Hooper Paige reflects on life in Manhattan and the injury keeping him from dancing.
|Sunlight crept into the apartment, mostly reflected from the building across the avenue. Hooper had tried to get a South-facing apartment, but the prices had just been too prohibitive. He laid on his back as the second-hand sunshine sent shadows across the wall over his head. Slowly, he lifted one leg up until it pointed at the ceiling and studied the length of muscle and bone. He flexed, then pointed. Repeat. He lowered that leg, then lifted the other and glared at it. On his ankle was an open splint bound with an Ace bandage. He could flex it, but could not extend it into a point.
“Motherfucking jump,” he spat and swept himself into a sitting position on the side of the bed. With an angry sound, Hooper threw himself into doing what standing exercises he could with the splinted ankle before grumbling his way into what passed for a kitchen in the tiny New York apartment. The Keurig protested when he jammed a K-cup into its hopper and slammed the button for his coffee. It was just a little sound at first, but the protest became a whine and a grind that made Hooper grit his teeth. He popped open the lid and began to fight with the innards of the worthless $200 contraption. “Just want my mother fucking coffee,” he snarled at it and ducked when a spring exploded out of the interior. “Dammit!”
After replacing the spring and reassembling the rest of the machine, Hooper sighed and more gently eased the K-cup into the hopper. With water from the tap and a little more coaxing, the Keurig began to chirp and bubble, eventually starting to spit coal-black coffee into his mug. Hooper glared at it warily, then turned back toward his dresser. “Pull a stunt like that again and I’m replacing you with a $5 Walmart special.” The Keurig blatted in response and Hooper couldn’t help but smile. The coffee machine knew it was secure; it already had a listing of all his favorite coffee shops stored and was programmed to order K-cups from them twice a month.
Hooper patted the top of the machine as it finished spilling his coffee into the travel mug he usually used. “Good boy,” he said and the Keurig hummed before shutting off. He didn’t think he was being unreasonably sentimental to personify the thing a little bit; it did seem to hear him. “I need to get a dog,” he sighed as he pushed the sliding door of his tiny “veranda”--more a two-foot by five-foot metal grate with a railing than any kind of sunny porch--and leaned on the railing to watch the city waking up.
Hooper loved living in Manhattan. The center of the universe in so many ways, it was certainly the center of his universe; museums, cultural centers, libraries, theatre, Central Park and not to mention the Ballet which had brought him here in the first place. Dance had been his first love since he had first put hands to a barre and turned his knobby knees out into first position. His decision to go pro at seventeen had surprised his parents, but they had supported him anyway, just like they had supported him past all the confused and disdainful public school boys, all the puzzled and mildly amused teachers and parents, his grandfather who had savagely raged before cutting his youngest daughter and her “ungodly, effeminate child” out of his will.
The first moment when he had stood on stage as part of the corps de ballet had blown every hurtful moment out of his mind for the last fifteen years. This was why he had been born. This was what he wanted to do with his life.
Hooper shifted his feet and a twinge of pain shot up his right ankle. He looked down at the splint and growled. He had to stay mad. He had to. Because if he stopped being mad, he was going to curl into a ball and cry.