On a platform, I dance. I float. I am a fog hung at the edge of a humid, undulating surface, a sea of bodies. Immense walls of cement rise around us. Their stillness whispers of the solid ground and I tune into the floor and my feet and my bones. I feel the vibration of the bass in each toe, and the lightness of my fog existence is reiterated. I scan my body upward, past hips which are tracing figure eights with a mind all their own, through a flexed tribe of abdominal muscles, before I punctuate my attention at my collarbones. Two arrows quiver with expectancy, pulled back in a double bow. They yearn to be shot in opposite directions. But not quite opposite directions. My left clavicle is aimed northward. And the fabric which hangs off my shoulders consequently slips toward the right side of my body. I sense the movement, a reminder, a hissing, “you are uneven”. My mantle slides like a glacier over shoulder-land and my breast is eventually exposed.
I am eleven years old, waiting in line for the nurse to examine me. It is the beginning of the school year. It is the end of a summer’s exploration alongside Nikki. This autumn, like every autumn, we have been placed in different classes. This autumn, like every autumn, I am without my ally. I wait behind and in front of kids, their faces all the same, their faces all strange. They seem far away from me, as if I am at the end of a tunnel. My palms and armpits are saturated with an odorless perspiration that is cold and moist. I turn to my left, toward the sun, the window. I look to the parking lot and beyond to the playing fields and beyond to the edge of the woods.
Black birds rise and fall together, in and out of a concealed realm of treetops.
I move back through the window, return to the hallway, the line. Two more kids until... Until I must pull my shirt up and lean forward. Until the nurse will drag fingers down either side of my spine and use a metal tool to measure the width of each flanking muscle group. Until she will announce to me, and on a piece of paper to my parents, “Scoliosis: a three-dimensional “S” curved deviation in the axis of the spine.” Scoliosis sounds ugly. I become caught in the net of this definition.
If I were a bird, would my bird wings attached to my bird spine be able to lift my bird body? Would I be able to rise and fall with the others, swift and agile, in and out of the treetops?
My right shoulder swings like a pendulum, front to back. It winds up the braid of pain alongside my spine, my incessant thorned companion. The muscles pucker and my mind follows, both entrapped. I roll my left shoulder up, back and down. Like a carpenter's level, the mantle I have swen is a tool. Intentionally yet obscurely I summon the fabric into a symmetrical form. When it hangs free from my torso and sways but does not shift, I am even. My spine stacks itself tall, strong, aspiring to hold straight like the immense walls of cement. And like those solid walls I vibrate with the depths of the tones which are thrust at me from six massive speakers. My toes curl and again I am an undulating fog. I am a drifting bird.