I haven’t seen her in months. Maybe, because of that, I keep going back to the last thing I said to her. The truth is, I knew it was a complete lie. The second I said, “You’re boring.” I knew right away I wasn’t just lying to her, I was lying to myself as well. And it was at her expense, her eyes swelling with red underneath, her pale cheeks stained with tears. The only thing I could do was look down at her feet, watch as they turned and ran from me. And I haven’t seen her since.
I’m not quite sure how to describe Trista exactly. At least, nothing that would make her sound so special, like having super powers or being exceptionally gorgeous. Still. There is one time I remember exactly why she mesmerized me. Not just a single moment in time, I mean a point in our relationship in which I learned who she truly is, a part of her I didn’t see but should have noticed all along.
In a small town in Illinois, the flowers were still buds, and the snow was still sleeping on the trees. I was leaning on my car, waiting for her to come out of her house. It was already the end of December, and we had only a week left before school started up again. Trista hadn’t seen me for a while. I was at my Dad’s place in New York because a relative had died, so I was gone even before break began. Senior year was wearing us down, and we didn’t have any classes together, so this vacation was the only time we could really be with each other. When I saw her coming out of the small garage beside the house, I pictured in my head a scene where she would jump into my arms, and I would twirl her around saying something mushy like “I missed you honey!” and she would reply “Oh, Daffodil!” haha. But instead, she calmly walked up to me, handed me her purse, and said with a smile on her face “Good evening Daffodil. The usual place? I’m paying.”
She calls me Daffodil because at one point my junior year I wanted to dye my hair a different color, but the color faded out, leaving only the bleach. It took half a year to get that out, but by that time I had already met Trista, and she immediately gave me that name the second she saw the color. A natural blonde, I am not. Of course, it’s back to being black, and of course now she will continue to call me that for as long as we know each other.
The ride to Bonanza Eatery was quiet and secure. She asked me about New York, I told her she was looking cute today. Which was rather true. Her slender body fit with the blue dress she wore fine. Her face was still slim and childlike, and her eyes…
Actually, her crystal blue eyes were closed. The chatter had gone silent, and I noticed she was being more quieter than usual. A few looks switching between the road and her body gave me an answer. My glances at her feet and hands were all that I needed to know what was up. Pinching, delicate fingertips. Shoes slid off, toes moving ever so slowly in a certain direction. And she thought I wouldn’t notice.
“So,” I said casually, making a turn of the wheel and then looking at her. We had arrived at Bonanza Eatery. “Recital, huh?”
“How did you know?” She teased, I always knew when she practiced in her head. It reaches her body in some way, whether it’s in the feet or the hands. The closing of her eyes gave it away the most, though.
We had both gotten out of the car, and the wind blew a deep chill for both of us. I reached to grab her hand, and she intertwined her fingers in mine. “I didn’t want to talk about it until after this wonderful date.” Trista smiled at me, and her eyes shone in a way I’d like to believe was just for me.
“It won’t make that much of a difference, will it? C’mon, let’s talk inside.” I opened the door for her, and we stepped in to take our seats.
The atmosphere was private but casual. Bonanza Eatery was our favorite place to go. We got a booth near the window, so we were able to sit across from each other and make eye contact, but still were close enough to touch one another. Her hair was a few inches longer than the last time I saw it, I twirled a piece of it in my index finger as I ordered dinner for us.
“It’s gotten way longer now Trista.” I let go of the piece, and like silk it just unraveled from my finger and fell back in place with the other strands.
“Thanks? It’s because longer hair is easier to put in a bun. But it also can give a headache if it’s too heavy. Good thing mine is thin huh?” She swirled her straw in her drink a few times, but finally looked up to me in excitement. “Daffodil, I got the lead in the Nutcracker!” Her whole face lit up and I thought she was going to burst any second with a happy sound and roll on the ground or something. She looked rather adorable in my mind doing it.
She explained how she got the part more than a month ago, but that we were dealing with a lot from classes and were barely talking. And then, I suddenly was whisked away to New York. So, she saved up all this excitement for me.
“That’s great! When is the performance?”
“This Saturday! You’ll come right?” Of course, I said yes. What kind of moron would I be if I said no?
She grabbed my hands and squeezed them. I knew this was something big for her, she never got to be the lead normally. Yet, she always managed to be organizing everything either way, and did get important roles. But never the lead. In all honesty, I cared about ballet about as much as taking a bath, but it was a part of her dream so I went with it. At least I actually know this one, and I’m extra happy the title is in English. The last one was in French that I couldn’t even pronounce. The one before that was La Esmeralda, which had a story I couldn’t follow to save my life. Wait. Do I even have money for this?
