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It is 5:15 a.m. I’m lying on the dining room floor of my friend’s house. A heating pad stretches across my stomach as I shiver, grateful I packed it at the last minute. The only times I remember being this cold was twice in my life: in the Winds at 11,000 feet, and at a dance team parade in Stevens Point.

I’m thinking about that. Dance.

To love something is to become part of it. In a few hours, I will be trying to survive quickstep in a ballroom packed as a colony on a petri dish. My back aches and my eyes itch from sleep deprivation, but this sacrifice holds a near-religious weight in its pride value. When you breathe into a waltz or a foxtrot, you commit to passing from this reality into the next. There’s a kind of paradoxical mindfulness that reciprocates mindlessness. The intense concentration gifts you freedom from normal anxiety. Your ego drops off, the ache in your arch eases, your calves quiet. Your latest complaints slump, anesthetized. Only now, safe inside the metaphor of movement, can you approach the real fears horizontally.

Loving—loving anything—is terrifying.

I lay here, in the moth-soft hours before the cut of dawn, wanting to text my father. Instead, I write. The light at the base of the heating pad shines like a red eye in the dark. A jet passes overhead, and I recall the days when my brother and I would run after planes, waving our arms, tracking their contrails. We worked ourselves into a tizzy pretending our father was piloting every one.

This team, they’re my home. They blew onto my hands at practice when I couldn’t hide my low temperature. I watch them. Their arm motions. Their idiosyncrasies. Their sweet, odd intonations. 

To love something is to be subsumed by it. To me, it was easy. Ballroom dance is the literal reminder that you cannot survive without others. You realize you are precious, and always have been, so don’t need to prove anything.

I’ve let go, and I’ve given in, and I’m unafraid.