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On Pointe: Stiletto

by Marie Lecrivain

Late that night, Mary B turns off the TV and prepares for bed. Her eyes ache from weeping over the tragic, resolute expression Vivien Leigh wore before she stepped off the curb into the path of an oncoming truck in the film Waterloo Bridge. She collects the scattered tissues on her bed, presses them into a ball, and tosses it into the waste bin. She slugs down the last of her third glass of Merlot, and then places the wineglass back on her night stand. Her kitten Crabcake settles at the foot of the bed and begins to knead her favorite spot. Mary B turns, slides underneath the comforter, pats Crabcake on the head, and turns out the light.

As Mary B drifts off to sleep, her feet shift back and forth, getting ready. Mary B smiles a sleepy smile. This is a sign that she will dream a vivid colorful dream in which her astral feet dance, twirl her around, and vault her into situations and scenarios she desperately yearns for in real life.

Mary B turns over and curls into a fetal position. Her feet begin to relax; the tendons cease their constricting protests, and the tarsal bones lighten as the burden of sleep is laid over them.

In the dream, Mary B opens her eyes. The sky is heavy with full-bellied gray clouds that are swollen with rain. Pewter-coloured passers-by rush back and forth dressed in dark clothing and carrying umbrellas.

Mary B’s dreams are usually so saturated in 1960’s Technicolor that she wakes up with a headache. In this dream, the tonal values echo those of the 1940’s movie Waterloo Bridge. As she looks down, she sees that she is wearing a pair of black stiletto pumps — her favorite kind with the carved Italian triangular heel.

Mary B is aware — though it’s just a dream — that this kind of shoe won’t make an appearance for another fifty years. She bends down and removes her stiletto from her left foot. Taking the shoe carefully in her hand, she inhales the fresh smell of hand-stitched leather, and rubs her cheek against the fluid curve of the instep.

She dons the shoe, and takes a few steps forward. With a higher center of gravity, Mary B’s hips and calves sway back and forth as they assume an impudent pose. Best of all, her feet have accepted the stilettos; gratefully they assume the shape and shift of the shoes with no painful protests.

Mary B scrutinizes her surroundings. She is walking up to the crest of a bridge... Waterloo Bridge, to be exact. At the apex she can see Myra, who is dressed in a white ballet gown and matching slippers embracing a tall, dark-haired gentleman. Myra’s back is turned to Mary B, but Mary B can discern the tremble in her shoulders, as well as the tension in her slight, beautiful frame. As the embrace concludes, the tall man tries to take Myra’s hand, but she ducks away and runs down the incline. She ignores his cries, “Come back! Please come back!”

Mary B knows this is not how the story is supposed to end. She rushes toward Myra, who now stands on pointe contemplating a view of the Thames.

“Myra,” Mary B cries out, “Wait!”

Myra turns in the direction of Mary B’s voice and smiles; a brief illuminating flash that transforms her sad, worn out expression. For a moment, she is the maiden she used to be.

Mary B finally reaches Myra. “No, wait for him. He loves you. See,” Mary B gestures past Myra’s head. “He’s coming for you.”

Myra shakes her head. “It’s too late,” Myra murmurs. “I am nothing now.”

“I know what you are going to do,” Mary B says, stretching out her hand to touch Myra’s slender arm. Myra ignores the gesture.

Myra bows her head, her dark eyes filling with tears. As the tears spill out of her eyes and down her face, they stain the skirts of her ballet gown. The wet patches sprout tendrils that deepen in color from a shadowy gray to a stygian black.

Myra bends down gracefully. Mary B can see that Myra is unlacing her ballet slippers, and before she can say anything, Myra has placed them into Mary B’s outstretched hand.

“Please,” Myra says, “Give me back my shoes.”

All of a sudden, Mary B’s feet start to throb with pain. This is the first time it has happened in her dreams. The familiar excruciating onslaught travels through Mary B so fast that she falls backward and onto her tail bone. Her feet — three metaphorical steps ahead — desperately move up and down to shake free of the confines of the stilettos, as they clatter to the pavement: first one, then the other.

Myra bends down to pick up the stilettos. She puts them one, one after the other. At first Myra wobbles a bit, but then she finds her balance quickly by straightening her shoulders — a move not difficult at all for a former ballerina. Once righted, she smiles at Mary B for the last time and steps off the curb...

Mary B closes her eyes, and clenches her fists around Myra’s ballet slippers. A sudden screech of tires, the sickening thud of metal impacting flesh, and the acrid smell of burning rubber fills her nostrils while the screams of onlookers pierce her ears. Her feet throb in time to the cacophony of sound...

Jolting up in bed, Mary B awakens to her heart pounding, head swimming, and feet throbbing. Crabcake peers from her perch and offers a concerned “meow.”

Mary B turns on the bedside light. Her eyes are stinging with unshed tears.

Her feet tighten again, even the toes curl up.

Sighing, Mary B turns on the TV. Near dawn, she falls asleep to the staccato sounds of Gene Kelley dancing and singing in the rain.

Copyright © 2006 by Marie Lecrivain

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