“There’s one more thing though…” Trista looks up right at me with those pretty crystal eyes, and I can tell something is coming.
“I have practice.” She had more to say, I could tell just ‘practice’ doesn’t warrant a puppy dog eyes move. “Like, every day of the week, kind of practice.”
There go my plans.
I said I would make it work when I gave her a passionate kiss goodbye that night. We were under the stars and fireflies were all around us. I was being romantic. And, I was also being naïve. I had no idea what it meant to be a prima ballerina, or in general to be “a dancer”. The fact that she got the lead we amazing, but what I hadn’t realized was how much bigger this was than spending time with me. When we first started going out, I knew she was a serious dancer because she told me immediately that there would be days when I couldn’t reach her due to practice. But after that, we never really talked about it. I was never usually bored when she had practice either. But this time, I had nothing else to do. I was hoping to have time with her, but it had already been Tuesday and nothing from her at all. I finally had to just call her, which was weird since she usually called me. In fact, most girls were the ones waiting for me. This was really weird.
“Hey is Trista there?” Her cell was off again, and I had to call the houseline. Her sister picked up. Not the one already in college, the freshman this year who hates me.
“Hold on, butt.” Even over the phone, I could feel her scowl transcend the miles. Ah, such a doll.
Suddenly, a muffling sound and some static come on the receiving line, then came Trista’s voice. “Good morning.”
“Why, it most certainly is! Look at that. Huh. So, what’s up? Want to come over?” She so casually said this; it threw me off guard for a second. At least I got what I wanted, which was to see her all along.
I scratched my head. Man, I was really playing the needy boyfriend well. An act never performed by me before. “Sure. How’s now sound?”
“I would tell you to wait so I can get pretty, but considering I slept in my waterproof mascara, that won’t happen no matter how long I take to get ready. Go ahead then.” She laughed lightly then gave the phone to her sister. “Say goodbye to Daffodil.” Freshman terror hung up on me.
Isn’t she darling?
The drive over there usually didn’t take too long, but I tried to slow down a bit because I didn’t want to seem too eager to see her. The game of one who waits and one who makes wait is a tricky game in the eyes of a relationship. Yet, I got the feeling Trista never seemed to care about such things. Whether she was one who waits or one who makes wait, she always seemed to assume we were on equal grounds. Should I be worried about her feelings, or my own? I could never tell with her, she was too quiet about feelings and problems. What did power mean to her?
Her house was one of many in a row encircling an island. I parked on the side of the road and knocked on the door in a stern, strong way. In case freshman wanted to ignore it, Trista’s mom would hear it too. Luckily, her mom got to me first, and opened the door to greet me in a sweet manner. Trista’s mom looked almost nothing like her, which black glistening hair and green eyes. However, her skin was the same pale white, and they shared the same gentle hands. I walked in and said she looked lovely today, then asked “Where is Trista?”
“I doubt she went very far with her jello-legs from this morning.” Her mother sighed and pointed towards her daughter’s room.
Just as I was about to knock on the door, or so I would like to say(actually I was gonna barge in) I heard a faint sniffle and pant. Creaking the mahogany door ever so slightly, I peaked in to find those noises were Trista snoring in her bean bag chair. The bean bag was huge, and I always told her there was no point in having it because it was so uncomfortable. But she would just smile at me and say “It’s so comfy, I sleep in it sometimes.” I thought she was joking! But lo and behold, in this dark green room lived a girl curled up in the fetal position, her head tilted just enough so I can see her mouth making the cute noises.
Next to her was a white nightstand, where her ipod was in the speakers playing the song “If Not Now When” by Color Theory. I remember because it was on a CD I gave for her birthday just recently. Next to the speakers was the lamp with the energy-saving bulb. It was clear she just turned on the light but fell asleep within minutes. I opened the door more so I could go in, slowly so as not to disturb her. Was she really that tired? How long was practice today? I took off my jacket and put it on her bed and, while it pained me to even touch that bean bag chair that gave no support or comfort whatsoever, curled up right next to Trista to listen to her sleep. This wasn’t exactly what I wanted either, but it would definitely do.
I fell asleep too. We spent the whole time napping together.
