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A Dancer Pauses

When I heard the news, my friend, I could think of nothing helpful to do or say. I wrote to you and offered my condolences but nothing but the word condolences came out of my pen. And so I set these condolences aside.

I did feel pain. But I did not and cannot feel your pain. I do not know how that is done or can be done. A death, to me, brings back all deaths of those dear to me that have come before. And, especially of those that have yet to come.

Death surrounds this transitory life. The thought of it enters me and I sit until it rises back out of me as tears. Instead of sharing these thoughts with you as death had enveloped you, I remained quiet and offered you nothing at all. I imagine that you took that silence for indifference.

I have been lost in that silence these distant, cold, unburied months. And I decided to write to you something, just a bit, about that.

All the chemistry of the eye cannot explain what the soul sees.

Once, a soul, alone upon a stage, looked out across the darkness. This soul of a young woman knew that in that darkness beyond the white glare of the footlights, in the seeming nothingness, sat souls, most of whom she had never met in this life and a few she had known in a past life or two.

Somewhere in the darkness beyond the lights, sat two souls bound with hers in love, the soul of a man, her lover, her husband; and, a somewhat older soul, that of, in this life, her daughter.

In this moment, the music had paused. The moment had come for her too and she had paused.

In the next moment, a violin would sound just one rising note and she would move on.

In this pause, she was still. Hold on said her mind. How could it all have come to pass so quickly, so thoughtlessly, with so much finality and loss?

Let go replied her soul. She held pause.

She had come to believe that she had practiced this moment for thousands of years. And, she had. Still, the anticipation, the longing, the unknown, had all conspired to cram incessant, fleeting, hurried, contradictory fragments and memories into her mind.

In the moment, all of it, as if in a fairy tale her mother had told her when she was small, came rushing through her.

Too fast, it came, as if reading signage upon subway station walls on an express, just passing through.

Her mind grabbed at one thought and held its image. The train slowed. She saw herself reading the station name upon the wall. This is her stop. She pulled her bag’s strap tighter about herself, shifting its load upon her shoulder.

Up, she rises from her seat, balancing herself between her train mates, making her way to the train car doors, as the train slows into the station.

The sound of metal wheels on electrified rails reach out and fall back down the stone steps. Up, she rises through crowded dreams, longings and regrets surrounding her. She feels the cool air falling around her as she takes the stairs up to the street. She sees the sky opening above her, a building reaches toward a spot of a cloud yet higher, as if waiting for its moment too.

She was standing at the crosswalk, waiting for the light to turn green. How many times had she bounded across the avenue with dozens around her, silently contemplating their day, their life, or whether tomorrow would come as planned?

How many times had she run up the stairs of a great plaza separating three magnificent temples, a plaza filled with dancers, musicians, tourists, and lonely passersby?

That day when she had shared her idea had become this day when the idea had become fully realized, staged.

And so, in a scene prior, she had stood to the side of the stage, lost in the troupe surrounding her, as if they are poised at a crosswalk. The red stage had flashed to green and noises like so many delivery trucks and taxis had erupted from the orchestra pit. A cacophony of noise had expanded throughout the space. Dancers had bursted across, leaping up and tumbling down, flowing chaotic as she had moved forward, toward the audience, slow and with grace.

And, out of the noise, as if stealing her moment, had flopped The New Girl. Youth and litheness itself took flight around her, around the other dancers who, one by one, touched by her charm, had come to rest. Youth itself alone beneath the spotlight, the eyes in the darkness were meant to be focused upon it, as if she had never been, or had been and had been forgotten.

She herself gave moment to this thought though she knew it to be wrong.

Recalling all that has been revealed to her, the choreographer had told her to start with it. Once you feel that, you can feel past its limitations and break free of it, he had said. He had said a number of things: The young girl, she’ll take it from there. There are reasons for seasons beyond allusion and metaphor; here, the seasons come quick and are gone. So many possibilities arrive all at once. Each audition grants but a few of these dreams. Each life is a relentless smashing and remolding of dreams. Frankly, just to see if one can.

She had stood up looking into the darkness, recalling the echo, listening to space.

Why, the word had echoed in her mind. She had looked about her, and the troupe had looked at her, as if asking the same question, awaiting the same answer, fidgeting against some sort of itch. Silence had wrapped itself around each of them, resting its eyes upon the grain lines of the wooden floor.

She had felt as if she had never really danced at all. She had felt the urge to collect her chair, walk it to the side of the stage on her way out of the backstage fire door.

He had heard this question so often that he had come to know the answer himself. He had pulled air through his nostrils, deep into lungs, as if into his belly. He had smiled, exhaling slow and mindful, joyfully. 

“Because I asked you to come. Because I want you here. Because simply so.”

Now, in pause, she felt something like a hand reaching toward her, something filled with understanding, wonder and loneliness. She felt it and held it inside her as best she could. She remembered her place, her steps, everything that had brought her to this moment, all that she would leave behind.

She let go of that thought. She let go. She felt whole, yet a part of something great and grand and without end.

These thoughts, memories, feelings that had compressed themselves into a sensation of pure fear, she then felt recede.

Give me your hand, wrote the poet. It will be like another country.

The sound from the violin began softly.

Her face softened, unclenched. Her eyes were alight.

She broke pause.

Her shoulders dropped.

Her soul broke free, her arms raised, her hand open, her fingers touching the darkness.

And so, the story ends there; what I know of it. 

Rilke suggested that death might be lazy. If people were not bothering it all the time, that it might fall asleep.

That is something of the hope I get when I think upon these few days given to us all.

There is a time for all things and, yet no time at all.

I hope that this belated note finds you, and that you and I remain, if only for a little while longer, friends.