Saturday, March 25, 2017

"The Dancer’s Surprise," by Laura DeGasperis



I take the same streets every night on my way home from work. It’s become an almost ritualistic dance performed every evening. Every day it’s the same people taking turns to waltz with me. We exchange a courteous “good evening” or “what a nice night we’re having,” and then on to the next partner. 

Somehow this evening feels different.

The rhythmic pitter-patter of the rain begins to tap my head. I knew I was smart to remember my umbrella today. I open my umbrella and start my journey home, humming “Singing in the Rain.” The people I pass, don’t engage in our usual pas de deux; they’re hurrying home, tonight’s performance cancelled due to weather conditions.  I follow the quick steps of this retreating chorus line until something in the audience catches my attention.

I stop and squint at two small objects in the road. They seem to be light in colour and they shimmer in the illumination of the street lamps. My curiosity gets the better of me and I decide to snatch up these mystery objects in the street. I need to act quickly, as the road is slick and visibility is not good. I wait for the way to be clear and in one quick dash, I zig and zag through the rain puddles and snatch up the two bits of something with my satin scarf and place the sodden bundle in my bag to inspect later.

The excitement’s made my heart beat to the snappy rhythmic beats of a drum. I quickly made my way home, prancing over rain puddles and gliding by slower dancers enjoying the walk home in the rain. I want to rush to my place and open my treasure like a child on Christmas morning.

At home, I kick off my wet boots, drop my bag and coat to the floor, and retrieve my surprise – still enveloped in my satin scarf – from my bag. I sit there on the floor in my foyer, cross-legged like a child, take a deep breath and begin to open my secret find. 

My eyes well up with tears of happiness when I realize what I have uncovered. Two pink satin ballet slippers lay delicately in my hands. They were soaked from the rain and dirty from sitting in the cold asphalt of the street but they’re still in great condition.  They look to be my size and I don’t even hesitate to try them on, soaking wet and all.

In that moment, as I slide my foot into the first slipper, I feel like Cinderella: it fits as if it was made for my foot. I put the other slipper and stretch out my legs in front of me to inspect them. 

“A perfect fit,” I say to myself.  I

I lay the ribbons across the top of my foot, wind them around the back, then twice around my ankles, and tie them to the side. I haven’t worn a pair since I was thirteen, but the movements remain automatic, perfect.

I lift off the ground as if I’m weightless, to stand en pointe. Then I dance. For hours. I remember every movement and flow across the floor of my house, from hall to living room to bedroom and back. It’s as if I’ve never stopped dancing. I feel perfect.

At last I decide to retire my dancing shoes for the evening, but I’m not ready to actually take them off. Sleeping in them for one night can’t hurt, I thought.

***

As a child, as a young teen, I was a talented dancer and practiced every day for hours. I lived and breathed ballet, it was my whole life. One day, I was walking to the ballet studio with some of my friends. We must have not been paying attention, and in an instant I was knocked off my feet. When I awoke in the recovery room, the doctor told me it was a drunk driver and I should be glad I was still alive.  I ached all over – there was not a part of me that wasn’t in pain – and I had a hard time moving my feet, but thought it was probably due to all the pain medications and trauma.

“Can I still dance?” I asked. The only question I really wanted answered and truly cared about. The doctor and the nurse, my mother and father, just looked at one another, as if to see who was going to give me the news. 

My mother drawing the shortest straw. “Well, honey, you see the car hit you really hard and the doctors worked tirelessly, but there wasn’t much they could do.”

She was too vague. What did she mean? I ripped the blankets from my bed and stared at my  legs. These were no longer my long and slender ivory legs that used to plie and pirouette with such grace and elegance.  Now they were lifeless and broken.

“Paraplegia due to trauma of the spinal cord,” the doctor diagnosed with his medial mumbo-jumbo. I just knew that I would never walk again. And I didn’t.

***

I awake in the morning, eager to greet my new pink satin friends once again. I swiftly remove the covers but I’m confronted with my reality. The shoes are not there, and what were once strong, slender dancers legs have been replaced with bony, white lifeless sticks.  I sigh and lie back on my pillow and close my eyes, hoping to fall back into sleep and continue my wonderful dancing dream. It is a dream I’ve had many times.

But I’m awakened by my mother entering my room to assist me with starting my day. “Wake up honey! It’s beautiful outside. Let’s go out for a walk.” She promptly begins to lift me from my bed to help me into my wheelchair.

“Hmmm, what’s this?” She’s noticed something underneath me as she was helping me up. In her hand, wrapped between her fingers, is a length of pink satin ribbon. I quickly snatch it from her hand. It’s my most cherished treasure.  I see her shocked face, but can’t help myself. This pink satin ribbon is my last tie to my weightless, graceful past. I just cannot let it go.

Laura DeGasperis is a work-from-home mom who is a Jill of all trades, self-proclaimed master of all: a cleaner of toilets, baker of cookies, part-time boo-boo fixer and full-time toddler personal life coach. With two diplomas, one in Interior Design and another in Visual Merchandising, being creative is her passion. Writing started as a way to escape reality into some “me time” but now she's looking to share her work with others. She lives at home with her three-year-old (going on thirteen) daughter Emily, husband Mike, two troublesome tuxedo cats, Minx and Oreo, and a very lazy fish named Red.

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

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