Degas Girls

After Edward Degas

I started ballet lessons the same year you left our family. I don’t remember when you gave me the book of Degas’ paintings, but the three memories are wrapped up in the same thread—my father leaving, going to ballet class, looking at the Degas girls.

My Degas girls existed only on the page—static images, made-up bodies. The book was far too advanced for a five-year-old. Did you think I’d only look at the pictures? I tried so hard to learn those words. I thought it was a test to see if I lived up to the intellect I hoped so desperately to share with you. I’d ask Mum to help me but she resented that book. She’d get mad every time she saw it.

My favourite forms were the ones without faces, with their backs turned. Even now I wonder why I was drawn only to the girls whose eyes I couldn’t see, and I don’t want to get philosophical but maybe it’s because I didn’t want to see/be seen?

I looked at the paintings every day until I stopped going to ballet class. You missed my final recital—you probably assumed I wouldn’t care, seeing as I was quitting anyway.

Featured image held in the public domain via Wikimedia.


In a dream, you saw a way to survive, and you were filled with joy.


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