Dance, dance. Ballet slippers paired with a hushed up spine––those girls and all their stuff––pretty arabesques, dream dose of caffeine for that extra kick. Sweating, leaping, twirling like records. They sweat and sleep and breathe in the water they lose, draining the air of vapour and filling it with dreaminess; all youthful eyes and neon headbands, leg warmers and tight en pointe shoes, water bottles and rotten apple chunks preserving the taut bodies of girls.
You girls got it good, they say, especially to her. They think she likes the pretty glitz, the waistbands, the applause, the screaming rhythm, the honeysuckle floor, soft skin, the audience’s eyes with ale and sugar shine. She’s dancing, grinning, it’s all fun for her! She likes that Swan Lake madness, the compositions, smoothed soul and pirouettes, shoelaces caught on the ground, that’s her sort of stuff! Chewed bone and missing rib, empty plates, flexed shoulder-bone-tip, broken jaw or pulled skirt, ripped tutu or bitten lip, toes dancing till they bleed, drinking in her tiredness and spit, swallowing her bruised ankles for the new pink shoes––it’s temptation and all that souvenir stretch!
Behind the curtain and stage lights, they don’t see her passed out. They only see the pretty; only see her rose bush eyes, her bubbling gum to blow a kiss, the clean sheen of gloss. They see her crushed in lace and satin finish, silk digits curled into the ground; isn’t she an angel? They think she’s an angel. Angelic with her sucked in waist, rattling skull, ballet music cutting the cords of sanity. She lets her throat burn open with jargon and techniques. She’s wild and ill and drained in her pink tutu, she’s glittery decadence but she looks like empty space, looks like fear, blankness––looks too clear; she’s hand-me-downs and old frocks, not an angel!
In bathroom sinks she washes off the old money. Down the drain, it runs and runs and runs; all dirty blood, clicking wrists, and bloodshot eyes. She becomes blank, forgetting her broken wood and joints, limbs cracking and breaking for glory cash––she forgets it all. Smiling for no one. She tears up her show outfits and stitched up sewn socks; leotard string straps ripped in half, into quarters, into eighths. She’s coated in acid. Ballet won’t soothe her bones; let the other girls keep dancing through the night, just waiting for the dream to kick in. But not her.
She wraps her wrists; gloves go on fists.
It’s nothing like back at the studio, with her bent spoon back and glazed glass eyes. Strolling over to her corner she oozes confidence; she’s alive and electric under ring-lights and smoke; the blaring background bass coiling around dagger eyes. Fading dust particles hang in the air sprinkling above metal frames; it smells putrid and she loves it. It’s gravity on guillotine, it’s endless yelling, it’s ripped-throat-red gloves kissing skin, skin kissing cuts, jagged teeth and bruised jaw bone, mangled bodies and nine lives in nine infernos blazing; it’s chaos and disorder and she loves it.
A repugnant whirl of beer and cigarettes encloses the basement, enough to make smokers lungs open fly trap to the air. This audience swarms too, looking like bats in a cave full of money but she doesn’t mind, there’s anarchy stuck in their oesophagus lines, crawling in mouths of bird noise and crow screams, there’s bills on the floor and bets on the table. They’re choking her in dust pills but she doesn’t care. She grinds her teeth on a pack of twenty, dreaming of championship belts for skirts and crumpled notes and flesh, weak money and strong flesh. Her eyes coil up with heat; glorious, breathing fire.
It’s all fun for her. Voltaic dreams and hacking up blood–she lives in it! Sprouted burnt tar type liquor rolling off her tongue––it fills her up, drinking drinking drinking her own thinned blood and spitting out pride instead––it defines her, like there’s fuel in her muscles, like her knuckles are knives that kill, like now she’s thirsting for that extra kick. Plaster bones and painkillers grin from the ringside; along with the peroxide girls at bottle-serviced tables, flashy and colourful in all their coke-eyed, flexed hip-bone glory––but she hardly has time to notice.
Keen and savvy and magnetised eyes all heavy, victory sits in her eyelids and a shrine of vomit spiked alcohol to celebrate. It’s all the adrenaline that money can’t buy, shrines of wide smiles and blushed-with-blood cheeks, boxing shoes and the rhythm of her feet, that makes her fight after waving away the sun. Short love notes, ripped in bits or tattooed on necks, sweetness turned to sour gummies turned to venom cuts turned to blood trickled flesh. Her ballet shoes and tutu lie rotting, melting cute in the sink as she sidesteps around her next opponent, circling, preying, embracing. Going in for the kill, she thinks, it’s almost like a dance.
Header image by artist Tobin Eason
Written by Sara Moazzam. Published on 20/05/2018