Originally published Mar 9, 2016 ElephantWords.co.uk
I reach to hold the position with the grace and balance expected of me. I hold my breath and release as instructed. Somewhere offstage I’m being conducted. The voice, barely audible and distant, lets me know we are about to begin. Breathe. I’ve been instructed to breathe. Breathe. My breath and heartbeat become more rapid and labored for no reason. It’s as if I’m about to be thrown to the lions. I’m filled with anxiety but for what reason?
I’m safe. This is safe. So many have come before me; it’s safe. It’s what I will learn about myself that is most terrifying. The outcome may not be what I’m expecting. My worst fears might be true. Do I even know what my worst fears are? On the inside, I may not have the luster and resilience that I still have on the outside. I’ve done this dance a dozen times. I will be fine.
Every muscle is still engaged in preparation. This position must be held. I can feel the muscles of my back at their point of insertion. There is a gentle pulling. The tension builds down my legs which are shaking gently. There is a pain building in my foot while I hold this pose. Because he’s watching. Because I’m afraid if I move, he’ll make me do this again. If I move, this might never end for me. I want the dance to be done.
And then the music begins. It’s soft but jarring at first. A circular wave of chugs and jolts: modern, rhythmic, train like, and then machinery? Perhaps it’s bullets? The sound is uncomfortable. It’s too loud and quite unnatural. My anxiety increases as the music continues. How can I be expected to remain calm and still to this accompaniment? He doesn’t know me at all. I feel at any moment that I might snap in half from tension. Or perhaps my insides will be pulled out of me. That’s it, I will somehow be inside out of myself.
Somewhere deep inside of me, a fear and pain well up. It’s too much. I can’t hide what’s inside of me but it’s more important that the emotion doesn’t show on my face. One false move and I will have to start all over because he’s watching. He’s documenting, frame-by-frame, slice-by-slice. The truth will be captured in every frame. I can’t hide from film. Every imperfection, every false move will show. That’s too much pressure. I am not still enough, graceful enough, or strong enough for film.
But that is why I’m here. To find out why. So that they can rebuild me. Or perhaps, so that someone can finally tell me I can’t be rebuilt. That’s why we do this dance. Someone has to look inside me and find the parts of me I can’t see. That’s why I have CTs, X-rays, MRIs.
The music stops.