First published in Fourteen Hills Magazine, Spring 2014.
for Adrienne Rich
“We weren’t even actually dating.”
“So what? Emotionally you were tethered. For years.”
“So, why is it this dramatic? I feel like I’ve been stabbed.”
“I don’t see any blood, but I mean the chord’s been cut. Look! You’re here.”
My friend, Jamie, smacks the hardwood floor through my yoga mat before squeezing my hand.
“I’m here but I’m not here.”
Jamie’s patience wears to nothing, and I realize why she does yoga.
“Well where the fuck else are you? Stop driving in reverse and be here.”
She smacks the mat again like a wrestler tapping out. This must be her visceral move of the evening. Donkey Konging all over my mat. My space is being encroached upon by everyone walking through the door of this place. How many can we fit in this poorly painted room? Walls with streaks in the bright colors. All matte finishes even though this palette is ridiculous. I can imagine the trip to Home Depot by the owners. I know they said focal point more than once: “This gold will be a focal point.”
Actually, the streak in that wall, because the primer wasn’t properly done, is the “real” focal point. My drishti, where my gaze is going to be in “Tree Pose,” will be that streak. Mark, set. It’s getting really crowded in here. Can they turn someone away? “Sorry, no flow for you. Not tonight. You’s late.”
The instructor arrives. He looks all sage like. He’s got a beaded prayer necklace draped over a shirt with Sanskrit running across it. “I made salt with Ghandi.” That’s totally what his Sanskrit says. He’s got tattoos, more Sanskrit. Shit’s everywhere, even his neck. Everyone in this class except me seems to be inked up and already halfway to removing their shirts. The Buddha man speaks:
“Alright, I can feel the energy tonight. Everyone come to the front of your mats in a seated position.”
I’m here already. “Half-lotus,” because “full lotus” is just too much. Some parts of yoga are just too much.
“Make this practice for the person next to you. Make this about being connected to one another.”
Funny. You’re funny yoga man. I came here to disconnect. To stop being attached. You’re funny, man.
My eyes close and I attempt to inflate my head. Suicide attempt number uno.
“On the exhale don’t be afraid to be audible. Being ‘audible’ in your practice—in your life—is the most honest.”
Some parts of yoga are just too much. Yet again, his sage zingers are making me shake my head. I was too audible at the bar last night. I was too audible when I found myself unable to say a sentence without dropping an F-bomb. I was honest and audible and completely embarrassing. The audible honesty killed my shot at a partner. At a shared life. Now I’m going to hold my breath. I’m going to explode right here next to the person I’m dedicating the practice to. She’s a fine specimen, but I’m sure she can smell how negative I am. It’s leaking out of my pores, and I haven’t even begun to sweat yet. When I do, the whole class will know. They’ll kick me out and be grateful that they’ll have more room for inversions later.
The first vinyasa is so forced; it feels like my limbs are being guided by jerking strings from the ceiling, but by my fifth “down dog,” I’m feeling a little better. This girl, who I can’t seem to stop thinking about, breaks through my layers of defense mechanisms with infuriating ease, like a flick of the wrist destroying a spiderweb. My heart is the juicy victim, falling then being caught in her waiting palm—only to have its it's legs torn off, one by one for the sport of it. Plucked and off balance. Thinking about this almost causes me to fall over when I jump back to a standing position from “down dog.” Four vinyasas later, marks the completion of “Sun Salutation A.,” and with it, the spider image dissolves. Maintaining balance in “tree pose” feels good. It makes me not think about what I can’t remember I said. Look at my leaves. Sway, delicate tree. For the first time since I woke up, I feel like I’m beautiful.
In warrior two, I start to feel energy. Charged sexuality. Maybe it’s the sweat or maybe it’s the heat. The room is steaming with this flow. I’m on the same page of the yoga guy now. We’ve reconciled and he doesn’t even know it. I’m zenned the fuck out. Thinking about going to Bali. Skipping Christmas and living in a hut. Not shaving. I won’t go that far. I’ll shave, but I’ll turn into someone like the woman next to me. I hope she couldn’t smell the initial negativity. I hope she thinks I’m hot in that weird way. Her way. Her sexiness is palpable. Spank me, sap princess. She started with her shirt off. How fine is that?
“Warrior two, other side.”
I turn, and now I get to stare at her back. There’s a tattoo of text covering most of it. I don’t speak the language it’s in. I don’t want to. I’d rather her whisper it to me after we’ve rolled around a bit.
“Swan dive, jump back, exhale into chaturanga, and inhale into urdva mukha. Five breaths.”
Dive. Deeper into this positive escape. This sweet wonder of a tattoo goddess who is taking me on a journey out of my darkness.
“Bring yourself to ‘child’s pose’ and prepare for backbends. Your choice.”