The moment I woke up, she was kissing my cheek and saying “Good morning!” in a cheery voice. Her mascara was still on her cheek, and some hairs were completely out of place in her ponytail, but other than that she seemed fine. I, however, felt sweaty and disgusting for napping in the middle of the day. My head felt as though there was an empty area in the middle of my brain, and construction workers were trying to reconstruct it. Guess that’s what it means to feel groggy after doing nothing. She stretched out and then got out from the bean bag chair. I plopped off of it and onto the ground.
She looked over at me and coolly said “So. Uncomfortable right? Yeah, totally agree, I mean why else would you fall asleep in it?” Sarcasm was a horrible color on her, but even as I told her so she continued to tease me till I went home.
Dinner at my house tasted bittersweet that night. Never had I ever had a more relaxing time with a girl. I’m usually more flavorful and exciting with what I do on dates. But even if I didn’t want to admit it then, I knew Trista was too busy for me. I also knew I would have to make a real effort to see her. Not just because I was bored, which is usually the reason, but for another reason I couldn’t understand at the time. What mattered was that I needed to see her, and after not seeing her for two out of the seven days before going back to school, I knew I had to do something about it.
I swear though, I didn’t expect things to be so out of my comfort zone.
I admit, I’m a bit of a cocky guy. I get decent grades, I do well on the lacrosse team, I have tons of friends and a very cute girlfriend. I have simple luxuries, with not too many problems. I guess, in a sense, I’ve had a smooth ride most of my life. And I guess if you want to call it gall, go ahead and call it that. But just because I expect things to go smoothly for me sometimes, doesn’t warrant that I get a huge amount of life experience in the next few days. Which is what I got starting that Wednesday, when I had the brightest idea ever to just show up at her dance studio.
On Wednesday morning, it hit me to do something nice for her. Recalling what happened yesterday, I realized the only way I would be able to see her would be if I showed up unannounced. Luckily, I already knew where her dance studio was, as I’ve had to pick her up a few times before.
I was told beforehand that practice was about five to eight hours long, starting at eight o’clock, ending whenever the teacher said. I woke up at nine, got dressed and ate, then headed out around nine thirty. The studio was about half an hour away. there were no really prestigious dance schools around our town, so Trista had to go to the town next door. The whole outer part of it looked like a business building, and I would always think some suits would strut out of the place at any second, but there never were any. The only way to distinguish it outside as a dance studio would be the sign plastered on the window near the door printed with “Stars Studio” in bold letters. I had never entered before, but instead of just sitting in my car thinking about the situation like I should have, I opened the doors believing just barging in without consideration would be ok. I had flowers, beautiful purple lilies which were Trista’s favorites. They were huge in my hands, and I had a hard time just getting to where her class was. That building was HUGE! I ran into four little girls, and a sugar plum fairy, but no Trista. I finally went back in this burgundy hallway of terror, until I saw the adorable sugar plum fairy again. From the Nutcracker right? That’s what Trista is doing!
“Excuse me, but are you practicing for your ballet today?” She had red hair tied in a messy bun; curls were coming out everywhere, even with pins in.
She looked up at me, a rather short thing, and said “Not me, I’m doing dress rehearsal right now. But the lead and some of the other girls have it today. They’re in the main auditorium.”
“Thanks.” She quickly ran off, carrying some other costumes with her. The pink pointe shoes she was wearing were making tiny tap tap noises, slowly fading as she left.
Whoa! I forgot to ask where the main auditorium was! Looking all around, I finally decided to just try where the light blue carpet ended and the tile began, to some big grand doors with Italian-like handles. Grand = main right? It seemed the most logical reasoning. I put the lilies to the side of my arm, and opened the doors with both hands.
Flash! I was stunned by lights and dazzling colors. To my left and right were so many seats, and in the middle was a long lane going lower and lower until it reached the big stage in front. From left to right, at least ten dancers were on that stage, stretching, wearing things from baggy shirts to spandex. Each one had their own pair of pointe shoes, and that’s when I saw Trista. Her blonde hair was tightly knit into a ponytail, and her eyes were closed as she took her stance. A dramatic pose from her fingertips touching her toes on the ground. She was wearing a thing dress that faded at the bottom, with spandex and white pointe shoes. Suddenly, a shrill, thundering voice echoed through the entire auditorium, and gave me a shiver down my spine. Was that an omen?
“You over there! What ARE you doing?!” I immediately just slammed myself back against the doors, scared out of my mind. Where was that voice coming from???
I couldn’t believe I didn’t notice her before. A skinny woman in her mid-30s, right smack dab where I was looking at. She was beneath the stage, barking orders at a woman to the side of the stage, when she noticed not me, but a girl who was en pointe. Trista explained to me en pointe is just when you get on your toes. Clearly, it was important, because the older woman was screaming her lungs out at the girl because she did not start correctly. That was when it hit me that maybe I shouldn’t have been there. The woman stood up straight, gave a heave, and then eased up on the girl.
