Soaring above it all

Submitted into Contest #50 in response to: Write a story about a person experiencing pre-performance jitters.... view prompt

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As you are about to enter back into the tent, you breathe heavily. You feel like you are being compressed and pushed. Like the past is hugging you too hard. Like your stomach is going to explode. 

-Hey Maria, you look gorgeous, I knew the costume would suit you. You’re so beautiful!” says your best friend, pulling you in the tent.

-Hey Peter!”, you answer, trying to hide the trembling in your voice.

He turns to you and looks into your eyes. His serious stare makes you look down at your feet.

-Are you cold?”

-Yeah.” You’re freezing. The only thing you are wearing other than the costume is a pair of flip flops.

-Put on your leggings.”

You do as he says and take the sweater he hands you. 

-Thanks Peter.”

-It’s nothing. You’re welcome.”

-Are you cold?”

-No. I’m fine.” He is wearing a simple white shirt with the Cirque du

Soleil logo on it on top of his costume. 

-Is the room heated?” 

-Yeah.”

-That’s good… That’s good.” You don’t think that the conversation

can continue from there, but he says :

-Yep… I do the show bare chested so the room has to be at least a

little warm. But since it’s summer and the tent takes in the heat, it’s fine. You won’t be cold, I promise.”

-I know.” 

“I believe you. I know you are saying the truth. I’m with you”, you want to say, “And when I’m with you, I’m never cold.”

-You nervous?” he asks. 

You want to answer the truth, you’re terrified, scared. You want to lock yourself into the bathroom and cry. You feel like you are going to throw up and ruin both of the gorgeous costumes. 

-A little.”

-Yeah, me too. It’ll go away in a few minutes… Do you want to practice?”

-Sure. At what time do we need to get out of the tent and… You know…”

-Perform?”

-Yeah. Perform…”

-In,” he lets go of your hand to look at his watch, “about two hours.”

-Ok… Let’s practice then.”

Peter and you walk over to the back of the tent.

-I saw your audition.” he says “It was great. I’m so glad you got in.”

-It’s just for the summer, you know.” you say, laughing awkwardly, I’ll go back to my university in London in september.”

-Yeah, but it’s still great. You wanted to do this since we were kids. It was your dream, I’m so happy you’re here with me.”

You want to say “It still is my dream. If I wasn’t so scared I would live with you, nowhere and everywhere, I would fly every day as a job and I would be applauded.” 

But you keep quiet. You always have. 

You didn’t say anything in the hospital when you fell from the trapeze. You didn’t say anything when Peter told you he would try to live what you planned together without you because your injury was too heavy. You didn’t say anything when he climbed the ladder of success looking down at you. You didn’t say anything at the party your parents threw for your acceptance into Harvard. You didn’t say anything when Peter sent you a message saying he had a performance so he couldn’t come to that party. You didn’t even say anything to Peter about your fear of falling down from that ladder, your vertigo. You didn’t even talk to him after the fall. You didn’t even cry. You are strong. Strong and silent.  Through everything, you have just continued to practice… And fly. 

You’ve flown alone. You didn’t want to scare your parents, your coach or Peter. You have always been lonely, but it isn’t a reason to hide your passion. You know that, in your heart, you are soaring above it all. Soaring. 

-I’m happy too.” You answer. Peter opens the small tent he lives into the giant circus tent you are going to perform in. 

Your breathing shakes again, you hold on to his hand tighter. You look up.

There. Up. There are trapezes. And you are going to climb the ladder with Peter, go up, and fly.

-Are you ready?” he asks. 

-Yes. I am.” 

If this was a movie, you think, I would answer something like “I have always been ready!” or “I am if you are.” But this isn’t a cheesy hollywood movie. This is real life. And it’s scary. 

-So, let’s go.” 

Peter casually takes off his shirt. For the performance, he has a costume : a pair of golden pants. They look like something an elf would wear. He puts the shirt on a stool and starts to climb. Then, he looks back at you, still frozen on the ground. “Maria? Are you coming?” he asks, with only one foot and one hand on the thin rope ladder. 

You swallow your saliva like it is poison and take off the black leggings you were wearing. Then the sweater. You put both of them on the stool. You look like a swimmer in a golden swimsuit.

And you approach the ladder. 

It looks taller than it actually is. 

