Prose, Grades 10-12: First Place

Present— Eiden Spilker

I go through the routine one last time in my head just as applause fades. Our act is about to begin. I look over at Ian, my counterpart. We are so in sync that we don’t even need to talk anymore.
At the beginning of this year, we were simply two strong guys who happened to be paired together. Now, after countless hours of hard work, we are one cohesive unit: throwing, catching, and moving in a single, fluid exercise. Our role as a base is to do the heavy lifting that is necessary to throw the flier into the air, so she can show her own talents. In this place I am never the center of attention — Olivia is, and I like it that way. I allow her to showcase what she can do. I am fully focused on her success.
We make our way through the darkness toward the center of the stage. The audience waits in anticipation. The lights and music come on suddenly, and the crowd becomes silent, ready to soak up every bit of this experience. Then I go into automatic mode. Pure muscle-memory.My mind clears and I no longer have to make an effort to remember what is coming next. I am overcome with a feeling of total peace. This is my personal Zen.
With the amount of energy, sweat and endurance needed to perfect each routine, one might be surprised that I could feel relaxed. However, every time I step inside the big top at Circus Juventas, my mind clears and allows me to focus solely on what I am doing in the moment.
Normally my mind is racing with thoughts like, When is the next project due? Why did I do that? “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?” This then brings up the question “African or European?” and then my mind just wanders from question to question, searching for answers, but finding exponentially more inquiries along the way.
This constant thinking sometimes distracts me from the task at hand. I look forward to the times when my mind is clear and I am able to truly enjoy and participate in the present.
It is at circus where I am freed from the normal pressures of decision-making. I know that if I allow myself to think about an assignment or to question a recent decision, it would just distract me. In general, thinking about the implications of every choice is important, and that can be stressful. However, at circus I am not presented with options. Once I have thrown the flier, I have to catch her, and the calm that I feel allows me to do so.
Time seems to slow as my movements lock in with Ian’s, and we throw Olivia into the air for our finale. The seconds pass, breathless, and she seems to hang in the air as if suspended by some hidden wire. There are no thoughts. I watch as she reaches the apex of her flight and gracefully descends, landing in the basket of our hands.
After the applause fades, we walk backstage, tired and sweaty, but content. The calm from the moment that just passed is still fresh in my mind. This understanding of my purpose in the world is still within me as I step outside the tent into the warmth of a new day.