Copyright is held by the author.
THE AUTOMATED doors slide shut. The train rumbles away, into a dark tunnel, travelling the bowels of the city.
A second before, a suited man stared through the glass pane at a woman and sly smile. They had just met. Trapped inside, she disappeared along with his hopes, of Harlequin romance, of adventure. Now, he stares, but into the worn, dirty tracks or across to the pale green walls and pillars of the station. Not at advertisements. Or people. But emptiness.
He lost love. A quickened beat and tingling heart. Blinked and she was gone; shut his eyes for a mere moment; an infinitesimal piece of time. A single speck of sand in an hourglass. That’s how long it took for an opportunity to slip away.
They flirted fleetingly. The encounter took place the distance it takes to travel between St. George and St. Patrick stations.
It was three measly stops.
Five desperate minutes.
He was standing in the middle of the cart. One hand grasping a hanging grip, briefcase in the other. He spotted her reading a book inconspicuously in the corner. But there was nothing inconspicuous about her. He could tell she was a Toronto girl: stilettos with pearls; gemstone ring and bracelets, chain around her neck; dark hair curled loosely onto sleek shoulders, her body fitted into a black dress that hugged her pert breasts, her yoga torso; down to naked, pastel thighs, one crossed over the other.
Catching his gaze, she strutted towards him, delicately, chicly. Like a model, but not quite; slender, yet spirited. She wasn’t to be ogled, but admired. The taps of stilettos, mesmerized.
She had dancer’s legs.
She scanned him up and down, with large shimmering brown eyes (chocolate coloured, he thought). She ran her hand along his silk, paisley tie before tugging it; his head jutted to the side of her oval face.
Her subtle breath on his ear; the pleasure rushing down his spine.
From her red lips came:
They made plans. Those fell in ruin; they failed to get off together.
The suited man remains in place, ensnared, by regret, with a hint self-loathing. He does not move until the next train arrives. To him, it takes forever to come.
The chase is on.
He boards with the hopes that she’ll be waiting for him at the next stop in the circuit, Osgoode Station. Now a minute becomes eternity. His heart, stopped; his limbs turned numb. What if she didn’t wait for him? What if she was just playing games? Does she even exist? Was it just his imagination? No. She must be real. It can’t be a delusion. Or can it? The possibilities pile up, like the constant stream of paperwork and files that bombards his desk at work day in and day out, over 80 hours a week. But he only wants one possibility to be true; the one paired with her tantalizing invitation.
Onto the platform. An anticipatory embrace fills him, accompanied by that tingling in his pants. He spies a homeless man, a few loitering teenagers. No dark-haired woman. No chocolate eyes. His worst fears are confirmed — she’s gone. With no better strategy than to continue his search, he leaves to the nearest exit, into a building.
He’s in the Four Seasons Centre. The foyer is swarming with visitors. If she’s in here, she could be anywhere. The beige décor extends all the way up; so too would his search. So many rooms and hideaways, it would be a waste of time. Then, he remembers. The book she was reading had a pair of pink ballet slippers on the cover. Attached to legs just like hers. Dancer’s legs. She must be here. Maybe, even, she’s a ballerina.
That must be it. She’s a ballerina. He’ll watch her performance; spot her on stage; find her at intermission when she comes out to get some air. He’ll impress her with flowers and lead her to the dark antechamber that comes before the seats on the Grand Ring. Push her against the wall (it will be consensual, of course) and have passionate, vivacious sex. That must be what she meant, what she wanted with those seductive words. He takes out his credit card; buys a ticket. Desire knows no bounds. He thanks himself for going to law school. Money comes in handy in times like these.
There’s two hours before the afternoon matinée. It’s Sunday. He was in Yorkville for a business brunch. He was on way his back to his condo down by the lakeshore. Before he chanced upon her.
That’s right. It was only by luck that he entered the Bay Station eastbound side instead of its westbound counterpart (it didn’t matter which way he took, he was headed to Union Station); only by luck that he was forced to move down the platform to avoid a crammed compartment when he transferred to the Young-University-Spadina line at the interchange.
It was a delicate string of fortuities: any slight delay or mishap could have severed the concatenation of events that resulted in the chance encounter with a luscious beauty. Then, wasn’t it also by chance that they were separated? But wait… or was it fate? Was it fate that brought them together? And then, mustn’t it be fate that tore them apart? Which was the right answer?
But he had ended up at the National Ballet. Out of all the paths to the surface, he took the one that led him to her.
It is decided (as it always is in love): it was fate that joined them; chance that temporarily broke them apart.
Back into the subway. The clattering of railcars. Haunting brakes echo in the underpass — just like her voice:
He can’t remove her from his thoughts. Her image, stamped on a stone tablet, evoked by experiencing her in action. She’s Plato’s Form of woman; she’s perfection wrapped in skin-tight fabric (she must be in her tights now, stretching out, contorting her body with rhythmic precision).
The fresh air of the sunny outside. Beads of sweat form; loose hairs of his brushed back bangs, sticking to his forehead. Blinded, he puts on his sunglasses. He’s a hot shot, a young gun: navy wool suit, matching brown leather belt and shoes, luxury watch. He’s at King and University. Walking to the Entertainment District. A spring in his step—a dangerous spring. Into a restaurant, he orders a bottle of champagne to go along with his meal, a lunch tasting menu: five courses, one hour. After, happily buzzed, he buys a dozen pink roses at a corner florist on his return trip.