How yoga of him. To let us set some limits late in the game. But, I’m high now. I’m up and wanting to show off. So, it’s “camel” for me and my goddess. Hands in prayer while kneeling. I think of Madonna. I think of how the song, “Like a Prayer,” is really about going down on someone. It’s nothing like a prayer. I peak at my girl. She’s already on her way back to this position that only true yogis and yours truly can do. I have always been able to hyper-extend absurdly well. It’s good for bed tricks. It’s good for the end of yoga class. I think back to the lyrics. “Her voice will take me there.” It really could. I extend my hands upwards. This is my pose. I smile and float back into an arch that’s so unnatural and awesome, I can feel the instructor’s eyes on me.
I don’t have to look, but I know the instructor has made his way over. His bare, callused feet are planted on the hardwood next to me, in that four-inch space between Jamie’s mat and mine. I can see his shower-worn hemp ankle bracelet out of the corner of my eye. It’s been many moons since I’ve seen one of those bad boys. He feels my back to pretend to support it. I know he just wants to touch me. I know he is thinking that the girl and I could make a really sick pair. Just think of how well we’d fit together given this ability we share. Just think. I move into “full bow”—right from “camel” like it’s nothing. It’s something. I know it and so does guru.
Maybe we can have a three way. He’s really into us. We’re like a synchronized porno. If I was ever going to “minage-eh-twa,” it’d have to have a male yoga instructor as the third. Otherwise, I’d feel a little cheap. Used. My breath is strong now. A force. On the inhale, I walk my hands towards my feet and come to a powerful “mountain pose.” Dude is right in front of my mat. He smiles. How can he resist?
I hate “fish” pose so much that it almost wrecks my jam. He saves my collapse with another “child’s pose.” I’m overcome with gratitude. I think of my gifts: my family, the use of my limbs, the time I have to figure it out. I’ll be ok. My body is warm. Comfortable here. Calmer. I reach. I extend forward and breathe with hope.
“Time for inversions. If there is more than a five percent doubt you’ll fall into someone, please use a wall.”
The mat is slippery. My first irritant is this ugly fact. No mat has ever been able to handle the amount I sweat. But, it’s “headstand,” and I’ve totally got this. Pony-tail adjusted, and by the time I retie, goddess is already up like an inverted sphinx. What did Twain say about seeing the Sphinx? What word did he use? “Sentient.” Yes. My fingers interlock, I drop my head into my palms, and I feel the weight shift to my forearms as I tip toe forward, waiting for the pendulum moment. My pelvis missed this feeling. This controlled and dignified act of balancing fear. I’m up. I’m breathing steady and pointing my toes like Gabby Fucking Douglas. Exhale down to inches. Then, slowly back up. Control. I’m in control again. The suddenness of it. It makes my skin hot. I come down, ready to be a corpse. Sentient.
Lying on my back, eyes closed. I take these moments to remember my friend next to me. Jamie brought me here to help, because she knew that listening to me rehash what I can’t remember wouldn’t do anything. I had nothing to say. I just had to find a way to move, even this slowly. Even in place. “You just need to move,” she said as she paid for my class. The yoga man beckons us back to life.
“In your own time, begin to come back to a seated position. We will end the class with three Oms.”
I exhale. I try really hard to be into this.
“This is for the person next to you,” he says.
I open my mouth and even though I’m not the best in the vocal arena, I Om for the goddess. I hold it as deeply as I can. As much as I try, I feel calmness slipping away. She’s probably straight.
“This is for a person you are grateful for.”
My mother. I should call her. She worries. She wants me to be happy, but I seem deficient. My calmness is tugged further. Towards the steamed window pane of the studio. The coldness in the street. I want the ceiling to collapse. I want peace. Om Shanti, I believe, is how you say that.
“Last, for someone you hate. Dvesha.”
I make no sound. Damn you, yoga man. I’m in no mood to Om. If I open my mouth, I’ll scream. I want to cry but the anger in my ribcage suppresses the desire. It clings to my insides like steel-cut oatmeal. I’d faint if I let anymore water come out of my body. I close my eyes. Coincidence. Dvesha. If anyone knew my dvesha, they would never ask me to Om about it. They’d accept that I’m just moving for now, and isn’t that that brave enough? Namaste, bitches.
Outside, it feels like there is a frigid puddle between my layers of clothes: two scarves, a long sleeve shirt, which capillary action had caused my sweat to dampen, and my winter coat, an impulse-buy of puffy down. This must be what turtles feel like: thick shell with a disgusting, moist core. I wave goodbye to Jamie, who’s headed back to her fiancé and french bulldog in the East Village. I head into the The Mud Man, a coffee shop next door to the yoga studio. Half a cinnamon scone and one shot of espresso later has me penning a note to my sort-of ex on a napkin, which, mind you, was made with 45% post-consumer recycled paper. Last night, my aggressive and belig display, fueled by three Belvederes and two shots of Jose, basically sealed the deal on me coming off as completely psychotic. It ended with her new girlfriend grabbing her arm and escorting her out of the bar. My note wasn’t exactly “Keats,” but it was honest. Audible honesty. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to be shooting for now?
