Leg Warmers and Other Deep Desires

The sweater hanging off one tanned shoulder is what grabs me. That grey sweatshirt, and how she magically removes her bra without taking off her shirt is a mystical womanly feat I hope to master when I actually have boobies that require a bra.

I am twelve years old, and Flash Dance has grabbed my world by the leg warmers and spun it into a frenzy. I watch Alex trudge her way through the city to her auditions, I am there dripping with her angst. Her failed audition pierces my youthful heart, her stumbles, and false starts bring a lump to my skinny throat. And when the water cascades from a magical bucket, I feel the wall of water slam into my flat chest and soak my scrawny body. I go home from the movie theater determined to have my father rig up a tipping bucket from the living room ceiling.

The very next morning I cut the collar off of my new gray sweatshirt, pull on my black leotards usually reserved for church. I cut the feet out of my longest gray socks to create my new makeshift leg warmers. My mother, seated at the table with a coffee, peeks over her book and tips her head a little as I drag a dining chair across the kitchen linoleum and into the center of the green shag stage in the living room.

I don’t see my brother standing in the hallway as I pop my cassette tape into the family stereo system then limber up the sinewy muscles of my chicken legs. In my head, I rehearse my prance across the dance floor, how I will stalk my chair and fall into its arms only to be washed and baptized from above. I don’t hear him snickering as I enter the Flash Dance zone.

I make final adjustments to my outfit, push play and hit the shag dance floor — static shocks be damned! I let my tender spirit turn into a sapling on fire, throwing my thin arms over my head with the elegance I would one day grow into. My little feet pound the floor as the music thrums and makes me believe I am her. I am Alex. I am killing my audition. I approach the kitchen chair with every drop of my twelve-year-old desire. I fling my body into the wooden seat, drape the ladder of my boney spine over the chair back, reach for the invisible tipping chord of the bucket my father refused to install into the architecture of our family’s ceiling. I pull the imaginary rope, let my head fall back to expose my fledgling chest, my pounding heart, and my open throat.

That’s when I notice the upside down version of my brother doubled over and laughing.

I hung up my leg warmers and my dance career that day. Perhaps, even some of the energy and spark that pushes dreams up the hill. But recently, there have been stirrings. A sense of my dreamer, my dancer vibrating through my legs and arms, heart and mind. And she assures me, there is no audition for your deepest desires. You need only show up, sit back in the chair and open your heart. Oh, and you must become proficient at that nifty trick of escaping the confines of your bra without removing your shirt.

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