-How high is it?” You scream to be heard by your friend. You know the answer : 37 feet. 11.28 meters. High enough to be paralized after a fall.

-I don’t know… 40 feet at most.”

You nod and put powder on your hands. Cray. To help you grip onto the trapeze. You inhale the air, filled with cary dust and the scent of the animals in their cages a few meters away. You start climbing. 

As you are progressing through the ladder and it’s height, you look at the net. It’s solid. But from the ladder, it doesn’t feel comforting to know it’s the only thing keeping you from falling to the ground. 

Well… The net and Peter’s hands. 

-Did you put on cray?” he asks.

You nod and try to smile. 

-Humm. Yeah. I’d be crazy not to do it. This is so…” You look down

at the stool with the clothes “high!”

-I know! I love to look at everything from down here. It feels like being an angel flying.”

-Yeah. Or a monkey.”

He laughs.

-Or a monkey!”

He grabs the trapeze. And leaps.

Your heart skips a beat. You cross your fingers and close your eyes. You push your back on the metal pillar behind you.

-Are you okay?” his voice is coming from far away. You open your eyes. He is perfectly fine.

-Do you want to put our harnesses on? We didn’t have a lot of time, but John is ready.” You look down. John is waving, the harnesses in hand. 

-Sure.”

You go put on a harness. You feel safer. But not as safe as in

Peter’s arms. 

And you practice.

-Do you feel better?” Peter asks at some point.

-Yes.” It was true. 

Peter takes your hand and looks at you. He looks as strong as ever with that stare and those eyes. 

-If there is anything I can do to make you stress less.”

-Practice. I want to practice.”

-Sure.” And he jumped off the platform to catch a trapeze in midair. 

An hour later, Peter asks you if you are hungry.

-No. If I ate something now, I’m sure I would throw it all up.”

-Did you eat anything for lunch?” 

-No. I was stressed.”

-And breakfast?”

-I’m not hungry when I wake up.”

-When is the last time you ate?”

-What time is it?”

-Almost eight.”

-Then, the last time I ate… Dinner yesterday night, about 25 hours

ago.”

-Maria! You shouldn’t fast before a performance!”

-Well, to be honest, if there is a sport I would prefer fasting before,

it’s flying trapeze.”

-Yeah. Come, the other acts are going to practice. You can call your family or text, but you’ll have to leave your phone in my room.”

-Peter, your room is a tent, is it safe to…”

-I have a safe.” He cut you off as he climbed down the ladder faster

than you deemed safe. 

You went into his tent with him.

-I have a caravan where I sleep actually. My room isn’t a tent you

know.”

-What’s the tent for, then?”

-It’s for all of the trapezists.”

-Why’s it empty?”

-Because tonight, there is only one duo. It’s a special performance.”

-Really? I didn’t know.”

-Well now you know. Come on. I didn’t show you my caravan. It’s pretty cool.”

As you climbed on, something inside the sweater you had put back on rang. You get it out. Peter’s phone. It’s a call. From a girl named Charlotte.

You hand over the phone.

-Hey sweetheart!”

-...”

-No, I’m giving a performance tonight.”

-...”

-Yep, thanks!”

-...”

-No, it’s a duo. I came up with the choreography myself. Don’t

worry about me, the moves are pretty simple.”

-...”

-I’ll be back at your apartment around one in the morning. You can eat alone now or wait for me. I’ll get a sandwich after my show.”

-...”

-Thanks! I love you too, bye.”

He hung up.

-Who was that?” You ask while looking at your phone, not daring to cross his stare in fear of his answer. 

-My girlfriend.”

July 16, 2020 13:10

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2 comments

Jubilee Forbess
13:50 Jul 19, 2020

Aw, I love that. Except for the end because he had a girlfriend... 😂 that made me sad for the poor girl who already loved him but that’s how it goes sometimes. I really love that you incorporated the circus in your story! That’s so fun. And your imagery is off the page vibrant! :)

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15:02 Jul 19, 2020

Thank you! I didn't really know how to end it, I wrote several paragraphs of her reaction to learning about his girlfriend, but I decided to leave it at that. It gives the reader room for imagining the end... (and maybe writing a sequel, who knows)! I love trapeze and the circus! When I read the prompt, I immediately knew I had to make the performance something in a circus, and I felt that it went hand in hand with the idea of flying, a sad romance and a best-friend-love interest...

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