no reason other than the simple pleasure of finishing, and saying to yourself 'I did this'.
Take a strip of metal, strung between the top of two buildings, no more than a foot in width. A hundred metres from the ground, and you're shaking. Confidence dissolves as the memory of stumbling cripples your legs, and the seizing of your mind affects muscle and bone. The memory of walking a thin strip of paint vanishes to a place twice as distant as the ground below.
There was a time when he trusted. Implicitly. Nothing else entered his mind, and he was willing to place himself in a place where this trust was tested. At the time, he wasn't even aware there was any form of testing taking place, things just were as they were. Eyes towards an outcome that he believed in, that he was sure was on the horizon. Surely, everyone believed the same as he did? (the question mark only appeared later)
And life was a series of events, where setbacks were a mistake (surely?) Belief was constant, and unquestioned, and true, and strong. Sometimes he fell, and arms weren't there to arrest his fall - they always appeared soon afterwards though, strong and warm and safe.
There came a time when he fell, and waited for the arms to appear around him, to lift him once again.
They didn't arrive.
With wobbly arms, he lifted himself to sitting, to kneeling, to standing on unsteady feet. More aware of the hardness of the ground than ever before, he chose his steps carefully.
With enough time, it is possible to get used to practically any situation. With enough time, it is possible to still the voice in your mind, the one that says "this is not the way it is supposed to be..."
There has always been a voice in his mind, telling him that he's in the wrong place, that there is more than this. As he heads home from work, knowing that this night will be exactly the same as the night before, which will in turn be identical to the following night, the thought of change brushes against the edge of his consciousness once again.
The dreams are never easy to kill. Not completely.
The excuses come far too easily however. For every moment of want, there is another of fear. For each time he dares to visualise a different place, thoughts of being alone crowd his mind. The road he travels, well lit, wide and safe, is difficult to leave. Sloping gently downwards, his stride chewing up the days and years. The scenery does not change.
Occasionally, he passes an exit from this highway. A road, narrower than the one he is on, branches off. He cannot see where this road leads, he is unable to judge this road's surface, its lighting appears inconsistent and prone to failure. He walks past these exits, preferring to remain on this safe path. Each time, something stirs inside of him as he wonders where this new path leads. For miles afterwards, he will wonder where he would be now had he the courage to follow it. One foot following the other, feet firmly upon his unwavering white painted line, he dares to consider changing direction.
The next time an exit appears, he will consider following it.
And he remembers that walking that thin painted line on the bitumen, if you look at the ground below
your feet your centre of balance seems to shift, and you rock.
And he knows that remembrances of yesterdays trip him, throwing out roots to foul his path, clutching at his ankles,
causing him to stumble flailing and uncontrolled.
And he realises that the more he focuses on maintaining this straight and steady course, the more he is aware of the unsteadiness of his body,
and its tendency to sway in a manner he is powerless to stop.
When a child learns to walk, he will fall. He will land heavily, compose himself, and try again. Eventually, these fallings will become less frequent, and he will begin to move with confidence, growing bolder with each step.
This child will begin to run, and take time to grow used to the speed he is capable of. Again, he will fall, grazing his hands and knees on the dirt and rocks. Still, the thrill of motion will overcome the pain and he will stand, dusting himself off, wiping away tears, and taking wing again. He will learn from his past mistakes, and stumble less often than before, managing to master his body.
He will ride his first bike, and not be able to control his balance. Uncoordinated, he will wobble and tumble time and time again. He will not understand how to move, while steering, and braking. Any thoughts of giving up vanish as soon as he sees his best friend on his bike, and he knows that he wants to be able to experience the rush that his friend is too.
He will age. He will discover that risks have consequences, and that there is normally a choice to be made - to take this risk, or not.
One day, he finds himself taking the safe road over and over again. He finds himself married, paying a mortgage, a couple of kids in the family, a secure job that pays well. He surveys all that he has, and wonders why he can't find complete satisfaction. He wonders why he can't shake this nagging thought, that this is not where he was supposed to be. He wonders how he got to this place - it wasn't one of the dreams of a young man.
Looking at his son in the yard, he sees him trip and fall. He rushes out to pick him off the ground, hoping he hasn't hurt himself, expecting tears and pain. Arriving by his side, he has already picked himself up from the ground and is running again.
He wonders to himself - when did the fear of falling become greater than the thrill of movement?