My life for the last three months has been strictly me in rehearsal with the rest of the dancers and production team. Traveling to different studios within the city, running to and from Yonkers to pick up Willow from school and bring her to Max’s house, then running on the train to make it back to the city in time for rehearsal. I spent more time in places in the city that had no memories behind them.
I was running late on this particular day; Willow’s class had come back late from a field trip and I had 30 minutes to make it back to the city for this. Thank God for Miriam for coming to get Willow this one time, but needless to say I was the last one to walk into the studio and get ready for rehearsal.
I dropped my bag on the ground to take out my pointe shoes, wrapping each satin ribbon around my ankles. I tried to run to the locker room to drop off my bag before entering the rehearsal space. In true Grace fashion, I was not looking where I was going and bumped into someone who just turned the corner.
“Oh shi—” I said and looked up. “I’m so sorry.” It was a man with a bunch of tech in his hands. He smiled and shook his head.
“No, I apologize for not being careful,” he said. “The production would bash my head in if I broke any of this equipment.”
“Same, but just if I broke any body parts,” I joked around. He laughed; I swear he had the whitest set of teeth I’ve seen on a man, and the deepest dimple on his cheek when he did.
“I guess we are both a very important part of this production,” he teased. “Well, more so you than me,” he pointed down toward my feet; I followed his direction. “You’re one of the dancers, right?” I nodded my head.
“Yeah,” I answered. “What gave it away?” He laughed, again showing off his award-worthy smile.
“Definitely not the dance shoes you have on,” he said, as he looked down toward my feet. I laughed at his sarcastic response. We both hear the director of the production announce that rehearsal was about to begin. I panicked, thinking I wasn’t going to be in place on time. I quickly run towards the stage, but I hear the guy call out for me before I go. I turned around to look at him.
“You’re Grace, right?” he asked. I was a little taken aback that he knew my name out of the dozen other dancers in this production. Maybe it was my hair color or something that made me stand out.
“How’d you know?” I genuinely asked out of curiosity. The director announces a 2-minute warning before the rehearsal begins. I really wanted to know the answer but was afraid I would be late for rehearsal if I waited.
“Because you’re the best dancer out there,” he finally confessed. I wasn’t expecting a response like that, to be honest. It was spontaneous but sweet. I smirked.
“Thanks. What’s your name?” I asked. The director yells out one-minute warnings and now I’m a little upset I probably won’t get his name.
“Sahim,” he finally answered.
Something completely blocked my eyes when I entered the hotel with the rest of the production team. I immediately panicked, turning around to see who or what it is. It was Sahim; I can tell because his big goofy smile was written all over his face, and he had just put his arms down to his side before I can catch him in the act. I smiled at him, greeting him in the lobby of the hotel.
“Sahim! Hey!” I said as I hugged him.
“I didn’t get to see you on the flight, so I’m glad to have got you in the lobby,” Sahim said. He looks at the two people next to me, Maurice and Aimee, and waves at them to greet them as well.
“I’m just glad we’re finally off that damn plane,” Maurice said. “They really had us in that damn plane like a can of sardines or something.” Sahim laughed, but Maurice was being serious; he hated to be in one spot for too long and an 18-hour flight across the country was something that was never truly on his list of things he wanted to do.
“Well, now we can finally relax,” I began. “Until our rehearsal later tonight.”
“I’m getting all the rest I need, honey,” Maurice responded and grabbed his carry-on and luggage. “C’mon Aimee girl, let’s go check in.”
“Please,” Aimee replied and walked with Maurice toward the front desk. Sahim got closer to me, now that it was just the two of us.
“Speaking of checking in,” Sahim began. “I was wondering once you settle into your hotel room, maybe we can go and grab some food to celebrate?” I looked at Sahim and raised an eyebrow.
“What are we celebrating?” I teased.
“The production starting less than a month from now,” Sahim answered. “Of course, it’s up to you. I know rehearsals are intense for the dancers now.”
“Intense ain’t even the word,” I emphasized. Sahim smiled at my response.
“Which is why I said it’s up to you,” he said. I looked at Sahim, a little nervous to give him a definite answer. I guess he noticed the expression on my face, so he continued to speak in this conversation. “I can pick you up from your room if you want to freshen up afterward.” Before I was able to say something, Maurice and Aimee came back to where we were standing, including themselves in the conversation.
“Girl, we gotta get ready for rehearsal tonight,” Aimee says out loud. “I’m trying to get in a nap before we gotta go and do this damn thing.”
“Watch out now,” Maurice said. “Miss Aimee’s a monster when she’s sleep deprived.” I laughed and shook my head. I was glad that within the last couple of months rehearsing in New York, I got to know Maurice and Aimee. Maurice is from Atlanta, which was also one of the major dance cities in the country. Aimee is from Boston; she clearly still has the notable Boston accent that everyone always is talking about when they think of her.
I turned around to face Sahim once more. He smiled at me.
“Just lemme know what you wanna do, Grace,” Sahim said, as he walked away with his luggage. It wasn’t until shortly after I feel someone hit my shoulder. Of course, it was Maurice.
“Girl, you better let that man take videos of you performing, if you know what I mean,” Maurice raised his eyebrows and smiled a cheeky smile.
“It’s not even like that,” I emphasized. “We’re both professionals working under the same production. We are both here for the same reason,” I said as I made my way to the front desk for official check-in; Maurice and Aimee follow me on my way there.
“I don’t know what you’re looking at,” Aimee began. “But anyone can tell that Sahim is interested in you.” I try not to react to Aimee’s observation. The truth of the matter is that during our time in rehearsals for the past three months, a lot of my time was spent on breaks talking to Sahim about the production and things related to the production. Sahim was good company, and he made rehearsal a good time when we were both on our breaks.
“It would literally be unprofessional of us to even think like that,” I responded back. Maurice forces a laugh to mock what I was saying. I rolled my eyes at him as I gave the lady up front my information to check in. “I’m here to dance, and he’s here doing the video work for the production.”
“I mean, it’s the perfect scenario; you and your beau in a foreign country for a year working on a world-renowned production together,” Aimee pointed out. “I think you should give Sahim a shot.” The lady at the front desk handed me my key card and room number. I bowed out of respect.
“gamsahabnida,” I thanked the woman in Korean. She smiled widely; I think she appreciated me communicating with her in her own language. Maurice and Aimee looked at me like I just performed a magic trick, and they were dying to know how I did it.
“Girl, you know how to speak Korean?” Maurice asked, genuinely surprised at the interaction. I flipped my hair in confidence, walking towards the elevator to go up to my room. Maurice and Aimee followed me into the elevator.
“I only know the basic phrases,” I lied, trying to downplay the little Korean I learned back in the states when–
“Who taught you? Because even that phrase sounded so authentic,” Aimee crossed her arms to her chest, trying to figure out the mystery as well. I didn’t want to mention him, especially since I will be living in the country that he is currently also living in as well. This was the first time I actually thought about him, and how proud he would’ve been of me for communicating in Korean on my own without any of his help. All of this wasn’t worth getting into detail with; plus, I was also exhausted from this flight and the last thing I wanted to get into was something I have no energy for.
“I just picked up an English-to-Korean dictionary,” I answered, finally getting off my floor. “I’m going to get some rest, you guys. I’ll see you tonight for rehearsal.”