It’s a difficult technique to learn. It’s physically brutal and there is no room for slouches. I was up to all these challenges. I was learning something new every day. I was on my way. At one time in my life I had fantasized about being a nun, and this was the closest I was ever going to get to convent life. But I wanted to meet the mother superior, the woman responsible for all this. I had heard that she was in the building a lot and that she sat in on classes from time to time. I don’t know if she was checking up on the teaching staff or scouting for talent. but she never came into any of my classes. I guess she hadn’t been made aware of my potential. In any case, she stayed pretty hidden. I had heard she was vain about growing old. Maybe she was really busy, or really shy, or both. But her presence was always felt, which only added to her mystique and to my longing to meet her. I knew she was still very active in the company, creating new works and resurrecting old ones, but she had a serious Garbo vibe about her and seemed like she really wanted to be left alone.
Not with me around, I was determined to run into her, and when I did I was gonna be fearless and nonchalant. I would befriend her and get her to confess all the secrets of her soul. I took too many classes and lingered too long afterward in the hallways. I found every excuse to go to the offices and chat with the administration. Then one day it happened. Of course, not when I expected it. I was us the middle of the 11:00 A.M. class. I had had too much coffee to drink and I needed to pee more than anything, so I violated the cardinal rule and left in the middle of class with my bladder at a bursting point. I heaved open the heavy door to the hallway, stepped outside the classroom, and there she was, right uin front of me, starring into my face. Okay, not exactly in front of me, but my appearance must have taken her by surprise: No one ever left the tomblike classrooms until classes were over!
She stopped dead in her tracks to see who the violator was. I was paralyzed. She was part Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. The rest of her was a cross between a Kabuki dancer and the nun I was obsessed with in the fifth grade. Sister Kathleen Thomas. In any case, I was overwhelmed, and all my plans to disarm her and win her over were swallowed up by my fear of a presence I’d never encountered before.
She didn’t say a word. She just looked at me with what I thought was interest but was probably only disapproval. Her hair was pulled back severely, displaying a pale face made up like a porcelain doll. Her chin jutted out wdh arrogance and her eyes were like shiny brown immovable marbles. She was small and big at the same time; I waited for words to come out of my mouth: I waited for daggers to fly out of her eyes. I ignored the aching my lower abdomen. I forgot that I had a big mouth and that I wasn’t afraid of anyone. This was my first true encounter with a goddess. A warrior. A survior. Someone not to be fucked with. Before I could clear my throat, she was gone. Flicking her long skirt with her arthritic hands, she disappeared into some secret room and closed the door. I was left shaking in my leotard, partically because I still had to go to the bathroom but mostly because I had encountered such an exquisite creature. I was truly dumbfounded.
Much has happened us my life since then. I have come in contact with some truly amazing human beings along the way, but nothing will diminish the memory of my first encounter with this woman – this life force. So while I ponder the dedication and discipline that is required to become anything great, whether it’s Martha Graham or Michael Jordan, while I muse over the discovery of how closely related to dancing basketball really is, while I wait for the All-Star Game to get started. I have to laugh out loud. Mike. Martha Graham. The NBA. Modern dance. Everything is connected. Don’t try to figure it out.
Inspiration is inspiration – go for yours.
© Harper’s Bazaar