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Funambulism for the Feint-Hearted
Ash Rehn (University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)

Robyn is my best friend. I can tell her anything and she doesn’t ask questions. I can tell her everything and I know I can trust her. But not with this. Not yet. It’s too soon.

“Have another bickie.”

“No thanks,” I say and sip my tea instead. Something is wrong and Robyn can see it. She rubs my neck and shoulders. She squeezes at the tension that has been building for days. Still she does not ask.

“Hey, boy, come to a show,” she says. “I’ve got tickets.”

I could say no but what is the point? I have to get on with my life.


Robyn’s new girlfriend is a performance artist. She stands high on a wire. She’s not so far up she needs a net but at two metres she could still hurt herself if she fell. In one hand she holds a large disc-like fan. Robyn tells me it’s for balance. The look is sculptural, a butterfly, and as she steps onto the line I start to forget myself, unaware that I will, from now on, equate circuses with T-cells and viral load.

“She’s amazing,” I say.

“Isn’t she?”

Robyn’s girlfriend glides forward, delicate, the line like gossamer. She spins around, stretches her leg and jumps to land safely back on the tightrope. She jumps high doing splits in the air, her feet again connecting perfectly with the wire. The crowd applaud.

“How does she do it?”

“The body has a memory.”

“I envy her control.”

Robyn looks at me and suddenly I am up there on the tightrope, not knowing where to put my feet. Cells inside me are growing and mutating, throwing me off balance.

Robyn wraps an arm around me and I feel myself sinking back to solid earth.


Robyn has stayed the night. I feel the warmth of her at rest beside me as I have felt it many times. This is something she does when she’s had a fight with her love. But not this time. This time she is here for me.

I told her.

Robyn talks in her sleep. She mumbles and murmurs through dreams. I find it strangely comforting. But still I cannot sleep. Not with this on my mind. How will I live now? How will I continue now my body has changed, ironically, to positive? Robyn’s nocturnal chatter is mostly senseless. It follows no pattern and tells no story. It is the background soundtrack for a thirty-one year old man whose thoughts are dancing a line of certainty across an abyss of unknowns. Then from her lips I hear clearly:

“One foot first.”

I figure I will take it as advice. The weight of our friendship is stronger than gravity.


Ash grew up in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast. Since the age of 25 he has lived in Sydney and various parts of the UK. He currently resides in Sydney where he works as a counsellor and therapist and is undertaking an MA in Creative Writing. Ash is interested the way individual’s identities are shaped by the stories of their lives. He has won a number of awards for short stories and enjoys exploring social issues through fictional narrative. His writing can be found at: www.ashrehn.com

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