Painted nails stare back at me. Candy apple red tells the story of my life. I am my nails, flashy and bold, fire burning on sand. I am remembering late nights in dark spaces under disco lights. I was a dancer then, moving supple flesh inside flames. We gyrated, flowed like water, rarely any slack tide between me and the dance.
I became rhythm, bringing magic to the night. Then, in time, to the still-young broadway stage where my craft burned inside me like fire. All were spellbound by the movement of the flames produced by twisting bodies that made love to sound. They stood. The encore vibrated deep down inside. Dance was breath, the life I thought would never end.
The years chipped away at my flesh, my youth wrestled to the ground by time. Fame mocked in hushed tones. It whispered to me on many lonely nights when money ran dry and canned hope was all that was left to sustain me. I ate hope in heaping spoons. Very little changed and my tears watered nothing.
I realized that the music stopped when my body lost memory of what it was like to be limber and free, sway and syncopate. Dementia in the bones. My soul remembers all too well what my body has forgotten.
The walls close in. I walk outside, cane in hand, to join the moon in its melancholy. The streetlights glow crimson against the black sky. I become uneasy with the streets that make of me an unwilling walker without a place in the world. Desperation has a strong foul smell.
I slip back inside to hide my nails from the women who might mistake me for sister. We are not sisters. They are not filled with fire, those women with their nails painted red. Dance was my sister, the fire that burned inside me; always there for me, grew up with me, kept me company in moments of despair. Dance…was my sister.
She died, and with her, my will to dream.
I painted my nails red tonight, to conjure ghosts that sway to the flicker of my candlelight. They dance for me, swing hips for me, to remind me of the past. I tried finally to dream again but all I see is an empty room with red nails littering the dance floor.
I am no longer my nails.