15 minutes left.

I need to breathe.
Slipping my feet into the pink dainty flats, I instantly regret being here.
The pinching of my toes pressed far too closely together reminds me exactly how long the years have tacked away since the last time.
My nerves, tortured with the knowledge that my muscle memory isn’t what it used to be, are belting warnings at every part of my body.
And in a draw of unlucky fate my, my armpits especially –
that I should be anywhere.

Anywhere but here.

Fanning myself with my hands in what I hope to be is only a subtle birdlike animation,
I weave myself through a maze of excited limbs belonging to leaner, more slender,
bodies than my own.
Navigating through the forest of bodies, reaching my mirrored destination has never felt so relieving….
Until I examine the ironic knot of coils on top of my head.
How can curls move so much, and all at the same time;
freezing themselves into the most impossible shapes at the most inconvenient moments?
Girls behind me come and go as I wrench curl apart from curl, collecting a fair bit of hair at my feet.

I should not be here.

Glancing at the clock I nearly faint at the time.
Six minutes left.
I need to move on from my hair.
Shuffling over to my bag I shove my t-shirt, jeans and sandals into my locker
and seal the next hour and a half with the click of my lock.
I need to sit.
But I can’t.
I should go home.
It’s been too long.
I need to breathe.
I won’t remember anything.
It won’t come back to me.
I need to breathe.
But this needs to be different.
I can’t imagine a life without it.
So with that, I take a breath.
I move towards the door; the sturdy and once-protective wooden barrier that now welcomes me to possible humiliation.

This is it.

No turning back now.

Forcing one foot in front of the other, I settle into a safe spot at the middle of the barre,
waiting for further instruction.
My teacher, sashaying through the crowded room, waits for quiet and soundlessly settles into a barre opposite of mine.
She glides through the exercise,
repeats it once,
then twice.
And now it is time to begin.
Classical music floods the room, creating a familiar and numbing sense of calm.
My tense limbs relax as I begin to ease into a natural rotation of steps, each feeling stronger and more sure than the last.
The motions are warmly welcomed back by my muscles,
from the arched pointe in my foot to my raised knees and thighs.
Head strong and looking forward, I know that my movements are as gracefully executed as I was taught so many years ago. It is the most powerful feeling.
As the music winds down, and the finishing pose is held,
I exhale.
This is where I should be.


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