Returns

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A return to ballet classes means also: a return to hand-washing. Muscle memories and plain old memories.

When I was fourteen I took my first ballet intensive, which meant not enough leotards to make it through to the weekend load of laundry, especially with the sweating of a second-story ballet studio in the Castro with minimal ventilation, at mid-day, in mid-summer…

My mom showed me how to plug our little porcelain bathroom sink, drizzle a little Woolite in, fill it with warm water and swirl my leotard and tights around. Swirl, swirl, let them sit. Rinse, wring, and she’d tell me about hand-washing in Greece when she was a student abroad without a washing machine, how she and her roommate would fill every available vessel in the apartment on their designated day, including the otherwise useless-to-them bidet; how hard it was to wring their jeans out, how the lines of drying clothes filled the apartment (or did I imagine the last part?). Lay the garments out flat on a towel, roll it up lengthwise, twist and coil it up to wring out even more moisture, and let it sit for five minutes before hanging them up to dry overnight.

I acquired more leotards, and class decreased from six to four days a week during the school year. Hand-washing remained the summer evening ritual, and is locked away in the same part of my brain as the late sunsets, hot afternoons on public transit home fading into western San Francisco fog, and the Brahms CD I carried around in my Discman.

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