“Look, on my count ok? That goes for everyone!” she clapped her hands with a beat, and the dancers all quickly got into position. I did as well. By cowering behind a chair, looking onward at the spectacle.
The girls all turned around and then pretended to giggle. They then ran to one side of the stage as Trista took center, looking around in an innocent manner. From here, it looked a bit silly watching her act this way, but on closer inspection I noticed her feet were rather precise. The girls were all prancing about the room, while suddenly some male dancers came on stage. They had their backs to the pretend audience. They were acting rather ridiculously, looking as though they were talking and having a good time. One of the girls went up to Trista, talking, and then she followed her to the side with the girls. Chatter chatter, prance prance. But Trista was also concentrating. I’ve seen that face before, it’s her subtle “I don’t want you to know I’m working hard right now” face, and it was bothering me.
That’s when it happened.
The whole sense of time slowed down to a miniscule pace, yet my heart sped up ten times more per second. Without realizing it, I had been so fixated on her that I was just standing straight up and watching. Trista spun, our eyes met.
“What are you doing here?” Her eyes asked me, but she shouldn’t have been focusing on anything else. And I shouldn’t have been there.
I shouldn’t have been there.
I shouldn’t have been there.
She lost her balance, god why was I there. And just on the edge of the stage, I should’ve just stayed home. The older woman, I assumed was the teacher, was shouting and screaming and clearly another person to distract her was all Trista needed to lose her footing.
I should not have been there.
Before it technically happened, I think I screamed her name. Or tried to. No sounds came from my voice. In fact, I couldn’t hear anything at all after I started running. You would think I might have been able to reach her before it was too late. But that damn hallway was too long, god I should have at least stayed out of the way. The difference in height between the stage and the ground was way too much. It was just too much. A huge thud sounded as she hit the ground.
When I reached her, Trista’s face was deep red, and she was laughing. But it scared me, the sound of hard forced laughter filling the room. Everyone gathered around her, the teacher pushing back everyone so she could reach the front. She was mumbling curses to god, and knelt down to be eye level with her fallen dancer. I was right next to her, wanting to see if Trista was ok. Her body was shaking, I knew it I knew it I knew it she landed wrong. The laughter was just trying to lie to us.
“I’m ok guys. Don’t worry about it!”
She was not ok. She was hurt.
She was crying.
She called it a pas de deux. It’s a duet between two dancers, and usually very important to the story, either the beginning or the finale. I never knew what that was before. I didn’t know a lot before she stepped into my life. As I watched her rehearse while everyone else went home, I couldn’t help but stare, dumbfounded by it all. It was already Friday, she had left the hospital yesterday and went straight to the phone to call her dance teacher. Smiling, smiling, telling me how she felt perfectly fine but needed to focus on her routine. And suddenly, her mother calls me around seven asking if I could go pick up her insane daughter. Lo and behold, I find that Trista went to practice in the evening with some of the other girls. One by one, each dancer left, until only the most stubborn one was left. This wasn’t important. She should be resting. But she just keeps going, nonstop, a three step then a four.
“Why.” I said it out loud, and she stopped what she was doing to turn to me.
“?” I stepped forward until I was right below the stage. Looking down to me, I just imagined a spotlight on her; feet en pointe but slowly coming back down, her fingertips in position so elegantly they looked like fans. And her face, so angelic. The huge disgusting cast on her ankle made me want to cry.
“Why are you working so hard?! I don’t understand, it’s just dance! You’re hurt, you should be resting!!!” I shouted, and the echo from the auditorium could have reached as far as the parking lot for all I cared. I said what I was holding back. My face was getting red, I was so frustrated with the whole thing.
But she didn’t flinch. She just looked appalled at me, like I was an idiot or something. She was standing tall, while I was below looking up at her. She spoke, and her voice was as crystal and calm as her eyes, yet strong as though a raging fire came from inside her. Much stronger than mine.
“I AM dance. It is when I am the most like myself.” Her delicate fingers clenched in fists and she stepped forward to the edge of the stage. “Being a lead means that I have become the best me I have ever been in this world. And that feeling, that power, is also a responsibility. Why on Earth would I stop myself, and all the others who have worked so hard, just because of an injury?” Trista narrowed her eyes, and suddenly I felt so small.
