Thursday, October 15, 2015
Chasing Cyd Charisse
In the mid-80s the bus dropped me off on Ness Avenue and I walked two major blocks south to get to high school. I walked down the alley behind Ainsley Street - this was Winnipeg - we had alleys everywhere. I had two goals every morning: get to school early and walk faster than Francine Bishop.
I would see Francine walking ahead of me down that alley and it became my obsession to overtake her. It was an impossible task. Francine was at least six inches taller than me, with Cyd Charisse legs that bent the laws of physics and physicality. Her legs appeared at least 10 inches longer than mine. Maybe I had a long torso and she had a short torso, but I swear those legs went all the way up to her fucking arm pits. I looked up to her, figuratively and literally. She was a year ahead of me, took drama was super smart. I have no idea why the need to walk faster than her kicked in. Maybe my inner Neanderthal took control and needed to be the lead hunter/gatherer.
"Gronk need be first!" Chest thump. "Gronk fast!"
It was ridiculous. I'd have to practically run to even get close. I'd be pumping my arms, speed walking - then, if I managed to get within striking distance, I'd have to act all nonchalant as if I was not attempting to break the land speed record to catch up to her and her unbelievable legs.
I did it once. I passed her, offered a cheerful "Good morning!" and then kept powering through, the lactic acid burning in my legs, the muscles in my ass twitching by the time I made it to the school. I could barely manage the stairs before collapsing beside my locker. But as I lay there, gasping for breath, I imagined the head of the Olympic Committee presenting me with a gold medal. In a near-coma I saw the Canadian flag being raised as I mumble-sang Oh Canada to the crowd. It never happened again. I think maybe the day I passed her she was sick, or tired... or humouring me.