Life’s a high-wire act, said a man seated across the table from me. His eyes were mesmerizing, intense like a bird of prey. The trick, he added, is to not look down. As if calculating our thoughts, he smiled before confessing, This is not to say I’ve never slipped from the proverbial wire. No! In fact, you might say I’m balanced, hanging from that wire this very second. In a grand gesture meant to encompass his invited guests, the entire house and beyond, he told us, I can afford none of this. I owe millions, and yet I am worth millions! Go figure. Ha! With a flourish the host summoned a passing servant hired for the evening to pour more wine, whose gloved hand shook as he poured, almost spilling the liquid, which amused his employer. Why so nervous? Examine my hands. They were displayed for us. Steady, you see? Ah, but I suspect you are thinking my subject has good reason to worry, he is afraid of being fired, and is in desperate need of my money. Nonsense! Our host surprised us by standing, then stepping from his chair onto the table. He raised his glass. I propose a toast to Fear! Why? Because without it we are nothing. Fear makes us who we are. A great adversary who should be honored. Every waking and sleeping moment we are transformed and enthralled by its powers – yet I say, fear not, or it will possess. To be or not to be afraid, my friends, is the question. To fear what? Death? A loss of power? A fall from grace? Nonsense! A world without fear would not be any paradise! Can you imagine light void of shadows? He reached down to grab a wine bottle by the neck and flung it forcefully overhead. It turned end over end until it vanished into the darkness of the cathedral ceiling. Our host swayed with drunken acrobatic confidence with a hand raised, poised to catch the falling object. As his guests – entranced by his hubris – we were treated to a raffish split-second wink. The trick, he proclaimed to our faces voicing alarm, is to avoid looking down.
Excerpt from Light-Years in the Dark: StoryPoems (see more)
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