It starts here, in the soles of his scuffed-up shoes. The long-past worn-in Adidas sneakers that still squeak against the hardwood of the floor, even as he throws himself forward into this intricate dance that is no longer just the physical containments of himself, but everything that pours forward from the pores of his mind, from the tips of his fingers, from the palms of his hands that he lovingly presses to the imitation of the firmaments; an imitation, because he can never hope to reach the real thing.
It starts here, in the curve of his spine and the bend of his arm as he stretches out his line of vision towards the mirrors that surround him, surround him, surround him and encase him and flood his senses, like the screams and the lights and the cheers and the fears and the tears that do not come from his eyes but the eyes of people who see him as one figure and believe him to be another—but how can they, when even he can’t be sure if the words that slip from his lips are of one mask, or the other?
One mask, or the other. There is no original, no default. It is one mask, or the other.
Pressing his hands to his reflection, it burns. It burns with the memory of a hundred and more weeks passed in these very same rooms, in this very same place, in the place where he’d learnt to give himself up for a newer, improved version of what he thought he had been, in the place where he’d learnt to hold back everything, and yet, let stream out everything that made him, at the same time.
The balance is careful. The white noise unnerving.
He moves across the careful floor with cautious feet and hesitant steps, but they grow, they grow and flow and spin into a strange, uncontrollable thing that cannot be captured by the human eye, or on the starch black-and-white of film, nor can it be snatched up by any other means.
It is him. It is his alone to know, to live, to learn, to hold.
It starts here, in the way he brings his hands outwards and folds them to the rhythm of the beat that roars behind him from the speakers on the walls, the beat that matches the thundering rhythm in his chest, the beat that matches the thundering rhythm in the strained hollows of his wrists, the beat that matches the thundering rhythm in the base of his neck.
It starts here, eyes shut and limbs free, sweat slicking up the back of his hair and sticking the thin fabric of his shirt to his skin, he’s burning, burning, burning up and it’s not just the temperature anymore, it’s the knowledge that maybe in this he can remember again, he can remember who he is and why he began this and where he’s going to go after, where is he going to go, where is he going, where is he—
Hope, the word, it rises in his throat, it ties his hands together and forces the smile up onto his lips, hope, hope, what is he hoping for? What does he hope for, anymore?
Fall, fall, fall to your knees. He kneels slumped, panting, in the middle of the room, fingers curling into the floor, eyes still closed, eyes still shut away, just for this one moment. He can have this one moment. He can keep this one moment to himself, if not any of the others.
The live show of his life continues to play. The red light shifts, and the green light rings out, reigns supreme. He pushes forth, slides back into the graceful, easy movements that he is known and adored for, and those graceful, easy movements that are all he knows and adores, for that is him, that is the real him, there can be no other when this is where his roots tether firm, there can be no other when this is all he could ever want to do with the short time that the delayed coming of the grand sleep of life has granted him.
It starts here, and it ends here, in him, somewhere. He presses his hands against his chest to feel his breath escape him. It comes out as a murmur, a whisper, a prayer for that thing he has lost, that thing still to be found, what is it, what is it?
A reason, perhaps. A reason for all of this. For keeping on, keeping on, even when it feels like he’s just going to keep falling, tumbling away into this utter state of confusion and regret and the silence that eats him up even when his words are the loudest in the room. There are no refuges for sad smiles. There are no reliefs for the downcast gazes. There is no aid granted to the heavy heart.
You traverse alone, you carry your bones, you carry your world on your shoulders, for who else will do it for you, if not you?
His shoulders may slip, but he will not let it fall. Despite it all.
So it begins here, it starts here, this is not where it ends but this is where something new sparks to life, this is where the pieces of himself come back together again, in this dance, in the way that he bends and curves and mends, he mends himself all over again.
So it begins here, it starts here, this is not where it ends but this is where he reinvents himself, reinvents the knowledge of himself, reinvents what the world perceives, reinvents what he perceives of himself, what does he see, what does he see?
So it begins here, it starts here, this is not where it ends but this is where the soles of his sneakers skid across the floor in well-practiced movements and familiar steps, this is where he falls back into the one thing he can always count on to keep himself holding on, holding on, holding on to the ground, before he drifts away with a twist and a twirl and the wind and a swirl.
And so, here he begin, and here he ends.
But who is he?