The Don Quixote Piece
Lucia the French girl had the quintessential ballet body. Long painfully thin arms. Long painfully toned legs. And petite. Petite enough that she could partner with any male dancer. And light. Light enough that any male dancer could lift her, could turn her easily. Off stage this body seemed fragile, breakable even. She was a tall pubescent girl, perhaps, a thirteen year old. But on stage you saw the maturity of it. The painful muscle tone of those legs was compacted with astonishing power and agility. The thinness of her build was a physical regimen incarnate, and excruciatingly flexible, and limitless in endurance.
When Lucia the French girl stood next to Jacob he felt ponderous and gross. When Lucia the French girl lifted a cigarette to her lips Jacob felt awkward and clumsy. When Lucia the French girl folded her legs before her to watch television he felt rigid and wooden. She was what the human form was meant to be, he often thought. She and Beth. She and Beth and all the dancers he knew. They were the human form shorn of all but its essentials. They were the human form and its essentials heightened and exaggerated to their perfect expression. They were as true as art, Jacob felt. Mysterious. He could not watch Beth undress without thinking this. He could not watch Lucia the French girl walk across a room without thinking this.
And so, as Lucia the French girl did now walk across the room, Jacob thought this. She had just passed through the entrance he could not see and into his field of vision. The door eased to a click behind her. Jacob watched Lucia move and thought these things. Jacob watched Lucia the French girl...
"...And yet she stayed unaware of his presence; of his working at the square wooden table before the bay window; of his gazing down across the wooden dining area, across the wooden living area, to her, to where she stood poised at center stage. She draped her coat over the sofa. She dropped her bag onto the sofa. She sat herself upon the sofa and untied her sneakers. She wiped at her shiny brow. She pulled her bag close to her then and unzipped it. She withdrew a pointe shoe. She fingered at a loose elastic band there and tossed the shoe onto the coffee table. She rose and moved toward the bathroom. She stepped down into the bathroom. He watched as she tripped on the light there. Then, through the mirror, he watched her pivot and open the shower valve. Then, through the mirror, he watched her tug over her head her t-shirt. Then, through the mirror, he watched her peal away her leotard..."
And "Would you want to lunch with me?" Lucia the French girl called. Jacob glanced up from the pounding of the keys. Lucia was sweaty still from morning rehearsal, resting still on the sofa below him, her coat draped over it, her bag next to her, a pink pointe shoe on the coffee table. She had interrupted him. But Jacob had heard her. A few minutes later Jacob was sitting across from Lucia at the dining area table. The table cloth there was peach.
"So what do you think?" he asked.
"Difficult," she said.
"Have enough time?"
"No, but I will accomplish it. Look, it is the parts with the corps that give me the difficulty. The solos and the pas de deux already I am able to execute. Grigor is an excellent partner."
Jacob nodded. Beth had often said the same thing. Jacob idly wondered where Beth was. He wondered this as he observed Lucia the French girl lean slightly over a plate of lettuce and tofu. Jacob knew this salad was all Lucia had eaten today. He knew it was all she would. She dashed a little pepper over it.
"Lucky you were already in shape, huh?"
"If not, I would not have come, you know. Beth would not have called me, you know. You know that. I do not go onto stage out of form."
Jacob did know this. Lucia continued, "But for some reason my sartorious is making knots."
"I am stretching it, but...maybe it would have been better to stay in studio for therapy, but, mother of god what a hunger I had. And already. Well, one week, no? One week and nothing more. What damage can one short week do. The money's nice. I need a shower."
And Jacob squinted.
"Where's Beth?" he asked suddenly.
"Oh." But he did not know why Beth would be at the studio. She would not be rehearsing. She would not be helping Lucia with choreography. She would not be being rubbed down in physical therapy. He did not pursue it.
"Jacob, do you think I'm pretty?"
Lucia the French girl continued munching, thoughtfully. After a moment she seemed to come to a decision.
"Jacob, are you able to help me with my sartorious? Beth says those hands of yours are as adept as any professional's."
Jacob's throat thickened. He said nothing.
Lucia the French girl said nothing.
Lucia the French girl finished her lettuce and tofu. She drank a glass of water. She carried her plate to the sink. And then, gliding liquidly to Jacob's side, she leaned in close to his ear, draping her arm over his shoulders. She smelled to him of pepper.
"Is it better on the sofa or on the bed," her sibilant whisper laughed. "I do not remember that Beth has mentioned this to me."
"Sofa," Jacob replied abruptly, though the bed was always better for the sartorious.
Jacob moved as if dead. He had not prepared himself for this. It was the shower he had feared. The mirror. He tried to remind himself that Lucia was a dancer. That dancers think of bodies differently. That they spend all of their time using their bodies and being touched and touching. So for her to make such a request was not necessarily the overture it might seem. But where are you, Beth, he asked himself. For the tightness in him was constricting his breath. And by the time Jacob stepped his three steps downward to the living area Lucia the French girl was already on her stomach on the sofa.
"It is the left one," she told him exhaustedly, parting her legs.
And Jacob knelt. And Jacob began kneading, kneading at the inside of Lucia the French girl's left thigh.
Lucia the French girl moaned with relief.