“That doesn’t warrant me giving up my responsibilities. Go home Nathan.” And with that, she turned away from me, walking back to the center of the stage. She took her stance once more, and started over.
That was not a moment of just mesmerizing me. That was the most terrifying moment I’ve had for a long time. The feeling of never understanding, never even realizing, such a passion lay deep within her, disturbed me. I didn’t need such a confusing girl, and looking from my shoulder, the hall to the door seemed very short. I could have left her there, and life could have been that much easier. But I also realized that I had a responsibility too. The second I became a part of her life, I had a slight power to influence Trista in some way. Like distracting her during practice, causing her injury. Even thinking about it stung my chest. But that day, I decided to let her be her, and to let me for at least one time, be a part of her too.
“Trista.” I heard her sigh quietly, and for a second I thought she would ignore me, but she did turn around.
Reaching out with my left arm, I extended my hand out and said, in a clear voice “Would you like to pas de deux with me?” I didn’t know if that was the right way to say it, and I didn’t even know how to do it. But if it meant putting things back to the way they were, putting her back in that place where she’s most beautiful, I would have done the chicken dance in front of my future business partner if it meant she would look at me again.
She called it a pas de deux. It’s a duet between two dancers. A duet means she couldn’t really practice by herself. It meant she needed someone to dance with. A smile grew upon her face, like a bud blossoming into a beautiful flower for the first time since the snow covered it. She quickly said yes, and came right to me, pulling me up onto the stage. I looked back to where I was just standing, noticing what a difference being on the stage was, but of course that didn’t last long. I had to help Trista, though I had no idea how to do this pas de deux. Still holding my hand, she guided me to the left side of the stage, then switching hands to hold with. She looked right at me, and said “Slowly, guide me to the middle of the room. I’ll be en pointe as soon as we go to the middle, so as slow as I go, you must follow.” I did as I was told.
When we got to the middle of the floor, she let go of my hand and went en pointe. She grabbed my right hand again, suddenly lifting her right leg till her foot almost touched my arm. I could hear her humming part of the music I didn’t know.
“Now slowly, spin me counter clockwise with just the hand holding me.” Her voice was quick, and I looked down to see the foot she was en pointe with was the injured one. As I started turning her, I heard her mumbling the counts, as if she had memorized them in her sleep. “1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4.. and stop.”
Suddenly, the hand I wasn’t holding went up to my shoulder. The other hand let go of mine and with her wrist, made a circle in the air, then went back into my palm. Her fingertips were precise, fingernails short but elegant. While doing so, she lift her right leg from the back instead of the front, and in doing so looked almost exactly as a figurine my younger sister had in her room. A perfect ballerina pose.
“Now, with your whole body, turn me clockwise until I am back in this position.” As I turned her, the hand on my shoulder soon held my other hand as well. Soon I was behind her, and she was in front facing the entire pretend audience, smiling so big it was hard to believe her foot was shaking slightly.
She turned her head so as to look at me a little, and whispering in a soothing voice showing signs of panting. “Now I’m going to let go of your hands, and you must grab my waist so I can do a twirl.”
I believe she told me before they were called spirals, she did three of them and then posed by extending her right leg outwards with the right arm as well, with the left lunging somewhat forward. She paused at this, and stopped smiling. Her en pointe ended, her feet flat on the ground suddenly, and she let go of me. I stepped back confused, and suddenly she launched a full frontal attack towards my abdomen! I flew back and hit the ground, and when I finally stop seeing stars, I noticed her eager face looking at me, a real smile that made my heart flip.
“That was great!!! I’m so happy you danced with me.” And when she finally got off of me(she was actually really heavy. she asked me a simple but important question. “Do you understand now, how dance is mine?” I nodded silently, because there was no way I could reply to her aching toes and ankle cast without that sting in my chest coming again.
“Good!” She hugged me, and I put my arms around her. I think this counted as our first fight?
“Then let’s pas de deux again someday”
She was the most beautiful girl there. The best dancer, the best heart, the best passion. But as a year past by, after that dance recital, I learned that sometimes responsibility is too much to handle. That I couldn’t stand to see her smile a much bigger smile while dancing then when being with me. Or that the difference between making her cry or giggle were in a few words I would say. For that matter, just showing up at a studio and making her fall off the stage was enough for me. But if I were to see her again, after that horrible break up and all the things I said, I just know in my mind she would be bigger than me. Not in weight, mind you, but in the way she will walk, talk, even her eyes. Because I know, whether it be months from now or even years, she will be the lead in everything she does, and will take that power with such grace I will have no choice but to look at her and not look away. Ever.