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Zoe H.

United States

The Things They Carried, Gracefully

May 5, 2016

One of them carries a strange contraption, made of wood and elastic. It looks like a medieval torture device to the untrained eye, but is actually designed to stretch a foot into the most appealing line possible. Another one carries leg warmers, fished from the lost and found bin that no one ever checks. They carry unfinished homework, hoping they can escape for fifteen minutes to the back of the dark theater and study for that big test.
One carries her body, heavily, the one thing she knows is holding her back.
They all carry scars, visible and invisible. The blisters and bruises on their feet are battle wounds, hidden from the audience by pink satin and smiles. They remember every critique they've ever gotten. They remember the people who told them they wouldn't make it. They keep smiling.
They carry aches and pains, too young to shoulder that kind of burden, but doing it willingly for the thing they love. They wince as they roll ankles and pop hips, as tendons snap into place and bone rubs against bone, as their muscles come alive and old injuries reappear with them. 
"The human body isn't meant for this," they kid. Sometimes, it sounds a little less like joking.
Sometimes they feel like giving up. Some of them already have. They know only a few will make it. They know the odds are against them. They still smile and laugh as they carry the barres away from the wall.
They all carry heavy bags, stuffed to the brim, and water bottles. They carry shoes and super glue to make them last longer. They carry ibuprofen and acetaminophen and they know exactly when to use each one. They know rest, ice, compression, elevation. Avoid the doctor if you can, they don't know how much you can handle. 
They carry dreams and hopes and the stars in their eyes, talent and hard work, and red lipstick, of course. They carry things far too heavy, but they make it look easy. Stand tall, shoulders back, chin up, and breathe. They always remember this. They've always known how to carry heavy things with grace.

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