Christina carries the same duffle bag to every rehearsal: deep purple, monogrammed, a slight tear at the base of the strap. It hangs heavy on her legs. The canvas material grates against the protruding bones in her kneecaps as she sits on the subway, carefully counting the stops.
The bag and its contents are familiar: bobby pins and hairspray to correct rebellious strands that fall from her bun during the section of fouette turns in Act Two. Pink ribbon for her pointe shoes and a green lighter from CVS to burn the edges. A mini sewing kit, in case they fray anyway. Extra needles. A pack of Marlboro Menthols; six left. Vitamin water. Q-tips and cotton balls. Three king-size Snickers and a travel toothbrush. Mouth wash and make-up wipes. Leg warmers. Pepper spray. Red lipstick.
She balances the duffle on her lap as the subway sucks her through the city, from the Bronx up to Broadway, to the strip of big-name dance centers. She pictures those clear tubes from Willy Wonka that transport the silken chocolate and the greedy child, Augustus. His fat, hideous and bountiful, suctioned to the edges of the plastic tube. Christina rolls her shoulders back and forth, shakes the image from her mind.
Even on the subway, she carries her posture, her composure. She carries herself with grace. She lifts her chin, straightens her spine until she can’t feel the folds of her stomach. Until she is nothing but a flat plane.
She holds her breath until the next stop.
SAMANTHA BALDASSARI is currently pursuing a graduate degree in English at Penn State. Her work appears in Thought Catalog, MOGUL, and Literally Stories. She has work forthcoming in Eunoia Review.
She can be found on Twitter @sambaldassari