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THE AERIALIST/Gabriel Spera (Philippe Petit, August 7, 1974, New York) Here goes nothing, he thinks, taking his first smaU resolute step, here goes nothing. Through the soles of his tight shoes, the iron wire goes effortlessly to the crease in the baUs of his feet, as he starts, effortlessly, walking as if on air, his posture stiff as a young debutante's walking holding books on her head. The long slight frown of pole he's holding amplifieseveryleastmuscletremor,eachpause,shift,regroup,ampUfies how little room there is for error, how much hangs in the balance, how most men could never follow. The straightest path is always the most difficulttostickto—everyoneknowsthat—thoughwhat'smostdifficult points us most directly to heaven. The taut cable, from all viewpoints but his, cuts the world neatly in half, a bold slice, a dividing Une, but he doesn'tbuy those outdated dualities, leftand right, east and west, he refuses to choose, refuses to swerve, insists there's another way, refuses even to lean. He's reached an accord between two ends that are even after all. How high is he? Ahundred stories? As if that mattered—after so many floors, the stakes are the same. But as for the crowd, so many hundreds offeetbelow, theyhaveno real idea. There mustbehundreds, complete strangers, gathered Uke brothers, bound by their complete wonderand tension. Dotheywanthimtosucceed,hecan'thelpwonder, hoping to take part in his literal transcendence? Or are they all hoping secretly he'll fail, so they can go back to their pedestrian lives, secretly convinced thatnone fall farther and harder than those who've convinced themselvesthey'reaboveitall?Maybeboth. Orneither.Theythemselves surely don't know, and he doesn't need to take sides. Not now, surely. At last the edge of Tower Two appears a few feet away, and he's at last aware of the crowd, police, photographers, heUcopters. He's not aware how long it took to get this far—minutes? days? hours?—or how long until it's all over. Hold steady, he thinks, the prize is never lost until practicaUyinhand.Everyoneknowsthat.Takeiteasy—you'vepracticaUy assuredyourplaceinhistory—thecitywon'tforget.Youcanrestassured. This is yourmoment, notthenext. What'snext? Fill yourlungswith this rarest of air, slightly redolent of the river, fill your eyes with this rarest pictureofdowntown,hearthedicksofcamerassnappingendlesspictures, forceyourarmstobearupa Utilelonger. Savorthisinstant,whichnoforce on earth can take away. Soon, you'll be firmly, humanly, back on earth— there'snogettingaround it,no lookingback. Onestep, and you're there. 24 · The Missouri Review MiOWAY/Gabriel Spera The same arcs repeat themselves everywhere my eye goes—the same measured progression, same Ulusion of narrative. Take now: I am cranking one end of a jump rope tethered to a fence of my own making while my daughter skips, singing a song with no meaning, no purpose outside the simple repetition of sound. And as it rises and curls, faUs and scoops, the rope traces through the air a heUx too subtle to be perceived— I see only a circle radiating from my wrist; she sees a simple repetition of lines like the frames of a broken film reel, or the crossbars of a Ferris wheel. She gravitates naturaUy to the midpoint, where time and space are on her side, touching down and lifting off before her feet can grow steady on the ground. And just as surely as her rhythm is a cycle, the cycle a wave, the wave a song with no purpose but to sing itself, she steps in time with the dervishing planets, the snoring tides, the faucets leaking aU over creation. I used to see the eye as a prism, projecting the future on its upside-down screen, but now I see it as the narrows of an hourglass, itself a victim of time, the future above, aU past below, converging and retreating from this bifocal moment that divides or at least separates the two. The rope skips Uke a broken metaphor whose meaning degrades in the noise of settling sand as even my own double-heUcal signal will decay, grow indistinguishable The Missouri Review · 25 in time, an arc of ciphers spliced into the length of a patchwork spiral. Already I have reached the point where aU that I remember exceeds all...


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