She looked at me for the first time today.
Well, the first time I can remember; the first time our eyes would actually lock. Abyss staring into abyss amidst a sea of people. Curiosity meeting questions and some type of distaste. Still, I wouldn’t look away.
I had been waiting too long for this day. You might think I was obsessed with her and maybe I was, but the fact that she noticed me and her gaze didn’t immediately break away, that was enough for me. One of her friends, a tall girl with a flowing mane of artificial honey colored hair snapped two fingers in her face. She blinked wildly before turning her face away.
I leaned my back against the wall of lockers as preoccupied kids bustled past. Excited chatter, both English and Spanish, filled the halls as it was the end of the school day on a Friday. To my right lie the quad, where a group of guys with slicked back hair and an array of tattoos groped possessively at the waist of their girlfriends. The girls didn’t seem to mind though, they were, after all, in very capable hands.
Capable hands that claimed whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and how. With my head pressed against the wall behind me, staring still at Estelle, I hoped they wouldn’t take her, that they would just leave her alone. Because Estelle…Estelle was so much more than an easy grab, a succumbing silhouette.
One guy in particular, his black hair gelled into perfect spikes, stares into the hallway waiting for her to pass by. The only reason I know this is because me and him have locked gazes on several occasions. However, unlike me, when she passes by, he does not follow in step behind her, albeit at a safe and subtle distance.
It’s ironic that in the midst of all these people, the 5’2″ Latina is my beacon of light. She twists and turns past bodies that are bumping and shoving until she disappears behind a corner. I quickly make a left before the corner and find myself shrouded in darkness.
Once my eyes adjust I slide into the row of seats to my right and tuck myself into a seat. Alone in the auditorium, I’m surrounded by the sound of my own breathing and the racing of my heart. I don’t know why I get so nervous, I don’t know if it’s for her or for the fear that one day she may come in and actually notice me, but it’s a repetitive cycle, one I repeat every Friday afternoon and for some strange reason, I can’t stop coming back.
The auditorium begins to hum with life as lights are flicked on illuminating the stage. Estelle sits in the center, wrapping ribbon around her calves. A duffle bag sits to her right and from it she pulls a small speaker out, plugging her phone into it. Crouched in front of it she scrolls through titles until she finds one of her liking and with a nod of her head she stands.
Some slow and enticing song fills the room and Estelle rolls her head back, letting the music encompass the theater and her body all in one motion.
I wanna be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust
I wanna be your Ford Cortina; I will never rust
As the music swells and simmers Estelle makes her way around the stage: in pirouettes, en pointe. Her whole body sways with the rhythm as if she is lulled by her own personal lullaby. Pieces of her hair spill out from the bun she’s knotted at the nape of her neck, framing her face.
Her eyes are closed and I sit entranced, watching the way she bends. It is so languid, so effortless it is almost as if she is part of the music, some kind of instrument that moves at its will. Her body collapses in on itself as the song comes to a close, her chest rising and falling with breath. As she exhales, the room begins to freeze, almost as if it regrets the silence that comes from her stillness.
As if her knees have buckled, Estelle sinks to the floor. I begin to rise from my chair until I see the smile forming on her face. She is in bliss, purely content with whatever she just did. How often are ballerinas told they are not enough and here sits this Spanish beauty relishing in every bend, every twist and turn her body accomplished, both with arms and legs until she became entangled physically with the music.
And Lord only knows what comes over me then because the next thing I know, Estelle’s silent laughter and the stillness of the theater is startled by a resounding slap! Her head shoots up and her eyes try to discern some shape in the darkness that lies before her.
My heart drops and my eyes widen as I stare at my enclosed hands that lie in front of me.
Slap! Slap! Slap!
I’m paralyzed in my chair, staring down at Estelle as she begins to rise. Her eyes have found me now, camouflaged in the blackness. If it is at all possible, now would be the perfect time for me to sink into my seat. Our eyes lock for the second time today.
I wish she didn’t look at me for a second time that way.
I’ve ruined it. I know this now. From the moment I spotted her that random Friday afternoon, with tears sparkling her lashes as she passed me in the hallway, some part of her had a hold on me. I had followed her into the auditorium that day, one of the rare times she used the audience entrance. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, Estelle had already found her way to the stage, pushing herself up onto it and swinging her bookbag off in one motion. She pulled her wavy hair up into a messy knot and biting the sleeve of her sweatshirt, she pulled that over her head.
Her small and nimble fingers rummaged quickly through her backpack until she pulls out some type of gadget the size of a baseball. Pulling her phone from the pocket of her jeans, she plugs it into the small device and some instrumental begins, followed by the forlorn voice of some girl singing about rain on a lonely street and some boy who does not love her in return.
Kicking her shoes off, Estelle, the barefoot Contessa, parades about the stage on tiptoe, swaying her arms above her head, her wrists twirling in small circles. I realized I had dropped my backpack as I stand in the aisle way of the theater and watch her dance in some kind of warped and enthralling ballet.
But when the music stopped, I realized her face was streaked with tears. I remember that I did not know her name then and when I opened my mouth to say something, I was upset that I did not know the single most comforting syllable that she could hear in that moment. Yet, the most magical thing happened. In the silence, in the switching of some upbeat Bachata song playing from her phone, Estelle began to smile, to laugh. She wiped the tears off her face with the back of her hand and rose.
And when Estelle’s eyes locked on mine now, that same simple smile formed on her face. She rose from her position only to jump off the stage and make her way down the aisle toward the back, toward me.