Friday, December 21, 2012

How Bill Broke His Knee

Bill had been a fine dancer, not a great one. He had married young and had a ten year-old boy who told his schoolfriends that his dad worked in an office. Bill and the kid's mother had split up some years ago, but while they were together he had refused to tour, or to take work abroad. His career had stalled as a result, and he'd done some admin work to pay the bills, mindless, soulless stuff at first, until he found an agency which specialised in third sector placements. He took longer contracts. He stopped taking classes. He lost fitness and poise, but gained an understanding of how to run a successful non-profit, and found his way back to dance.

The company made a little money from touring, more from corporate sponsorship, a steady income from classes and studio hire, sporadic lottery grants, workshops, DVDs, advertising work, pop videos and theatre concessions. Bill managed this money as prudently as the artistic director would allow. He gently pruned the administrative staff, but retained an assistant. He gave himself a pay rise and began to take classes again. Towelling down after a class he would look at the studio mirror, a slimmer, looser version of himself looking back as each week passed, and say to himself “It's not a comeback.” He joined a gym, swam three mornings a week, weights in the evening.

Bill broke his knee irreparably in Barcelona. It was late October, a few days before his thirty-sixth birthday. He didn't break his knee carrying two suitcases down the aeroplane steps, greasy with warm rain and the smell of kerosene. He didn't break his knee falling off a rented bicycle, though his pride, and the civic litter facility he had hoped and failed to avoid, were both dented. He sustained no injury playing football on the wet sand of Barceloneta beach and survived unscathed the sudden full stop of an escalator in an out-of-town shopping mall. The direct cause of the ligament damage which would end his unvoiced hopes of a return to the stage was not the stunt he pulled to impress the young female assistant he had brought along on this tour, executing a triple pirouette on the arced surface of a giant cannonball in the Placa Reial. Although it is possible, likely even, that it was this whirling motion that caught the attention of the year old Newfoundland which, slipping its leash, barrelled into Bill's legs in between him hopping off the cannonball and landing. Crushed, Bill lay on the cool paving of the square. Nausea came and went in waves, but the pain was constant. Everything lost. “Fucking dog,” he thought, his eyes full of tears.

No comments: