Too many times I've turned my emotions on and off
Without realizing what it does
I know what's moved me and kept me going this far
But I never questioned what it was
-When I Think About Love (I Think About You)
Every morning, as the sunlight was creeping into my room from underneath the edges of the curtains, I would go down to the beach. Some mornings, the sky was growing heavy with smog, and I could tell it was going to be especially hot, and others the sky stayed mellow and calm, giving away no hints as to the days weather patterns. When Stephen would see me, he would come in from the water, and as badly as I felt for bringing him away from the waves, I was glad to spend time with him. He made me so happy, just sitting there watching him I would have been content.
“You really are an early riser, aren’t you?” he asked grinning, and laying his board down on the damp sand.
“Well, it is two hours ahead in Tulsa you know.”
“True, but two hours or not, it’s still early, what is it now eight am in Tulsa?” I glanced at my watch and nodded.
“I’m used to getting up early anyway.” I said as he sat down next to me. I sat cross legged in the sand and looked at him. His eyes drifted out to the water, and I let mine as well. The water is so beautiful in the mornings, when there aren’t hordes of people clamoring in it.
“Ouch, your toe looks like it hurts.” Stephen said and I quickly buried my feet in the sand.
“I hate my feet, they’re so gross.” I said almost apologizing anyone had to look at them.
“No, they aren’t ugly, I just said that must hurt...on your toe.” he pulled my left foot out of the sand. “Wow, don’t they hurt?” he asked.
“No, not anymore really.” I answered shaking my head, remembering how painful they were when I first started dancing on Pointe, and how bloody they got whenever I had to break in a new pair of hard shoes. If I wanted to, I could probably remember each and every blister, broken toe nail, broken toe, any injury I’d ever had and trace each callous and it’s origin. I didn’t like doing that though, it only made me feel ugly, and misshapen. My mother’s feet were similar, calloused and raw in places where blisters used to be. My mother never said she was ashamed of her feet, she never talked about them, but all the same, she didn’t wear open toed sandals in the summer, and rarely wore strappy high heels ever. So, I learned from her, not to make my feet noticeable in anything but dance shoes, choosing to hide them rather than show them off.
“How’d you do that to them?” Stephen now had both feet in his lap and was inspecting them.
“Dance, years and years of dance.” I felt very self conscious this way, talking about my feet.
“Wow, you must be really good then.” I didn’t say anything. “Are you?” he asked. I hated being asked questions like these. I never knew how to answer them, whatever I said was wrong. If I said I was good, I was called a snob, but if I said I was alright, I was declared overly modest, and lacking in self confidence. It seemed either way I answered, was sure to send backlash of all kinds my way.
“Well, do you want the truth, or the false modesty?” Either way I loose I thought to myself.
“The truth, always.” I nodded.
“Yes. I’m very good. I’m better than most.” he smiled.
“Yes, and that’s the truth. That’s what I say to myself every time I step on stage at the North American Championships, it’s what I tell myself when I dance at Regionals, when I dance at the All Irelands, the Great Britans, and it’s especially what I tell myself when I compete at the World Championships. It’s what I have to tell myself to get where I am now.”
“I like that answer.” I smiled, I could get used to someone like this.
“So, do you like dance, or do you just do it because your good?” I pulled my feet out of his lap and laid down on the sand, placing my chin in my hands.
“There was a movie, a long time ago, that my mom and I used to watch all the time when I was little. It’s my favorite movie ever.”
“I think it came out in 2000 it‘s called Billy Elliot.”
“Wow, that is pretty old. What‘s it about?” I laughed, whenever I told my mom how old I thought things from her younger years were she scolded me, saying I made her feel aged.
“Well, it’s about this boy, who lives in Northern England, and he wants to be a ballet dancer, but his father doesn’t want him to...well, anyway eventually his dad sees how good he is, and takes him all the way to London, which cost them a lot of money, for an audition with the Royal Academy of Ballet. Anyway, the last question this lady asks him in his interview is ‘how do you feel when you’re dancing?’ And he looks at her and says, ‘Dunno. Sort of feels good. It's sort of stiff and that, but once I get going I forget everything and, and sort of disappear. Sort of disappear. Sort of disappear - like I feel a whole change in my body - like there's a fire in me whole body. I'm just there flying, like a bird. Like electricity. Yeah, like electricity."
“And is that how you feel?” I looked up at him, my eyes a bit teary from remembering the movie.
“Yes. When I feel like I’ve had enough I remember that quote...because that’s what makes it all worthwhile. All the pain, all the sacrifices, everything... because I feel like electricity.” He smiled at me, and cupped my face in his hands.
“You know, I like your cousin Vi, but she’s got nothing compared to you.” I grinned. “Seriously,” he continued. “She is a great girl, she’s a wonderful, caring person, but she doesn’t have half the depth you do. She’s never had to give anything up, she doesn’t have the passion you do.”
“She does, she just hasn’t found it yet.”
“You know, Brenna Hanson, I’m in serious danger of falling hopelessly in love with you.” he kissed my forehead and before I had a chance to respond, he picked up his board and headed back out onto the water.
I watched him surf for a bit longer, until I saw Uncle Taylor walking down the beach toward me.
“Good surf today Tiny Dancer?” he asked smiling. His eyes were as blue as the water.
“Pretty good, yeah.”
“There’s something waiting for you back at the house.” he said, and I walked with him back toward the hill. I glanced behind me and waved to Stephen out on the water, but he had his back to the beach and didn’t see me.
“Something for me?” I didn’t remember asking for anything.
“Something from Tulsa.” Ah, something from my mother, more likely than not that something from Tulsa was my dance shoes.
“Oh.” I said, trying to sound excited, even though I knew what it was. It wasn’t that I didn’t want my dance shoes here with me, it’s simply that I hadn’t intended on missing dancing as much as I had, nor had I expected to meet someone like Stephen, to ask me the questions I needed to answer out loud, for myself.
Sure enough, when we reached the kitchen, there was a brown box with my mothers neat print on it. Addressed to me. When I opened the box, there was a small envelope, the beautiful pastel green stationary my mother used to write all her letters on. Inside was a slip of green paper with the message in her beautiful cursive writing:
"Do not trust your memory; it is a net full of holes; the most beautiful prizes slip through it." -Georges Duhamel, The Heart's Domain
Be careful not to forget where you come from, and where you're going my Tiny Dancer.