"I’m sorry. I love you. It looked like I was still a mess, but I swear I’m not.”
I underlined, "I’m not" and the napkin rips. A layered wound. I buy a stamp off an older women, who I could just tell had one. The purse gave it away: muted Vera Bradley paisley nonsense. She was actually in the yoga class, but in the back row, because she was “new to yoga and an old lady who can't bend like you young girls anymore.” I thank Trudy for the stamp and push through the heavy glass door.
The moment merits a cigarette. I’m down to two a week. This is my second, and it’s only Sunday. Whatever. I see the mailbox on the end of the block and walk towards it quickly. I arrive, pull on the cold handle, reach into the pocket of my coat and realize that I don’t have an envelope. Damnit. My iPhone finds a stationary shop three streets over that is called “Ink Panda.” Weird name.
I give a weak wave at the owner, a blonde woman in her 40s who’s wearing a crocheted sweater-vest and impressively ugly loafers. She might be gay. My entrance to the shop is set to the music of soft bongo-esque clatter from a bamboo wind ornament clumsily attached to the door. More of these beauties are for sale and hanging above the handcrafted papyrus birthday cards in the back right corner of the store. The lady is hard at work on an impressive round table display of St. Patrick's Day cards positioned amongst scattered gold foiled chocolate coins that are spilling out of a black plastic cauldron. She offers me a coin and winks—she’s totally gay—and I accept the candy currency even though I don’t eat chocolate. Maybe I’ll send it with my note. My girl does have a sweet tooth, which I find quite endearing.
I knew this place was going to be over the top expensive. I check out the apology cards. Most of them have cute animals on the front wincing or smiling like guilty school children. Most of them are also $7.00 or more. No fucking way am I paying for one of these. I grab a mint green card that goes with a kitten moping in a wicker basket. I hate cats. I peek at the woman, who is now whistling “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, while adjusting the arms of a creepy ass leprechaun doll that sings “MacNamara’s Band” when someone passes. The coast is clear, so I put the envelope in my pocket. I walk to the door, make it past the display, activating the stupid leprechaun, and I my arm is grabbed.
"What do you think you’re doing!’
Stealing an envelope. Duh.
‘I saw that. I'll have you know that the proceeds of these cards help raise money for endangered pandas."
I suppress my laugh but can’t help my eyebrows from mocking her statement. In a low tone, dripping with acid and the gaze of a teenager, I say, "Can’t argue that."
I walk back to the aisle and pick out a card with a penguin shrugging on it, as if say "my bad" or "I don't know why I did that." I check out for my $6.20 cent card that is supposedly going to finance sexy time for Ling Ling and Ping Pong. As my debit card is being swiped, beacause of course Ink Panda doesn’t take Amex, I read the mission statement scotch taped to the counter. It informs me that Ling Ling and Ping Pong spend their low libido lives at the Chengdu Research Base, located in a mountain region in Western China. I blink away an image of two pandas fucking mid-air, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-style, on a misty precipice illuminated by floating paper lanterns. After signing my receipt, the seductive scene is replaced with a short narrative of the bitch owner falling through ice. In my fantasy, I just shrug like my penguin friend.
I ask for a bag just to be salty and, of course, it has a smiling fat panda on it. Awesome. She has the nerve to ask, "Anything else?" Initially, I don’t say anything. I turn to leave, then I spin around and say, “I’m taking this,” picking up a pen from the counter. I walk out twirling the bag on my finger and pocketing the pen, which also has a smiling fat panda on it.
The wet coldness that I felt after leaving the class now feels like a skeletal chill. The music of the wind chime has me thinking of hammocks in the Bahamas. Wouldn’t that be sweet? “Waiter! Another mojito please.” Writing on the glass window of Ink Panda, I address the letter to her workplace, while trying to make sure that I smudge the window of the storefront as much as possible. Can Windex freeze? I really hope so. I have no clue what her real address is. Her current girlfriend and she moved into a new place in June; I just know it’s some dirty flat hugging the Slope. When I heard about it, I called and left a voicemail...something about being willing to live anywhere with her...something about even if it was a cardboard box...something about gutters and happiness.
Reading the folded note twice and seeing the tear from my underlined "I’m not,” makes me second guess this move. It’s one step up from a note with cut out letters and paste. Jim Carrey’s Riddler giggles in my mind. The Psychotic missal lands in a trashcan without a sound. I’ll go with the six-dollar penguin card, just not right now. It will be a romantic and cute expression. Definitely a less bat-shit move than the napkin—although, wasn’t Harry Potter written on napkins? Irrelevant. Maybe, after one more yoga class, I'll be inspired with the right words or the courage to let it go. Actually, let her go. Reflexes close my eyes. Instead of making one more gesture, I could fall through the ice of my self-pity. First, shrugging like my penguin, and then accepting the frozen feeling entirely: the complete coldness of separation. My version of Om Shanti, i.e. “Peace out, my Love.” Splash!
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