Welcome to Friday Fictioneers. Thanks to our wonderful host, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and to Jellico’s Stationhouse for the intriguing photo.
The challenge is to write a 100-word story, based on the photo prompt below. My story is semi-autobiographical.
(Personal Fiction: 100 words)
It’s Just Like Riding a Bike
Emily wobbled while her siblings breezed past. Soon, the Rathbone family would return the borrowed bikes to their vacationing owners.
“Eyes ahead. Don’t look back,” said sister Marianne.
Emily sailed by unattended, like a trapeze artist with no net. “I’m doing it!” ThenEmily looked back.
Later, Emily attended a college swimming in bikes. Not since her childhood had she ridden one, but her body remembered and into the sea of pedaling students she went. Sweat dripped from her temples as she approached the hit-or-miss intersection.
Their wheel spokes tangled together and Emily stared into pools of blue.
End notes: As a kid, I didn’t have a bike, but I remember this accelerated week of learning to ride. I had one week to learn how to ride on this borrowed bike. I did it, but I crashed…a lot. Later when I went to a biking college, I was pretty scared to ride a bike again because it had been so long since I had done it! I made up for lost time, riding everyday for a solid 4 years. I still crashed sometimes, but I met some nice people along the way. 🙂
For more stories from the Fictioneers, click here.
My leg cramped from sitting at a table with too many people. Our chairs bumping into one another and an occasional knee brushed mine. I could smell the mustard on the leftover sandwiches permeating the stale air of the conference room where we gathered before the start of a semester to discuss budget guidelines and tweak our educational plans from the year before. The sandwiches always smelled and here they were, right on schedule, smelling again. They really needed to refrigeration immediately.
My eyes shifted from the clock to moving lips, clock to beads of sweat and foul body odor, the smell of crusty, dirty socks causing me to tune out periodically. My aesthetics proving most critical when I had the least control over them.
Students can’t get their classes. Poor Jake here had a line out the door last semester. Students even brought their lawn chairs. Isn’t that right, Jake? Jake?
“Huh. Oh, yeah. Right. That did happen,” I mumbled and cleared my throat.
I bet the chicks dig you, that must be it. Larry panned into my face, all nose, smiling from ear to ear. I felt nauseous and the room tipped from side to side. Throughout Larry wouldn’t go away.
I turned my head toward the door, wanting to dash with no one noticing. Trouble was, everyone stared at me, their faces etched in stone, as if I had the winning answer to the billion dollar question. I tried to hide my temporary lapse of daydreaming.
“Tell us how you do it, Jake.” Larry pressed, as if challenging me.
“Well, Larry, it’s just that my class makes everyone feel like an expert. They take my class to try to impress their friends. It always happens in an election year. They want to talk politics. Let me tell you something, my class is not politics. It’s not! It’s government, which is different.” I slammed my palms on the table, not realizing how worked up I was getting.
“Of course, Jake,” said Marla, the Instructional Dean at the helm. “Thank you for sharing.”
Larry’s smile faded and he popped up to help himself to a warm sandwich.
More mumbling and shifting of paper, sorted and passed. A stack of paper landed in front of me with a thud. The little hand on the clock jumped a whole hour or I may have napped, let my head fall. Drool escaped from the side of my mouth, a promising indicator that sleep did occur.
“I’m sorry. What was the question?”
“Your educational plan, Jake. If you’re done with it, you can set it right here.” Marla patted the stack.
“Sure.” I hadn’t looked at the thing since last year.
When I was small, I danced for hours in the foyer of my house. Most of the house was carpeted, including the kitchen and two bathrooms, but not in this white square speckled with black dots. It was years before tile would replace some of that carpet. In the meantime, that 12 x 12 square feet of space was all I ever needed.
I danced for hours in solitude in this square, and into the space extending into the living room, twirling, composing, tapping, pretending, the music my guide. The music was enchanting. I don’t know where it came it from, what it was called or where it went. It seemed to disappear from my life. I never bothered to know what that music was; I never needed to know. I’ve never heard it since, but I would know if I were ever to hear it again. Still, the memory of it is faint in my head.
I can hear the piano, but it wasn’t necessarily classical. It was scratchy, schmultzy, waltzy, melodic and ethereal. If I had to place it, I’d say it’s the kind of music you might hear in a Parisian cafe with a river running through it. Although that doesn’t describe it at all. The music breathed steps to me and I listened. I danced like no one was watching, because no one was.
My parents had thrown big pool parties back then with lots of activity and drunkenness. They were great fun. After dinner, my mother might lightly encourage me to perform a dance. I was painfully shy, but I was taking lessons, so sometimes I gave it a go.
