My young dream was to be a performer or an athlete. I also said I wanted to be a writer. I know because I wrote all this down on a slip of paper that recently emerged while rifling through child-things at my great aunt’s house.
I also know it because I remember all the energy I used to put into performing. I wrote–short fictional stories–but not very often. I had too much movement in my body.
I’d acquired at least a little bit of skill and grace from the few years of ballet, jazz and acrobatics I took at the Dance Art Studio in Crescent City. And when I had an audience, boy-howdy I put on a show. My family called it “tumbling” but I’ve watched the home videos and what I was doing was acrobatic ballet: cart-wheel, round-off, pose, cart-wheel, round-off, pose.
I practically lived in a long-sleeve pink leotard and dreamed of owning sweats, leg warmers and new ballet shoes like the other girls. I’d carry it all in the “Twinkle Toes” ballet bag I saw on display at the Dance Art Studio. It cost thirty-five dollars. Which was even more money back in 1996.
I watched gymnastics on TV whenever I had the opportunity and thought for certain I was just a few lessons away from a double back layout and a spot on the floor at the Olympics.
Clearly I wasn’t, but once in acrobatics class when were learning back tucks (which is a back flip with no hands) my instructor was spotting me so I gave it my all. Seconds later when I was upright my teacher said “You just did it. I didn’t even touch you. You did it all on your own,” which drew the attention of the whole class, not because a back tuck hadn’t been done before, it had, but because I’d only been in acrobatics for a year or less (and just once a week)–the other girls had been going to the Dance Art Studio since infancy.
All I got from the girls was a long glance. No pat on the back.
In the upcoming months I would begin to wonder why my crotch smelt funny as we stretched and get self-conscious over my dirty socks.
I stopped going to dance, which no one in my family protested or gently encouraged me otherwise. I’ve always been able to do as I please. Just as I please.
I cut my hair and half-heartedly took up basketball, poetry and boys.
I’m kicking myself now because I was darn good. I’d nearly nailed my back hand spring with no spotter, I had a stage smile and good balance. And now I know that crotches just smell funny sometimes. Especially after excercise.
I could’ve really been something.