“If you can dream it, you can do it,” I say lightly under my breath.
“If you can dream it, you can do it,” I say slightly louder, but still very quietly.
“If you can dream it, you can do it,” I say as the curtain rises in front of me.
“Just spread your wings and fly,” I say as I take off across the stage leaping in my pointe shoes and ballet unitard.
Moments earlier I was a nervous wreck, dry heaving backstage as my body alternated between chills and intense bursts of heat.
Not any more.
I just repeated those same words that he told me a decade earlier. Words so powerful I had inscribed them into my pointe shoes. Words that would carry me through tonight, the opening night of my big performance. The one I’d waited for my entire life. The one I’d sacrificed everything for…food, relationships, weekends…any shot at normality.
But I didn’t want to be normal. I wanted to be great, even if just for one night.
I just wish he was here to see it.
It had been exactly ten years ago tonight. It was my eighteenth birthday.
I was practicing ballet late into the evening in our little studio on the outskirts of Los Angeles when he arrived.
A long, dark car pulled up in front of our studio. The driver hastily made his way around the side to open the car door so the man could step out. Then, with that same sense of urgency, the driver rushed forward and opened the door to the studio so the man could enter without breaking stride.
There were only two dancers left that evening, and our instructor. She hurried to greet him and offer him a tour of the facilities. It was the least she could do, considering he had been the one who purchased the building and paid to have it turned into a studio for young girls to learn ballet.
Young girls like his daughter, who danced next to me.
I hadn’t known before that night who her father was, and I wouldn’t come to know the full extent of his wealth, power, and influence until much later.
But I didn’t need anyone to tell me. I could feel it. The way his presence took over the room. The way his perfectly fitting dark suit accentuated his broad shoulders, muscular chest, and V-shape torso. I’d never seen a man dressed so well before, nor since.
He seemed to glide, rather than walk. It was like living was effortless and fluid for him. He finished his tour and took a seat to watch the two of us practice.
For the next three hours he watched us, gave us pointers, and even made suggestions which improved our work. I never expected a man to know so much about ballet, and wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“You’re very talented,” he said, as his daughter went in the back to change.
I tried to say “thank you” but the words didn’t come out. I was in awe of him.
“May I make another suggestion?” he asked.
I nodded my head.
He reached down and took my hand in his. His presence had owned the room up until now, and now his touch owned me.
I felt the jolt in my fingers, as it continued through my body as he guided me into position. I didn’t hear a word he said, nor did I have to. The way he guided me, touched me, and looked at me was enough.
It didn’t seem to be sexual to him, but it awoke something sexual inside me. Until then I had just been a girl, a girl focused only on ballet. But the way he moved with me, remaining so masculine yet so fluid in only his street clothes made me desire him.
I had never had the time nor the inkling to even think about boys before, but he was anything but a boy. He was a refined and elegant man.
“Beautiful,” he said, still looking into my eyes as the two of us moved as one. I wanted to think he was talking about me, but I knew he was referring to the dance.
“Do you have plans to make this a career?” he asked me as we finished, releasing my hands.
“It’s my dream, but I’m also realistic about the odds of it ever happening.”
He brought his hands forward taking mine in his again. He brought them to his lips, and kissed them.
“If you can dream it, you can do it,” he said just after removing his lips from my hands.
And then he suddenly moved our hands up and away, releasing his grasp.
“Just spread your wings and fly.”
I never felt so empowered, supported, or capable in my entire life as I did in that moment. I felt like I could do anything.
“Ready dad?” his daughter Lindsey said from the side of the room. I hadn’t even noticed she’d finished and had joined us in the room.
He winked at me, and then just like that he was gone. The long, dark car rolling down the block leaving the studio to just me and my instructor.
Oh how I wished he could see me now.
It’s opening night for my performance with the New York City Ballet at the David H. Koch Theater at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.
I had always remembered his words, and the confidence that small moment with him had given me. How that one moment had stuck with me, carrying me forward all these years. All these years to right now.
I danced like I’d never danced before. I leapt, and twisted, and turned and flew through the air like never before. Before I knew it the night was finished.
It had been a huge success and I was already thinking about seeing my name in the paper in the morning, and maybe even my picture if I was lucky. I wanted to see my name next to the words I knew they’d print. “Wowed. Amazing. Emotional. Breathtaking.”
But what I wanted more than anything was to see him again. To show him what that moment he’d given me had grown into. And to show him the woman I’d become.
But it was not to be. Never to be.
The morning after we met so many years ago, my father had accepted a new position in Chicago. He started immediately. It was the last time I ever set foot inside that ballet studio, the one he had built that gave me the chance to first explore the world of dance. The studio that introduced me to a new world of artistic expression and freedom.
I continued dancing in Chicago, always thinking about him. Brian Bowen, the billionaire philanthropist.
He had also moved on. He was a hard person to follow, and not just for me. The Internet had very little information on him. He was a private person, but from what I’d gathered he’d moved on to projects in Asia. I’d long ago resigned myself to the fact that I’d never be able to see him again and to thank him for what he did.
Oh how I wish he could see me now.
All of the dancers took the stage for our curtain call. The lights seemed even brighter than before, as the bright, white lights flooded the stage.
I couldn’t make out the crowd, but I could see the bevy of flowers making their way onto the stage. I looked down at my feet and saw a single red rose.
We took our bows, hands together. When we finished I bent over and picked up that rose, smelling it, holding it, trying to make this moment last just one second longer. There’s only one first time, and this was mine.
I waved to the crowd, as the lights moved from side to side, allowing me to make out the size of the sold out theater.
I looked high and low, taking in all the clapping hands, and seeing all the smiling faces, until my gaze dropped from the heights of the back to the front row where the multitudes of celebrities, elite, and wealthy individuals were seated.
But I only saw one man. There he was front and center, oh so elegantly offering a golf clap as his gaze met mine.
Brian Bowen was here. He had found me, and was dead center in the front row, close enough to see my jaw drop and the shock took over as I took in the sight of the man who meant more to me than this night ever could.
How did he get here? How did he find me? How can I find him?