The Perfect Dance

I once moved across the country because of a girl on a train in the Boston subway. I was doing what I usually did on my way inbound to the city, which is read a book, sitting at the end of a row with the train door behind me and just to my right. And so I didn't notice her at first, only her ballet shoes, which she was ruining by wearing home (I assumed) from dance class. She had curly red hair held back by a headband. She stood facing the doors, preoccupied, a city person not looking for interaction, and I sat looking at the frayed shoes on her feet. The train was just full enough that not everyone could sit. The book I was reading was House of Leaves.

That's when the magic happened. The train was approaching Harvard Square, and as it did so this girl, this crazy shoe destroying girl, shuffled her feet a little on the floor. She went en pointe--did anyone else notice? Maybe not. They were so preoccupied themselves, and she was only about 5'3" to begin with, not tall even on her toes--and she leaned sideways, away from me, supporting herself with one hand on a railing. Her feet were turned out, her toes touching each other. She held her head up, concentrating. The train slowed and then stopped, with a little jolt of deceleration that threw her away from the rail and left her--falling?--no, balanced perfectly, a tiny smile on her face, her body tense. She turned her hands outward a little, presenting this thing to herself, and then was motionless--a vertical line of a girl to whom the train and her body were the same, were mathematics, were the perfect dance. I still can see her standing that way as the doors opened in front of her, the people behind her crowding restively, wanting her to move, wanting to leave the train.

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