Your presence was unexpected today. Restlessness had taken residence within me. Meditation was not my friend as the ache in my back, chores to accomplish, and thoughts of other times and places alighted in my mind like mosquitos. Lightly, they landed and struck before their sting bristled to my consciousness. I tried to drop the thinking and refocus each time on my breathing, like prayer, following the ritual steps of my spiritual practice. Looking for answers to life’s mysteries buried deep within my soul. Then, I felt a warmth reminiscent of the sun swiftly rising behind me, radiating toward me, hugging me. Instantly your face popped into my consciousness, I smiled. I knew that heat was you. I was not afraid. Fear was never known to me when you lifted, twirled, and supported me in the light of a hundred viewers.

As I fell deeper inside myself today, listening for your voice, our long-ago time together rose in my misty memory as snapshots of intense emotions. I have grown older although presently, I find you as I’d come to know you then, a young, sensitive Texas boy, full of dreams and talent. You had looks to melt my heart, while naiveté colored your perfect aura. You were more to me than a dance partner.

  Was it 1972 or 73? My jaw drops open as you stroll into the dance studio. I detect a slight limp in your gait. I swear I see the rays of the Divine shining behind you, illuminating your layered, shaggy hair framing your perfect face. My knees grow a bit wobbly as I eye your long bushy, blonde sideburns, and sensually tight bell bottom jeans. Panic overwhelms me. Will I, a plain little girl from Buffalo, be beautiful enough next to you, confident enough to star with you?

  Our first rehearsal, you extend your open palm to me. I spiral into you on my pink satin pointe shoes, bodies touching, eyes meeting, breath close. Tiny vibrations slither through me. My heart is beating like a baby bird in flight training. Our space together even now revealing itself. A peaceful dwelling, nonetheless, full of delight. Sparks leaping. I see us, two young artists honing our craft, sensing our style, dreaming the dream, creating our careers. We are two young lovers, wondering what love really is.

We are dancing, flowing in seamless harmony. You lead me with your sure but tender grasp, your ardent commitment to every step, every moment. As one, we transport to the enchanted whereabouts of ephemeral speed, and grace, where time seems to stop and yet it is carrying us faster than a bullet. We are flying. Two souls melting into love, life, and luscious movements of grace and beauty. Melding into each other, sparks igniting, everybody smiling, shining our most pure light together, elevating those around us. I remember magic.

As we improvise to the music, aware only of our bliss, people clear the discotheque’s dance floor in my hometown. Disco ball flashing, I close my eyes; I am whirling high above your head. Voices of awe join me on my merry-go-round, applause fill the air. At dance’s end I elegantly slide down the front of your taunt body as you lower me, making sure I will not fall. My toes deftly, softly, touch down first before my spirit. I aspire to stay there gazing in your green eyes, in your strong arms, for an eternity. Breathless, we glide off the dance floor lined along both sides by the others. We nod our heads to them bowing, your eyes meet mine in perfect time; we gasp in disbelief at what we just created. I remember confidence. 

We are dancing down the sidewalk, Singing in the Rain, with Niagara Falls at our side. People stop and watch us. Carefree and young, we pay them no mind. Our laughter reaches new heights, drifting on the mist of the cascading waters. Our feet are lacing down the walkway, elbows entwined, reminiscent of our feelings for each other. Our heartbeats are synchronized, your feelings mirroring mine, our rhythms blend as one. Hopping on the upbeat, flat footed, slapping puddles on the downbeat, leaping over obstacles of life on every note. I remember Joy.   

Camping in the mountains outside of Buffalo NY, we find refuge between shows. Giggles rise in my throat as I watch you carefully place your beers to cool in the stream near our campsite, a country boy at heart. Gentle talk of the day’s work, our successes, and places to amend our dances. Talk turns deep, and you are exposing inner secrets, hopes and dreams, high school daze, how you got that limp, and your father’s high expectations.

You gently unfold the story of your nickname, Buddy; your father gave it to you. You adore him. You feel a heavy need to please, strong fears of inadequacy march into the conversation like ants, one following the other toward their destination, only mindful of their Queen’s command. Suddenly I sense your need for introspection. I feel your moodiness. I can see the murky demons you speak of, and I hold you tight. I feel you calm. I remember compassion.

Night descends, tightly holding an umbrella you stalk the animal intruder who stole our coffee cake, our breakfast, our nourishment. I see your bravery, a responsibility to protect. I remember tenderness.

Your generous hands, smooth as silk yet strong as iron, are stroking my legs. Legs tired from dancing magic on the stage with you. I feel our lithe, muscular bodies holding each other. Curves of hips, elbows nestling in arms, legs wrapping around our souls, fitting perfectly within each other. Too innocent to go too far, yet bare-skin close enough to feel your heartbeat touching mine. Heady scents of pine tree sap, the last of the smoke from our little campfire drifting into our cocoon, your cleanly aromatic Yardley cologne. People nearby. We do not notice. Our absolute oneness conceives a spell, and there is nothing but Us. I remember passion.

My family gathers in our miniscule living room, mesmerized by your presence. You begin to sing, as you play the guitar. Your eyes sprout rays of love toward me. I hear your sweet accent dripping with southern Houston charm, engulfing us all with droplets of honey. I hear songs meant just for me. My heart jumps like the winged footwork of my dances. I remember flirtation.

We are sitting in the back seat of my father’s Buick Skylark. He is driving us to the YMCA where you are staying. Your car rental has been returned; I don’t drive yet. I kiss you even though he may be watching. Our time together is growing shorter. I see a little box in your hand and my heart takes a leap. It can’t be, I think to myself. There you are the most beautiful man, looking like a boy, all weak and stuttering. There it is, I see a tiny opal ring with diamond sparkles surrounding it. Delicate like me. Delicate like Us. You ask me for my hand in marriage, my heart is melting. You tell me that you asked my father first. I see his head lift ever so slightly in the front seat, behind the wheel, pretending not to hear us, String of Pearls playing on the radio.

I say no. We each have our own compass to follow. I am in college; you are going to New York City to begin a dance career. Pain from your eyes reflects to me. You drop your head; you tell me to please keep the ring. I can’t see Us at all. I remember heartache.  

We are saying goodbye at the airport in Buffalo. You are shifting your weight from side to side, nervous energy. Rays of light once again surrounding you, backlit by the huge runway windows. I feel the pressure of our pain. The beautiful you is vulnerably standing here once more; my heart is breaking. Taking in your scent one more time, I slowly release you from our galvanizing hug. Hands slowly glide down our arms as our fingertips catch each other’s, coupling together, savoring one last moment of touch, sparks re-igniting. I now see, it was the last thing I felt of you. 

You hand me a letter, eight pages to be exact. I still have it tucked away. I only share it with a precious few. It reflects you, an artist, a man of deep emotion looking for true love. Love that illuminates one’s soul with color and light. You told me this is what I gave you.

We never saw each other again. I cried deeply when you died, but relieved for your absence of pain. It was way too soon.

You were one of the good ones Patrick Buddy Swayze. You rendered me beautiful.

I remember Love.  

Professor Emerita Sandra M. Perez, Towson University Department of Dance began studying creative writing after retiring from a lifelong career as a professional dancer, and arts educator. She lives in Maryland among nature where she continues to pursue her lifelong passion of telling stories through movement and words. Her stories Wilderness and Light were recently published in the international literary magazine “Adelaide.”