Swan Song

By , Novato, CA

The issue with being a dancer is that there’s always an issue to pick at and make into something bigger than it is. Standing in front of a mirror for five hours a day can really screw up someone’s self-esteem. A pinch here, a pull there, and suddenly someone of a perfectly normal weight feels they are swimming in fatty flesh. Similarly, the harsh lights of the studio and watchful eyes of an old crow are quick to point out each and every imperfection. No matter your age, size, or technical level, there is always something to make better. Always something to improve upon. Always something not perfect enough for the eternal ballet gods; gag me. Can I count your ribs? Good. See your sternum? Great. Feel your collar bones like knives when I hug you? Even better. But that’s assuming we get hugged, which would then suggest that we actually have a social life. But no, that's a special privilege reserved for those not blessed with the gift of grace. If it can even be called a gift anymore. If I even have the gift anymore. I doubt it. Lacey doesn’t. She believes in me, no matter the way my leotard bunches unflatteringly or the way my thighs refuse to shrink even when I didn’t eat for a week.
“Dancers are the athletes of God.” maybe they say that because we’re so close to dying all the time. Would it even be considered dying at this point? Honestly, it’s more like fading now. Like my vision when I turn three pirouettes or execute a grande jete. Like the girl last year who just vanished. She’s in a home now, had a stroke or something. Dancers are eternal children, stuck underdeveloped and unbelieving in themselves. Peach fuzz covers my body. I’m cold all the time. I haven’t gotten my period since eighth grade.


You think this is specifically a dancer thing? That’s funny. We just pride ourselves on it. It’s slightly sadistic really, we have quite the Icarus complex. We get so close to the sun only to tumble back to earth, singed and broken. Broken. Are we really that different from the rest of you? So what if it’s considered a little stranger to starve yourself than to gorge yourself on gossip and lip gloss. So what if my ballet teacher ignores the lines on my wrist, and your mother ignores the extra chub on your frame from one too many slices of extra greasy pizza. So what if everyone was jealous before I got labeled before I was deemed sick.


I can barely eat anymore. Even the word makes me nauseous, my skin is more translucent than the lies, my veins like the secrets beneath. However sad it may be, nowadays no one cares for my Adderall huffing charity case. I’ll just keep to the shadows, biding my time till I can truly fade away. How does that song go? “If I die young, bury me in satin”. The only satin I want near me are the ribbons of my pointe shoes and the decor of a tutu. I’m Odette, gorgeous from far away. Ethereal and white as snow. Don’t get too close, you’ll see the monster within. But that’s how it goes when you’re pushing for perfection. When you’re inevitably unattainable. When the thing you love doesn’t love you back.


Of course, you’d know all about that though, each new boy like a stamp in your slutty passport. Why is your coping mechanism any different than mine? Maybe yours is even more destructive. Who knows anymore, we’re all just stuck on the carousel. It never stops turning. I can never jump off. But neither can you and neither can they, so we attack each other. We blindly hope that by tearing others down we can somehow claw our way out of the hole that society has dug for their hopeless cases. That’s what we are, hopeless.


I used to pity my mother. I thought she was the one who was stuck in the past, but now I can see that it’s me who can’t move forward. It’s me who swims through molasses each day, never moving forward. But nowadays I can’t even move backward instead. I’m frozen.


I remember when you loved me. When there was nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a High School Musical marathon and enough junk food to make us puke. Then I got focused and you did too, just on something both of us thought was unattainable for so long. And then you met him, and then you were calling me again. It didn’t matter that it was three in the morning and that we hadn’t spoken in months. It was your voice, and in that moment it was all that I needed. Until I processed what you were saying and every preconceived notion I had about you crumbled to the ground. I held your hand at the doctors, through the procedure. I kept it from your parents. In turn, you kept me from everyone. Who would want to ruin their perfect party girl reputation with something so invisible as me? I’m just the girl who fainted in the gym that one time. I said I was anemic. Why did they believe me? You didn’t believe me. But then again all I ever was was something to make you feel better about your stupid screwed up self. News flash, I’m going to make a career out of my issues. You’ll just rot in a crappy strip club.


Then again, maybe pushing forward isn’t that much better than the alternative. Would to finally acknowledge me if I was gone? Would you say those words to me again? There are three of them. Eight letters total. I haven’t heard the phrase since you left to pursue the one who ruined you. Or maybe I earn that title. Honestly, I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast anymore. That was a joke. I don’t eat breakfast. Neither do you. You prefer to drink your meals, maybe top it off with some pills and smoke. Remember your fate at the strip club? Picture yourself having a seizure, frothing at the mouth and soiled with your own feces. Now tell me you’ve got it better. At least when I go I’ll still be beautiful. At least I’ll be in control. That used to be you.
When we were nine, in your tree house, you made me jump into the leaves below. At the time it was fun, even after I broke my wrist. Now I realize that was the catalyst. Cheers to us and our own destruction, started by the slightly suicidal tendencies of two children who carry the world on their shoulders. Nowadays the burden feels less heavy, probably because my world is shrinking before my eyes. Haven’t you heard? Beauty is pain. If you can’t handle the heat get out of the kitchen.


I should have run when I had the chance. I should've run from you, and this world, and everything it brings with it. I could’ve gone to college. I was smart enough, so were you. Maybe even more so. Not anymore, my brain is gone with the wind and yours is polluted with smog. It’s probably for the best anyway, tragic love stories never were your scene. Then again, neither was I until it was happening and you had your hand on my mouth, begging me not to tell anyone. I couldn’t breathe, still can’t. There’s a rattling in my lungs I’m persistently ignoring. Maybe it’ll finally kill me. God knows you’ve tried, my mother’s tried, hell, even I tried once. Let’s not revisit that though. Because in case you haven’t guessed it, this is my swan song. Say goodbye to the girl in the pastel sweater and slicked back ponytail. She doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe she never did. How do you even define reality when every second your world tilts on its axis? You don’t. And I’m not trying to. This is my note. Do with it what you will. The three words I wanted? That you never gave? Well, I’ve got some for you. Eight letters. I hate you.






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