A half-hour until the show. He takes his seat in R. Fraser Elliott Hall: far right, up front at the balcony. He peers out; light and wood décor. A blur of bodies; it is slowly filling in. He waits. On his smartphone, he peruses news sites. His attention focuses on a piece on how to be a feminist and not feel guilty about checking out women. In summary: don’t linger; let the thoughts stay thoughts, but don’t obsess; don’t be a creep. Sage words. Show respect. Advice to live by. He was relieved; he hadn’t broken the rules — yet.
The ballet is about to start. Sitting, anticipating her advent back into his life, he flips through the programme. It’s a rendition of Carmen, Bizet’s opera. It wouldn’t be too long now. The description of the soon to be performed has his blood reflowing:
The very title conjures up images of sultry, physical passion, unleashed emotions and anguished eroticism…all of these qualities brought to the stage in an unforgettable flourish of dazzling balletic intensity…never sacrificing the unflinching carnality and essentially tragic vision that pulsate at its heart.
It wouldn’t be too long now indeed. But as he reads the dancer biographies, he doesn’t find her; it’s the subway all over again. He almost gives in to despair, but he clings to hope: she’s just not part of the main cast; there is no doubt that she’ll dazzle him like she did on their short-lived ride, fighting against his own story of passion and doomed love.
The curtains draw. Every scene is watched with utmost devotion; every dancer inspected for a hint of her. Every moment lusting him far, far away.
In the ring above him, she is watching with the same awe and interest.
Above him, but all the way across the theatre. Looking out, she spots him leaning over the handrail. Amusing. Was it by chance? By fate? No. There’s no discussion going on like that in her mind. There’s only one conclusion: he took her bait — hook, line and sinker.
It was a game she played every now and then, only sometimes, when the right conditions were met. What were the requirements? She didn’t know. It was just a feeling, set off in the moment. That’s all there was to it. At least to her. It was the first time someone had ever gone chasing after her though. She would enact her seduction, play her trick on the unsuspecting victim and revel in the hapless look on his face as she rode away.
She wonders what was going through his head from where she left him to where he is now, eagerly waiting for the show to start. He didn’t think that she was a ballerina, did he? That she would be in the ballet? The logic didn’t line up, not even if he believed that she was in the audience. If they made plans, he should’ve assumed that she was not previously engaged. He must either be stupid or (the more flattering inference) grasping onto any lingering wisps of their encounter because it was too hard to bear the anguish caused by their separation. Preferring the latter, she moves to the balcony rail and leans there until intermission, hoping that she’ll be spotted by her suited man.
The orchestra sounds again — woodwinds, then brass; the swell of the strings. Dancers swarm onto the stage.
The male lead swoops in, embracing warmly and releasing coldly his sweetheart. He leaves, full of courage to escape dispassion; inspired by the fiery gypsy, Carmen, enticing, sexual, raw. Gentle love, abandoned.
Seduction. The gypsy on her bandit lover. Dancing and a crowd. Then, enter cigarette girls. He is smitten, watching. He is watching her frolic. A fight breaks out between the gypsy and a companion.
Passion, attracting the man. But he moves in to arrest her — his duty. He allows her to escape. Love heats up; a runaway lover. Bereft, despairing, but his sweetheart seeks and finds him, wooing; then dejected.
Beating drum skins. Savagery. Gypsy and bandit, seeking partners to lust upon. The man, lurking, spotting. Hungrily watching that fixture of his heat and desire. Erotic moments, and tenderness. The bandit leaves. The man, replaces. Alone together, he and the gypsy. Intimate embraces; kisses, tastes.
The crowd wanders out. Intermission. He peers across. Spots her, smiling; full of life, she beckons. He runs, around. To her.
To her, he runs. Tracing a half moon, he checks every antechamber on the left side. Nothing… Nothing… Nothing…There she is.
He sees her, in all her beauty. She’s on the wall; he steps in for an embrace, but stops. Passion’s flowing. She steps to him; now, his hand on her neck, on her back; she pulls him against the wall— gently, like falling into feathers. Then, she pushes away.
He looks, confused. And releases. Moves back, to the other side.
“I’ve never done this before.”
“Done what?” he asks.
“I mean, no one’s ever chased me before. I’m just a tease!” she admits.
There’s silence. Darkness. The glow of her eyes, mesmerizing — beautifully brown. His shoulders fall back. Tense and relieved.
“Truth be told, I’ve never chased anyone before either,” he says. “So what do we do?”
“I want to see if there’s a spark.”
They kiss. Curtain call. He leaves.
She stands, alone. On her toes, arms up, curved; spinning, ravishing in the dark. In the lost moment.
The gyspy returns, overwhelmed by the man; images of aging, ruin. He promises eternal love. To her, irony; a young death. She moves. To the exits.
The ex, appears, confronting. Unhappiness abounds. Erotic yearning, responded with tenderness.
The lawyer again peers across. No ballerina. She had not reappeared. He only longs. To watch her. Up from his seat, running back.
Man turns bandit. Now gypsy flirts with chief. A dagger moves; stabbed in the back after kisses.
The chief falls, bleeds; the man, now tormented. A bull roused, wild, fills the gypsy with lust —overcome. The man, shattered.
Around the ring, almost across. Feels like eternity. He can’t see. The man and gypsy face off.
The dagger reappears, but — she impales herself. Through the doors, dancer’s legs move. The man, sinks to despair. In horror.
Into darkness. The ballerina leaps into her lawyer’s arms. He catches her and swirls; they kiss.
“What took so long?” she asks, pouting. A red glimmer of lip; and those chocolate orbs flashing.
“I was nervous,” he says. “But I want to try again.”
“Then kiss me.”
Fireworks. Erupting. Magic in his heart; that touch on the train, returning.
“Say it,” she beckons.
“I want to take you away — far…far away. “