The sun softly simmers my skin through the window. The heat prompts me into consciousness. The sounds of my city monopolize my senses. The fog swallowing my brain subsides.
I think of butterflies. Monarchs. Morphos. Swallowtails.
What does it mean to be defined by your potential? To be plagued by the expectation that you will grow into something beautiful.
Caterpillars. I think of that soft, fleshy, infantile state. Not beautiful, no. But blessed with purpose. Each creature ordained a destiny.
They just follow their instincts.They are alive with the hope they will soon transcend into another state.
A new reality better than anything they have ever known.
I think of the day ahead. I dread leaving my little cocoon. My little slice of New York City. The safety of my sheets. The certainty of the pillow cradling my head. I sigh. Plant my feet on the floor.
My eyes are adjusting to the light around me. My hair protrudes from the bun I slept in. I am not beautiful, no. But maybe I have a destiny too.
I wrote that poem in my bedroom as the sunshine stirred me into cognition. I was dreading the monotonous nature of my routine, but for some reason that day felt different. I kept thinking of butterflies, caterpillars, and cocoons. I was transfixed by the idea of transformation and evolution. The poetry of a journey, my journey. I thought about how I used to dread going to dance class everyday. Comments about how my face would be my saving grace in an audition, or how in order to get a job I would need to wear shoes to cover up my flat feet, echoed in my head. I used to dread looking in the mirror, wondering how the facets of my physicality could be so offensive, so inherently wrong. Dance was a shadow shunned to the darkest corners of my consciousness. I relegated the electricity, the heat, the alchemy of sweat, and tears, and muscle aches to the shadowy depths of my brain. I was alive with the fear of becoming present, cognizant of my velocity hurdling through space; I thought I would combust. Dance was my saving grace, my secret, and my shame.
Then the pandemic happened and the world seemed a little less real. The fever of moving morphed into a gentle warmth. The soft breeze would kiss my cheeks as I traversed my way through pliés and tendús on my Nana’s porch. On the days that I couldn’t eat, or sleep, or drink, or even bathe myself, I found myself reaching for the soft lilt of the piano and the sweetness of the afternoon zephyr. The entity that had tortured me for so long, reconfigured into a sort of tonic. The pink tights, and pink shoes, and white walls, dissolved until I felt the essence of myself seeping from my skin. I was witnessing the manifestation of my voice, a commemoration of the limbs that I tried to hide for so long. In losing control, I regained my power. In losing my identity, I found my truest self.
Then we came back into the studio. I tugged the pink nylon over my brown skin and let the luminescence of my screen muddle my vision. I swallowed myself, retreated into my murky corners, let my mind go blank so that I would not have to feel the abjuring. I had lost the breeze, and the sweetness, and the softness. So on that day, in my bedroom, before I could will myself to slip on the spandex and brush my curls into submission; I allowed myself to be awestruck by the idea of destiny.
I think of that girl who arrived in New York City, restless and eager. Drunk with thoughts of the stage, and the sparkling lights of the Manhattan bridge, and the Jamaican patties from the Bodega on 118th. I think of the fairies, princesses, temptresses, sapphires, and jezebels, I have become at the ballet barre. Women incepted from the burning in my chest, flowing from the sinews of my body, exuding from my flesh. I think of the Mammies, the chorus girls, the nondescript mahogany figures flashing through Harlem before my time, thinking of the stage, and the lights on the bridge, and the Jamaican patties on 118th. I think of their blood coursing through my veins, willing me to make shapes. I think of the people that gave their voice, shared their time, and bestowed me with their knowledge. I am humbled and filled with an ache in my chest so vigorous it takes my breath away.
The zenith, is a distill point above a particular location in the celestial sphere. It is the highest extremity, the coalescence of the spiritual and the physical. I used to think of the zenith as fixed, but now I am starting to believe that it is fluid. It oscillates like water, sticks to the skin like chiffon, it molds itself into an embodiment of your reality. In this fluidity I find hope. Hope for the little brown girls wanting to be ballerinas, hope for the college kids lugging their coffee in one hand and sanity in the other, hope for my professors who gave little slices of themselves to their students every week, hope for the vessel that found a song in the breeze and salvation in her limbs. My eyes are adjusting to the light around me, and perhaps, I have a destiny too.