I might perform for a few moments, looking down at the floor, horrified with all the smiling, googly-eyes on me and the expectation to entertain my drunken audience. I knew my mother would be happy with anything I did. Still, so serious, I would make a feeble attempt and run away. The girl who had once danced with not a care in the world was nowhere.
My childhood dream to dance the Arabian role in The Nutcracker became a reality, marked by tears; I cried before and after the performance because my shoes were too tight and I was too young to know better. My poor prince. He didn’t know what to make of it all.
In college, I danced and I wrote. I was an English major, taking all the technique classes for dance majors. I had the load of a double major, easily. In one modern dance class, we were graced with the presence of a teacher who had been a former dancer with the renowned José Limón Dance Company. We all wanted to impress her. One day, she stopped the pianist and told all the dancers in the room to take their hair down. Astonished, we complied willingly; taking out our ponies, our pins, and our bobbies.
“Try it again,” she said, motioning us to dance the combination across the floor.
You might think it was a moment of bliss, a group of serious dancers in a very serious class asked to dance with their hair down. Not so. Perhaps because I felt it should be this magical moment that I should let loose and dance like the wind, I felt caught instead: first, by my hair in my face and my worry that I might run into a fellow, untamed dancer; second, that I should feel so moved by the permission to be free that my steps would now be executed to my teacher’s satisfaction.
After going across the floor again and again, the energy in the room changed. Sure, we still tried to dance the steps, but a strange thing happened.
Letting our hair down wasn’t an invitation to wildness as it turned out. I found myself turning inward, and I felt all the energy in the room becoming more internalized. We weren’t dancing for her anymore; we were dancing for ourselves. We were still dancing her steps. The difference was exploring what those steps meant.
I asked myself what did I have to say with those steps and why should anyone care? How could I make those steps translate what I felt, because if they didn’t mean anything to me, they sure as hell wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else.
I needed to find the little girl underneath, tapping to her heart’s delight in the foyer to that enchanted music not heard since. Where is she? How can I find her? She was buried deep under layers of indecision, doubt, bad decisions, insecurity, and criticism.
Dancers’ steps are more than a strand of movements committed to muscle memory. Their bodies respond to music. Steps flow through them so that they don’t look like steps anymore, and they’re not. Their movement comes from a deeper place, from a reservoir of time and patience, of knowing their limits and how far they can fly; it’s a combination of concentration and abandon, of technical finesse blended with emotional physicality. It’s what I strove for, but was lucky to feel at all.
Watching an accomplished dancer is a glorious thing. If you’ve never done it, I highly recommend it. It is artistic expression beyond oneself; it touches an audience’s sensibilities and resides in their minds to be recalled long after the experience is over.
Answers you seek, the purpose for your steps, they must come from within. Living with myself all these years has taught me to accept my shortcomings, and I’ve learned I have something to give. That inner child once buried deep is not so deep anymore. She sits beside me now and reminds me she’s still here. The invitation to dance is always open.
When I read these two posts, which I’m about to share, it reminded me of a college roommate who said to me, “You’re perfect right now.”
I laughed at him, and then I scowled, “No, I’m not. Why would you say such a thing? Certainly, I’m flawed.”
“Yes,” he said, “but it is your flaws which make you perfect, Amy. You are perfect because you could be no one else.”
In the meantime, I was making plenty of mistakes, and my life was far from perfect. I had aspirations and dreams that needed fulfilling. I lived in a closet, for crying out loud. Yes, I did. I had six roommates, and it was the only way I could be alone. My little room had a skylight, and I could climb onto the roof and see the ocean. Okay, maybe that was a little slice of perfect.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and I was in turmoil when my son’s book report was not going according to plan. His report on an animal, to be done in the shape of the animal he chose to write about (really?) and include hand drawn illustrations, was a disaster! The printer cut off his words and the space was too small for his illustrations.
My son took one look at it and said, “Oh, we just cross the words out, and rewrite it above in pencil, and there’s plenty of room for pictures.” Whew! I know this a little pathetic here on my part. This was really about me and what I expected, and had nothing to do with his reality whatsoever.
I’ll admit that I am an idealist. This sometimes gets me into trouble. As I read these posts, I think about how I’ve slowly been shedding the need for the ideal. I’ve realized that the idea of the perfect situation is typically only what you see and value in your limited perspective. It may not be the best situation for you in your present circumstances at all, especially when it may not take into consideration the lives of people around you.
It doesn’t matter anyway, because that perfect situation that you have so clearly envisioned in your mind usually is not the one that you are in. For me, it’s about finding peace within yourself, and then you can handle life’s curve balls thrown at you.
Without further ado, I really enjoyed the wisdom of these bloggers on the topic of perfection. I thought these posts complemented each other so well, I couldn’t resist putting them together. Ladies, I hope you don’t mind!