I find it's good for morale to get out of the house at least once a day. When you work from home on small projects that interest only yourself and a small band of other oddballs with whom you communicate mainly by text, it can get lonely. Lonely isn't the most familiar feeling to me. Usually the more alone I can be the better. But when I realize I've gotten to the end of another day without seeing another face or talking to anyone but myself, I do feel oddly unmoored, that old feeling of being separated from the world by a pane of thick glass.
So I make up reasons to go out. I seek out errands. The printer needs ink! Fantastic! Bikes away. Sometimes there are no errands. I still go out, to one of the handful of little cafes in the neighborhood. I sit and drink coffee and do the crossword puzzle. No one has to talk to me, I just like knowing there are other people around. I like it when the waitress comes by and asks if I want more coffee and I say yes, please, or no thanks, and she says, sure thing sweetie, OK honey, take care now.
Back when I was dancing, I saw plenty of people. And plenty of people saw me. I always had nice nails and got my eyebrows waxed once a week and my hair cut once a month. I dressed like it mattered how I looked, and that was an interesting discipline for me. Before that I'd worn the same uniform every day since freshman year of college: wife-beater undershirt, jeans, belt, and a sweater if it was cold. It's a style into which I am woefully prone to relapse. I'm already slipping comfortably into the role of local eccentric -- mismatched socks and ripped jeans and my hair in my face.
Poor hair. Hanging in my eyes in those little wisps my mom always said made me look "like a beggar." Brittle and breaking at the ends like a cheap wig. I bleached it too many times, stripping it to bring out the red. It looks brassy in the sun, yes, and cheap, and all the bad things they say about bleached red hair. But in the dark club under the pink and blue lights it was the red like a beacon that had men coming up to the stage -- certain men with their fists full of bills, fives and tens, not ones, whispering, "Are you a real redhead?"
And the answer was yes. The answer wasn't, "sort of". Sort of a redhead. Not as red as my mother, of course, not that wild carrot color, that unbelievable almost pink, but then I don't have her ice-gray eyes either. My eyes are darker and the red in my hair is darker, too. It hides under the nut brown and the copper and the mahogany. You'd have to take me outside and stand me in the sun and turn my hair over in your hand, and then you would see it, yes, red, like rubies and like fire.
But that wasn't the answer. The answer was "yes." Yes, I am a real redhead. And they would sigh -- I love redheads -- and it was couch time.
Before I started dancing, when I was only thinking about dancing, I worried more about my hair than anything else, more than I worried about the fact that I didn't know how to dance. My hair was short as a boy's, and I knew strippers didn't have short hair like boys. I danced in a wig until my own hair grew out to stripper-worthy lengths. I always thought when I was finished dancing I'd cut it all off. That's the way I thought when I was 22, 23, that my life would have lines in the sand like that. Long hair. Short hair. Dancing. Finished dancing. Real me. Stripper me. False self that I will wear like a shield and discard when I don't need it any more.
It hasn't worked out just like that. It turns out that your experiences make you, whether people are calling you by the name your parents gave you or by a name you gave yourself. I own it all, everything I ever did. The memories are mine. Not Grace's, but mine. It will never be finished. It will never be over, not while I'm alive. We don't finish things. There is no finishing.
I don't know if I'll dance again. I can't say. Till the day I lose my waistline or my teeth, I could always go back if I needed the money enough, or if I just felt like it. I don't know if I'll feel like it again. I know I don't feel like it now. At the moment, I want to be naked on a stage in a roomful strangers about as much as most people do, but that could change.
I've taken breaks before, often. I took my longest break after the car accident, when I broke my ribs and pelvis. I didn't dance for a year, and during that year I practiced yoga asana three hours a day and meditated every morning and every evening until the creator spoke to me through the lips of homeless people at the bus stop and I loved everyone in the world, including the most of the world that I had never met and never, ever would meet. That didn't last long after I started dancing again, but I hope I've kept a little of it. Nothing is finished.
I know when it's time to start dancing again because I dream about dancing. I dream about locker rooms, girls who are always kinder to me than dancers have time to be in real life. In the dreams there are bright lights and glamour, in the old sense of the word, too - glamour as something in your eyes so bright you cannot see. In the dreams it is a game. Put on the clothes, put on the shoes, and see who you turn into this time. There is fear, sometimes, but it is the fear of being at the top of a roller coaster, the fear you put on yourself for the pleasure of it. And there is the customer, the money, the blood-joy of the hunt.
I haven't dreamed about dancing since I stopped last spring. It could happen any night, but it hasn't happened yet. Instead I dream other things. I dream landscapes folding into other landscapes; I dream old friends back again, alive again; I dream colors ; I dream sex. I dream riddles I am still solving as I wake, clues fading in the light from the window in the morning.
Sometimes I do miss it. I miss the feeling of being beautiful that you mojo yourself into each night before you walk out on the floor. I miss the locker-room, the crudeness and the rawness of being back there, where anything goes and however crazy you feel you will never be the craziest one there. I miss the money. But I don't miss it enough. Not yet.
And if I forget what I look like, like I do forget, if I forget I have a body and a face, then the men at the corner remind me, like they did this morning as I biked past on my imaginary errands: Hey, mama, hey sexy, eh mami, you looking good, hey beautiful, you got a dollar?
Peace. Peace be with you.
And also with you.