To the last drop

lastdropdFrom the day I had “grown-up” thoughts running in my head, perhaps from the time I was 12 I had know this would happen. I can’t say why that is. In the background of every decision I had made and every new circumstance I found myself in, in the back of my mind, this is what I knew would be the eventual outcome. The only real mystery was when, and how.

I had imagined, in order to get through my days, that I could somehow keep it happening. Better to think you have some control, than to live in fear every moment of your life. I had imagined growing very very old with a flock of little red-haired grandchildren, but imagination is not destiny. Destiny was a work quite separately from my own efforts at life.

I did what anyone would do. I lived my life. I made friends, lost friends, fell face-first in love, often. Sometimes I fell in love and it went nowhere and other times my heart was broken. All of it was at least part of living life, and so, worthwhile.

I was, I think, unduly preoccupied with the people I cam in contact with, fearful, really. Wondering, is this the person who will cause me to lose my life? Until just now the answer was always “no”, and whether relationships were started or not, I pushed the thoughts away so I had a chance at enjoying the moments.

In some very strange way, having the answer after a couple of decades of waiting is satisfying. I now know I was right to feel it. I was more right in attempting at every turn to ignore the feeling or I might not have had much of a life at all.

I knew now that there was no avoiding it, none at all. There was a destiny at work, certainly, but it had nothing to do with me, until now. I had collided with it.

“Ahh.” The thought made me gasp, I no longer had the breath to groan or cry out. It was very cold, and dim. I was becoming removed from my body. Pain, though extreme in setting every nerve on fire, is also forgotten very easily and not relived. Love, I now know, is relived to the very end. Every person and every pet for whom I had love could be remembered in a nanosecond and the love relived. How wonderful that this is the case.

As he had run the knife across my flesh for the maximum pain, and I cried out with it, I remember the moment, and how horrified I was, but not the pain itself. Endurance had less to do with it than programming. Survival, outlive the moment, to try and get away, to hatch a plot, to be let go. I had tried begging to no avail. Whimpering made him more angry, and when I spat at him he knocked me completely out. Still I woke up, and plead again, as he unmercifully lectured me about his victimization by the women in his life.

I don’t know who he is, or where he first laid eyes on me. He was a cold hand from behind, followed by and exquisite pain which had me lose consciousness. I awoke somewhere. I cannot say where “here” is, I don’t know. It is very dark, very cold. I no longer have a sense of being anywhere. I can no longer smell the stale bedding that made me gag some hours ago. Better still I can no longer smell his sour body odour as his sweat fell on my now completely unprotected body. With all my might I hated him and could do nothing.

I could still hear quite well, unfortunately I could not hear anyone coming to my rescue. So I waited to see how long before it was over. I could feel my own blood running from the gash in my neck slowly running over the established path, more slowly now. Each drop as it fell to the floor, I could hear. Each drop made the end a little nearer.

Always had I known I would die at the hands of another, but I had always thought I could prevent it somehow. Had I not known I might feel less defeated, maybe. I heard the door slam shut and assumed he was gone. Willing my limbs to move, to try and get up, and could not. Drip, drip, drip…

Dance Stories – Guns and Rosin

gunsandrosinIt was Friday night. Rehearsal ended at about six. We were exhausted. Only one rehearsal tomorrow and the rest of the weekend was mine and mine alone. What I had planned was to wash out all my leotards and tights tonight and tidy up my room. Tomorrow after the rehearsal I would head into the Village to browse endlessly through the bins of used books. Searching for that one treasure that I could afford out of my meager budget. For a couple of dollars including the coffee I could read an entire afternoon and bring a book home with me. Life was uncomplicated and very complete.

The weather was so much warmer now. A real treat not having to wear coat over sweater, lots of socks and boots to get from the Center to the house. Tania and Marie walked home with me, we chatted about everything to do with rehearsal. At rehearsal we were silent, dancers did not speak. We listened and danced, any more than that meant moving up a rank to soloist. Soloists were on occasion allowed to speak. We were agreed on our contempt for the choreographer. After all, starting every sequence with the left foot was just plainly unnatural. There should be something in the rules about it. On the bright side my pirouettes were just as good to my left as they were to my right thanks to him. We could all agree we hated him and his little stupid yappy dog too.

My muscles ached, nothing new there, they always ached more when weekend was near. Muscles know that’s when they can spend a little time to repair. Mrs. M. had made a delicious casserole for us by the time we got home. This was above and beyond the call of duty for her. We were her little dancers, she was the communal grandmother. She was good to us., We ate well, she checked our feet, and she made sure each of us had a gun.

Dancers did not earn much money, what we had often was turned right back into dance shoes, leotards and lessons. If it was not for her we probably would not eat so well, or so often. She checked out feet at night and dressed the blisters so we could dance on them without to much pain the next day. We kept her supplied in wool, which kept us in return in leg warmers and shrugs.

After the casserole we did what we did every Friday night after dinner, we cleaned our guns.. Some sight all those tiny dancers cleaning guns on a Friday night. None of us had ever needed to use it, but we walked home very late at night from rehearsal or performances, and our tiny bodies were no match for what lurked in the dark. When I had first moved into the house Mrs. M. had asked if I had a gun. I was stunned that she’d ask, and said no. Half assuming she was just kidding and maybe thought I was some sort of misfit. to my surprise she reached up to a box in the cupboard and pulled out an old biscuit tin, from it she took a small Derringer. “Now you have gun” she said. She showed me how to use it, safety on, safety off, keep it in my purse, shoot through the purse and run.

We had no social lives, it had not been too difficult to keep our virginity, we were too tired for dating. The ritual of gun cleaning was important, it was the one time all week that we were relaxed and in the same room, we chatted, about dance, and dancers, and letters from home. We could bitch about those Russian dances who threatened to take our jobs away. Mrs. M. would jump in as the one Russian among us, but her defection had been many years earlier, in the thirties when the best companies were in Europe and dancers ended up in New York as a second choice.

Dancers who defected were all soloists and we were nowhere near that status, yet. Mrs. M. would share her tips on training like a Russian, she was a gold mine that lady. The grit of rosin on our little pale hands was replaced by gun oil. Now it smelled like weekend. Our muscles relaxed,the chatter increased, we laughed until we were too tired. One by one we’d go upstairs to wash our dance clothes and get ready for bed. Even all these many years later, Fridays still trigger the smell of gun oil and rosin.