Dora was graceful not by birth but from the habit of long clumsiness, skilled and swift at catching things falling off of tables. She was coltish, long-legged and equine, the sort of girl ignored by her peers and loved by adults who saw in her raw youth a beautiful maturity. Everything had too many corners, too many edges to be caught by an elbow, a thigh, the pockets of her coat. She tore too many seams by turning too quickly; her fingers were scarred and deft with a repairing needle. People came to her helpless in their unscarred bodies and she fixed their minor hurts, their broken glasses, their ripped sleeves, cool and professional and unsympathetic.
When people asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she always stopped to think about it. “I don’t know,” she said. “What do you think I should be?”
They had different answers. “You’d be a good counselor.” “Have you thought about teaching?” “Psychology?” They were sensible suggestions, plausible and boring. One time a boy seated next to her leaned over and whispered, “Sword-fighting shark researcher,” and Dora fell in love, just a little bit; she caught her heart as it fell, swift and practiced at clumsiness.