I heard the notes from the cassette tape scratchily flowing through the old speakers in the room and I know one of the most unforgettable moments in my young life was about to begin.
One. Two. Three. I took three deep breaths and made halting steps towards the center of the makeshift stage. At the first few seconds of the music my legs felt like they were tied down with lead weights but as the the crescendo started to build up I closed my eyes, then I twirled, jumped, pirouetted and lifted my legs straight as an arrow to the lilting music of Swan Lake.
As a gangly thirteen year old, I wondered what special talent I could present to our class when our teacher announced we'll have a 'Talent Day'. I couldn't do magic. I've always been out of tune hence I couldn't carry a note even if my life depends on it. But one thing I have always had was rythm in my body. Give me a tune... any tune and my body moves to it. And if there's something nobody in our class of mostly boys would ever think of it is to dance ballet.
It took me a couple of weeks of practicing in secret - in the room I share with my brothers (when none of them are around), in the bathroom and in the vacant lot behind the church. Doing the routine was easy. It just came naturally to me. I imagined myself as Nureyev with my imaginary Fonteyn or Baryshnikov in the Nutcracker. I have also committed to memory that part in Swan Lake when the prince was dancing with the White Swan.
When that moment came when I danced to Tschaikovsky's music coming from the ancient speakers, time simply stopped. I was in my own world. Everything around me just vanished and I was left alone, floating and dancing in my own world.
Elaine, one of our few female classmates and whose voice nobody hardly knows for she hardly talked to anyone, came to me. She smiled and I smiled back. She asked, in her tiny, mousy voice, "Was it good?" Wiping a sweat from my brow and turning my head towards the room where all our classmates and teachers were sitting silently still mesmerized at what happened, I turned back to her and answered, "Yes. It was great."