The Croatian hires us for his girls, to help them learn how to fly.
"We do not have enough men", he explains, his accent thick but discernible.
He is tall and thin, a scarecrow of a man, but in his sixties, still well corded with muscle. He walks like silk, his white beard, trimmed neat, fills the hollows of his cheeks.
"Ladies, these are your men," his voice rattles from too many cigarettes replacing meals, washed down with nights of smokey whiskey.
He lines them along the wall, their outfits are a second skin, except at their waists where short skirts lay soft along their hips. They are small thin birds on a line, surveying us, silently, knowing better than to talk unless he gives the leave.
The walls are covered in mirrors so that all angles can be seen by simply changing perspective. Taking one of the girls to the center of the floor, he shows us exactly what he wants. Where to hold. Where to release. Where to thrust. His hard hands move fluidly across their bodies, each touch firm but gentle. They are fragile and trust is earned.
"Now, each of you, take one. Learn their bodies."
We each select one, then move to a corner to begin. The girls find freedom in our coupling, their lips now loose, provide direction on how best to hold them, give comfort yet allow them room to move and breathe across our foundations. In the mirrors, those that wait, stretch to limber their bodies, sometimes stopping to point and smile. They make comments quietly to each other, we can not hear.
When hands are clumsy, the girls take them, placing them in the right positions. Each mistake coils within them and they become forceful. Reminding us they are the goddesses and we the hired hands. The Croatian circles. Observing. His eyes see everything and he is quick to correct, when he does not see what he expects. We sweat, until sweat seems all we are as we pull them in close and press.
"Again. Again. Again," he barks, sending girl after girl.
Afterward, when the girls go to change, he gathers us to share dirty jokes, but then in all seriousness looks us in the eye and says, "You must take her and show her you are strong. She can not fly until she can trust you will not let her fall."
We nod in understanding and leave. I find a place on the concrete steps to sit and wait. Stars traverse the heavens and the earth grows quiet, as the others turn the corner beneath the street lamp. The door thunks behind me and I turn to see her, among the other girls, each carrying a heavy bag of their clothes, exit the building.
We press into each other, hands no longer bothered with positions. Our lips meet and I realise it was not just ballet to which he was speaking.