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Center of Gravity

By:Lina Andersson


My Leg?


I opened my eyes, and it was so terribly hard. I didn’t know where I was, and for a second I panicked. Then I felt the pain surging through my entire body, and I forgot completely about the panic. I could hardly move without feeling as if I was being torn to pieces. Carefully looking down, I saw my left leg propped up in a cast. It seemed to cover my entire leg, from my ankle to my upper thigh. I lifted my hands and saw the drip needles.

That’s when my hearing slowly came back, and I heard the machines’ rhythmic beeping. The next thing I noticed was a man’s voice.

“Miss Dob... Dobror... Miss Anna, can you hear me?”

No surprise there. People were never able to pronounce my last name—Dobronravov. I couldn’t answer him, though. I tried, but my mouth was too dry, and then I felt sleepy again. It was impossible for me to keep my eyes open. After a few attempts to stop it, I gave up and closed my eyes.


“Anna, love, can you hear me?”

This time I couldn’t open my eyes at all; it was impossible. I finally settled on nodding while trying to find some saliva in my mouth. I knew this voice, and I wanted to do what she asked, since it was my aunt, Irina.

“Zvezda, you need to open your eyes, honey,” she continued. “Please open your eyes for me.”

I managed, and even through the blur, I could see her smile. I knew her smile so well; I’d seen it at pretty much every important moment throughout my life. She leaned forward, holding a straw in front of me. Trusting it was water I opened my mouth to accept it.

“Careful, Anna. Not too much.”

“My leg?” I asked as soon as my tongue seemed to be able to form words again. It was more of a slur, but she understood.

“Anna, I’m so sorry.” She shook her head, and I saw the tears in her eyes.

I didn’t need to hear anymore. It was pretty obvious. I could clearly remember the cast covering it, so it was at least broken, probably more, but I had no memory of how I’d ended up here—what had happened. But my leg was broken, and in combination with Irina’s tears I knew what it meant. I would never dance again. I laid my head back down and fell asleep feeling the tears running down the sides of my face.


Both my parents and my aunt Irina started and ended their careers as dancers at the ballet in Phoenix. It had been the base for the American side of the family since the mid twentieth century. I grew up in a small town just outside Phoenix, in the very same apartment that both my aunt and my dad had grown up. My parents wanted me to have somewhat of a normal life, so I was in a regular school until I was fourteen.

When I was twelve, my parents moved to Spain to work as choreographers. At first they wanted to take me with them, but having already been promised that I’d be allowed to apply to the School of American Ballet when I was fourteen, I refused and instead stayed behind and lived with Irina for the last two years. It didn’t matter much; the four of us had always lived together, and I was as close to her as I was to my parents. More importantly, she was my main trainer. I went to regular ballet schools of course, but my morning and evening training was with her. Then, at fourteen, I applied and was accepted at the School of American Ballet, and consequently moved to New York.

Irina stayed behind to become the ballet mistress at the Phoenix Ballet, and during school holidays I went to stay with her.

At eighteen, I joined the corps de ballet at the New York City Ballet; it was a dream come true. I was a soloist at twenty and already at twenty-two a principal dancer. I had it in my blood, and I’d danced for as long as I could remember.

But it was all over now. I knew it. There was absolutely no question about it, and no matter how long I’d danced, or how much I would train from this day on, I wouldn’t dance again. It had been months since I’d woken up that first time, and nothing anyone had said since had made me think anything but that my leg was ruined forever.

I watched as the doctors started to remove the cast. They had warned me about what I’d see, but once it was all gone, both Irina and I took a deep breath. My leg had not just been broken, it had pretty much been crushed and there had been damage to my hip as well, which had caused injuries to both my femoral and sciatic nerve.

In short: I should count myself lucky if I would ever be able to walk properly again, and not even that was very likely.

But no warnings had prepared me for what I saw. There were scars all over it—like a street map of angry red lines covering it from my mid calf to my hip, and I grabbed Irina’s hand while trying to hold my tears back.

I still couldn’t remember the accident, and according to the doctors it was quite possible I never would. I would actually prefer it if I never did, since it didn’t seem like a memory worth preserving.

I’d been hit by a cab. I’d been in a hurry since I’d missed my bus, and I’d missed my bus because I’d forgotten to turn off the coffee machine and had run back inside to do it.

I’d managed to catch the second bus, but when I ran around it to cross the street after I got off, I hadn’t paid attention and had been hit by a cab at full speed. If I’d simply left the coffee machine on, or had gone off at the back of the bus and rounded it with full view of the street to my left—which is what one is supposed to do—I would’ve been fine. And instead of looking at the mess formerly known as my leg, I would be at rehearsals for Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments.

I’d always known being a dancer was something that would end somewhere in my late thirties, or early forties if I was lucky. It had never been a long-term solution, but I had always figured I would still be able to do some dancing, at least work with dancing—maybe teaching. Judging by the state of my leg, that wasn’t going to happen. Ever. Like they’d said, I should count myself lucky if I co