The Invisible Tightrope

Back in the day when I used to watch cartoons, I knew two men named Tom and Jerry. Were they men or were they a cat and mouse? If I knew, I don’t think I would tell you anyway. They played like fools and ran off cliffs without looking below their feet. They flew like airplanes across the sky, but in my mind, I saw an invisible tightrope, a path to clearly follow. It kept them afloat until they looked down and saw how fragile and far the ground was from their unsuspecting toes.

From my first word until what seems like just a moment ago, I used to laugh at those two creatures. Men or mice, human-like animal or animal-like human beings, I thought they were alone when they foolishly walked on that tightrope. Tom and Jerry were lucky to be able to walk on air like that. I wish I could tell them to never look down.

Anyway, the other day I had a moment like Tom and Jerry on the cliff. In no way was it as dramatic like the comic. There was no suspenseful music and thankfully there was no literal fall with a trip to the hospital. No, I did not go hiking and no, I was not involved in a game of cat and mouse. I may be an atheist, but this time I lost all belief and confidence in the elemental thought we call language.

It’s difficult to communicate it clearly. I was walking in the neighborhood when it happened. Something about it felt impossible, like the walk across the street was too easy. The crosswalks were painted too recently and the cars stopped a half-second too long when they let me walk so kindly. As I was watching a man across the street with his prancing dalmatian and polarized sunglasses, the words floating around my brain shifted gears and became something else entirely. I wish I could say they sounded foreign, but it was more like they originated from a monkey’s larynx. Or is it the pharynx? 

Alert and aware of the feline drifting in front of me, the dalmatian prepared to break loose. A sense of danger rushed over me, and no guard dog or rose-colored glasses could shield me from what came next. The words I was juggling mid-sentence mid-mind came to a halt and shattered for what they were. Though I was just a few blocks from my home, my sense of direction and the logic ingrained in my skull could not overcome the confusion of where I was or what I was. When I looked down, I realized I was falling.

%d bloggers like this: