Monday, 23 April 2012

The Costume


 Queenie began the lesson with one, two, three taps of her walking cane. 'Raise your arm, let the audience see your face.' And with a scarlet pointed finger would straighten the line of a girlish arabesque.
  Now I flatter myself to go dancing in a costume in the style of my first ballet leotard. Made not of nylon but another synthetic, like the smoothest, strictest skin, made a fraction smaller than my own. A sterile garment as I balance at the edge of this basement box, where movement is essential and conversation impossible.
  Performing for my shadow, I'm no longer something that floats and is blown wherever a stronger force will carry and drop her, but someone complete. My awareness rising with a sheen on my flesh as the room fills with the bodies of dancers on wires lifting and letting them fall. The music turns to a raining haze of colours and the temperatures of a pulse.
  Under my costume my skin is sealed beyond heat, breathless, singing and crying, while I'm only a function obeying the curve of the earth and flint clash, nettle sting and the feather that scratches your eyelid through the pillow. My hand has contact with the costume, and it feels not my own touching this perfect skin, made to a shape I fashioned myself to fit.
  As I move the costume feels like it's shrinking to my contours, not sharply clenching, but dry sucking my skin through muscle to an arrangement of bones, clothed and instructed to dance. The only friction I feel is when my thighs brush together, or my wrists cross behind my back.
  I'm detached from a touch to my bare skin. A mistake made by someone else with nerve endings that flock beneath their own body bag. Somehow the dancers rarely touch, we're almost a design, a composition of moving bodies, with only sight to feel tense back lacing, the breeze of silk and the bite of leather on another.
  In a lucid dream the night stretches as far as the costume will take me. Butterfly wings pounding at the door, keys bunched in a knot, each one trying the skin under a broken finger nail. Nailed open and held together by a rubber band.
  In the washroom I realise my skin has swollen slightly and I can't pull down the costume. In 60 watt silence I lean with my cheek against the tiles, slow locked in moments and press delicately raised bruises. A reminder of elastic burns left by the ballet leotard, a fascination to my pretty little fingers, as I dressed to go home.
  I return to the basement box where the last dance is waiting. Queenie would clap one, two, three when the lesson was over. Curtsy. Day light has blown open the door and a stark neon sign stutters exit. The reality switch, we avoid eye contact and leave.
  In my room, before I can sleep, I have to take off the costume. I run the scissor blade from my knee to my hip and start to cut.

  
 

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