“On a Thursday night, she ran across the dark soccer field to the field house before it closed. At this time of day, the gymnastics equipment was out on the mats, and anyone could use it. She’d always been able to outbalance anyone. She could walk without ever slipping on railroad tracks, across the tops of fences, on swaying tree branches. She felt as though an invisible line through her backbone held her upright. She had to test her balance now. She often came over here to relax to work on the beam, unfettered by the nagging of a coach. In high school she had earned a letter as a diver, but she had given it up after a year because she didn’t like falling into water day after day.
“Never had she felt so distracted by listlessness, not even by last year’s case of mono. The sensation was almost like inhaling the wrong kind of air–too much helium, for example–in the wrong outdoors, under the wrong sky.
“Wearing her leotards, she had worked up to backflips, elbow stands and handstands, hand walks and turns, and dismounts. Simple: all right, she would make it pretty damn simple.
“As she was working on the beam, she saw Wyatt on the field-house track, running. He was a good but not a natural runner, muscled for strength but not speed. What annoyed her about seeing him was that her heart began thumping again. With some sense of relief, she noticed that Wyatt’s physical timing was a bit jerky, like a car engine a hair out of tine, with odd bits of waste motion, particularly in his shoulders. But his running had an interesting desperation to it, which she was pleased to observe–she imagined herself the cause of this desperation–like a hamster galloing in its wheel. As he rounded the track near her, she caught his eye and waved.
“They had something to say to each other; however, she would do this first. She would give him a good dose of herself, of her grace. She would pit her grace against his speed, his refusal to call. Barefoot now herself, she walked, arms out, fingers slightly raised like a dancer’s, across the beam; then she pivoted on the ball of her right foot. She saw the beam ahead of her as a ray of logic, as a line, as a geometry to which she had a relation, a magical connection, as she did to the stage. It was a stage, the balance beam, the narrowest one in existence.”
–Charles Baxter, Shadow Play, pp. 45-47.