{August 10, 2012}   Dance Lesson

Me in my tutu

I walked to school when I started kindergarten. I’d walk by myself most of the time, and the only thing that scared me was the boys hiding in the bushes, waiting to jump out. I heard about one boy who hid in the bushes. When a girl walked by, he jumped out, held her down and pulled down her panties. The boys thought that was funny. I couldn’t think of anything worse.

I watched for cars when I crossed the street where a red blinking light told cars to stop. I knew not to talk to anyone in a car if they stopped, unless I knew them. Even then, I knew not to get in if they offered me a ride. After school I always went straight home to get a drink of water or tea and change out of my skirt into my shorts before I went out to play. But on Tuesday’s, I went to ballet and tap class right after school. I wasn’t that great at ballet, but I could tap pretty well. Well enough for my dance teacher to pick me to tap a duo at the recital. The recital was coming up soon. I was excited, not only about performing, but about getting to wear makeup on the stage. The teacher said we could wear lipstick, rouge and mascara.

One Tuesday it was raining when school let out. I walked past all the cars lined up where parents were picking up children. I waved at the crossing guard in his yellow coat and hat. Even he had an umbrella.  I didn’t mind the rain at all. It felt good to get wet because it was always so hot in my classroom. I couldn’t wait to get home because I had dance practice that afternoon. I knew we had to leave right away. So I ran all the way home.

When I got home, the front door was locked. I pounded on the door but I didn’t see a light on through the windows. The house was dark. Mother wasn’t home. She must be late getting back from somewhere. I hoped she remembered that I have dance practice today.

It was raining hard and I didn’t have anywhere to get out of the rain. I thought about sitting in the garage in back, but I wanted to be near the driveway so I could jump in the car as soon as Mother drove up. I was wet anyway from walking home. I sat on the porch steps waiting for a long time. I was getting worried. “Where is she? I need to get to dance practice.”  I knew the routine pretty well, but we were getting our costumes at this class.

Finally, Mother drove up. Instead of waving for me to get in the car, she got out of the car. She looked mad. “You moron! You walked home in the rain?”  “Yes, I didn’t care if it was raining!” I was scared. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to walk home if it was raining.  I walk home from school every day. “You idiot! What’s wrong with you? I’ve been waiting in traffic all this time to pick you up!”  Her face was mean looking. I was scared. “I didn’t know you were picking me up!” I cried.  Mother didn’t even take me inside. She pulled a switch off a bush in our yard and stripped off the leaves. “I’ll teach you to walk home in the rain!” she yelled. “No!” I screamed.  She jerked me up by my arm and started whipping my legs. She was screaming, “Are you going to do that again? Are you going to walk home in the rain again?”  “No! No! Please…don’t!”  She  stopped whipping and pushed me onto the concrete steps. “I spent my time waiting for you to come out of that school!” My arm hurt. My legs were stinging and whelps were popping up where the red stripes covered my legs. “Go get in the car” she hissed. “You’re late for class.” I ran to the car. I didn’t want to give her another reason to hit me again.

I got in the car and saw my black Danskin dance bag on the seat. I felt sad. How can I dance now? I didn’t feel like dancing. As mother drove, rage was growing inside of me. I hated her. I hated her black teased hair and her mean face. People always say she’s pretty.  But she’s not pretty. She is ugly.

When we got to Lightsey’s Dance Studio, I wanted to stay in the car. Mother told me to get out. She walked inside with me and signed me in. “Oh, hi,” she said sweetly to Mr. Lightsey, sitting behind a counter. “Lynn is excited about the recital.” She looked at me and softly said “I’ll be back to pick you up in an hour.” I held my Danskin bag tight to my body. I didn’t say anything. She gave me a look like she dared me to tell anybody what just happened.

I walked to the doorway where we usually line up at the bar in front of mirrors.  I Want To Hold Your Hand was playing on the record player. The other girls were dressed in leotards already. They were laughing and talking.  Some were putting on tights. Everybody looked happy. I looked down. My legs were covered with stripes and whelps.  Little round bruises from mother’s fingerprints were starting to form on my arm. I felt sick. I wanted to go home. I was ashamed of my legs and how my face was red from crying. I went back to the bench in the reception room and sat down. I held my Danskin bag tight against my chest and listened to the laughter. My teacher came out of the dance room and asked why I was sitting on the bench and not getting dressed.  I told the her I was sick and I wanted to sit out the class. She looked down at my legs. She asked me if my mother knew I was sick. I said no.  I hung my head, ashamed of how ugly I was. The teacher told me I could sit on the bench and wait but if I started feeling better, I could come to class. My best friend from class came out and asked me if I was okay. She tried to cheer me up by asking if I liked the Beatles.  But I was too sad to talk.  I looked down at my bony, ugly legs dangling from the chair, too short to reach the ground.  I said yes. I told her my favorite song was I Saw Her Standing There. My friend went back into the dance room. A few minutes later I heard the record player–Well, she was just 17. Do you know what I mean? And the way she looked, was way beyond compare… 




Not so anonymous friend and lurker says:

Deep, sad, scary. The lessons we learn when young are permanent. I wish I knew the whole lesson here.

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