By Daria Kaufman
I am on a boat. Captain Hook is at the stern, turning the wheel, gazing outward. He is not quite right. Something is off. I know this. I can feel it.
The boat is not on water. It bobbles in a vast expanse of white that penetrates infinitely in all directions. I have no body. I appear to have fallen through the deck so that just my shoulders, neck, and head are visible, and the rest is dangling below. But there is no ‘rest.’ Just the upper part emerging from the deck like a turtle from its shell. I am completely numb.
Hook is naked and covered in crustaceans from head to toe. They ooze and dig their tiny tendrils into his flesh. His body is their ecosystem.
“That must be uncomfortable!” I shout. The wind is strong and noisy. I have to shout.
“What? These little buggers?” he replies. “Not at all uncomfortable, actually. Feels great! You should try it some time!” He mouths the words and the sound comes directly to my ears, as if originating from my skull.
As I scan down his body, I notice he is treading on broken glass. One foot after another crushes tiny bits. There is no blood, though. Not a single drop. I gaze deeper and see that the bottoms of his feet are made of crystal spikes, jutting out from the soles. He continues treading at a slow, leisurely pace. It looks so natural. The crystals make a crunchy noise every time they strike the glass. It reminds me of Rice Krispies.
Then he begins to dance a waltz. He sways round and round the deck, narrowly avoiding me, and singing an unfamiliar tune. Each time his crystal-soled feet strike the ground, they drive cracks into the foundation of the boat. These cracks grow and spread like webs. Now I am agitated. If he keeps this up, the whole ship will break apart and we’ll be swallowed whole by the great white abyss!
And that’s exactly what happens.
We’re swallowed up by the white.
You mean, you wake up?
No. We’re swallowed. Up.
What do you think it means?
I don’t know. It’s a dream. It’s abstract.
Well, how do you feel towards him?
How do I feel towards him.
Yes, in the dream, what are your feelings towards Captain Hook?
I suppose I envy him.
He’s so free.
And he’s dancing. Is that why you like to dance? For the feeling of freedom?
That was emphatic!
Because I know that’s not it. It’s not freedom. It’s the crustaceans. Those little suckers. It’s them.
What about them?
Flesh. The feeling of flesh. The reminder. I grab my own skin, pull it away from my bones.
– – – – – – – – – –
I am in ballet class. I am at the barre. The teacher holds the reins. She wears her usual uniform – slick black pants over an icy blue leotard, finished with a tightly knitted shrug. Something is off. Something is not quite right. Her left knee bends awkwardly as she stands and listens internally, hurriedly – the way injured dancers do – for the friend that has now gone missing. Something alien has taken its place and it disturbs the air around her. I know this. I can feel it.
‘Tendu’ – to stretch.
I am in control. My leg is mine. The match is lit. Pink tights rub against each other as my legs brush and the texture of nylon against nylon makes me slightly nauseous, but I weather the storm.
‘Frappe’ – to strike.
Flex the foot at the ankle. Extend the leg by striking the ball of the foot through the floor, culminating in a fully pointed position with the toe a few inches above the ground. Again. More precise. Strike damnit. DRIVE.
It is getting windy inside now – ribs spreading, gulping. A vortex starts to form in my left shoulder. I have to snuff it out before it engulfs my head. My left heel is humming- no, wait. Not mine. The teacher’s. Her tiny pink heels drum against the marley floor. It is a welcome lullaby against the pianist’s muzak (a soft, out-of-key tune from The Little Mermaid).
unda’ da’ sea… just you and me…
The nausea grows. Everything starts to sway. I feel the rhythm in my teeth, but still I am tense. I see my leg extended to the side. How did it get there? Why must I always feel tethered?
BRUSH FRONT AND SIDE AND BACK AND SIDE
I feel the floor affected. It rises up towards me and I return the favor. We meet halfway. There is another ‘me’ on the other side of the floor – an exact mirror image. Her feet touch mine, mirror my every move. We dance against each other, pressing. Always pressing. Even when we jump and the space between us grows, we always return. To pressing. Always pressing.
She takes the barre away. She takes everything away. I am alone with everyone. Again.
But the match was lit. I know. I felt it.
– – – – – – – – – –
“Small Boat, Calm Sea,” painted by Gill Turner