New York Hearts

Kyle Hemmings

Behind the fading pulse of day, Zin is not dying. And although wounded by a thousand loves, she can still perform a petit saut while thirsty. Or “spot” on her own demand, execute near flawless rotations of the head, fingers forming exquisite egg shapes, or almost touching hips, the not quite blonde hair pulled taut. Her Spanish “fourth position” is untenable.

When a relationship ends, she multiplies in mirrors, leaves fresh blood streaks. She’s in love with a gay dancer named Lev. Between rehearsals, in hushed conversations when he stumbles on long words, mutters fragments of his childhood, his eyes drift and turn star-ward. She can see herself as incredibly small and dancing inside his eyes.

At the tail of a crowd jaywalking to dusk, Zin shuffles or sidesteps, imagines herself as the perfect lead for Firebird. Who, in this crowd of scherzo-disbelievers, she wonders, can catch her?

She shares an East Village apartment with an older woman who collects ceramic birds from Sunday flea markets. The birds are remarkable in their stony silence, the way they can pierce the eye of a broken room. The woman has a thick accent and her country no longer exists. But at the apartment, her chipped birds stay loyal.

After three subway transfers, after performing warm-ups with girls who remind her of mechanical dolls with thin lips and glassy eyes, after fasting so she can be nothing but soft bone and air, Zin messes up a demi plie. She has flunked the audition.

In an abandoned tenement on Avenue A, five stories up. she stands before a window, shattered god knows how long ago. How easy to dive without a partner. Or she can become limp, stay apathetic forever. Instead, she picks up a glass shard and considers it running it deep into the underside of a wrist. A pink pattern of scar tissue is already there to guide her. It reminds her of a zipper. How easy it would be to bleed out or become sucked in. The body as a collapsible theater of glisten and glide, of last great works. For the self only. But then a rustle of wings, a soar from rooftops, a flutter and scrape. Who can this be? The reflection of a bird in its solo flight, its angle of free-form, distracts her. She won’t die today. Each life will get a second act. Even if it means yesterday’s tea bags and toast crumbs for breakfast. At home, her roommate’s silent birds are multiplying.


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