By Robert Barham

June 14, 2021


She dances beside the highway each morning. You’re driving your son to school, in thick traffic with lights to make, when you notice her across a stretch of construction and broken streets. Bearing marks of itinerancy and sleeping rough, she reaches the center of an empty lot, and it begins: a dancer’s poise with sure cadence and confident, inevitable steps. She turns and turns, and her ragged oversized clothes are wings. It’s the incongruity that catches your eye. With alchemy of gesture and tempo, muscle and bone, she rises in ecstatic rhythm. The traffic doesn’t stop, doesn’t even slow. You wonder what she sees when she closes her eyes to dance, what fierce meter guides her movement, what strange god prompts these dervish prayers. For mornings on end, you witness her ritual. Then one day she’s gone. That morning, a Thursday, the lot stays vacant, and she is nowhere to be seen. You scan the sidewalks and downtown backdrop, and then drive on with the rest of the cars. Days later you don’t look, not even a glance, at the space she filled with extravagant, ceremonial grace.

Your three-year-old daughter calls her to mind again. “Watch me dance,” she says, moving to her own rhythms across the kitchen floor. “See, I’m a ballerina.” You think of the highway dancer, where the rhythms have taken her, and where they might end. You hope that she has someone’s attention, God’s at least, and that she dances still.


Picture by Tim Gouw courtesy of Pexels


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