I have been taking a yoga class for grief, loss, and bereavement for a month now. The class is taught by a woman named Teal, though I have my doubts that that is her real name. She calls us her bean sprouts.
“Bean sprouts,” she’ll say, “fold in to child’s pose from down-dog. This is your center, this is your rest. Whenever you need to collect yourself go into child’s pose.”
And all seven of us mourners push ourselves into the studio’s polished wood floor until we look like wet pebbles.
“When you’re ready, bean sprouts, rise into sun salutation. Open your chest. Imagine the sun in front of you, now take it inside you with your breathe and the sweep of your arms. Exhale. Now let it go. Let it go.”
Here is where the woman who lost her baby will cry. She is always the first. It’s quiet crying, sharp breathes now and then, but I notice because I look around at the others, no matter how many times Teal tells me not to. The woman who lost her baby wears the nicest yoga clothes and dislikes me because I wear stained button downs. I have the money for clothes like hers but I don’t see the point in seventy dollar pants to stretch in. I’m the youngest and prettiest in the room, anyway.
“Lower yourself to the floor, inch by inch, vertebrae by vertebrae, until you are flat on your back,” Teal says. She lowers the lights and her voice melts in to a wispy trance.
“You are in an ocean. It is clean and blue and you are floating. You’re not afraid of going under. You can get your hair wet.” A lot of the women in this room have extensions or get daily blow-outs, so I can imagine this is legitimately frightening to them.
“It is just you out in this turquoise, but you are not afraid. In this single moment you are at peace and you have no want for anything other than to be exactly as you are.” At this point I am certain she is making it up as she goes along.
“In this water you are at peace because you are forgiven. An ocean of forgiveness, a limitless supply. You can let go here, give it to the ocean.” Everyone in the room is crying. We’re all innocent, crying babies in a dark yoga studio, lying on the floor, shaking in our shared grief, and loving each other because we’re lost things. Oops! Where did I misplace all these people?
I mean, they are crying. I am not crying. I have not cried yet.
“Let go,” Teal has said to me. “You have to let the ocean out through your eyes.”
I like the sound of it, but I think if I were to, I’d die.
I tell my girlfriend that I don’t think I will take the class anymore.
“Why not? I think it’s good for you. I think it’s really helping.”
“It’s not,” I say.
“Oh,” she says.
She is still upset with me because I didn’t let her come to the funeral. My family still thinks she is just my roommate. When I told her she couldn’t come she said this was just like that episode of Six Feet Under. She is always doing that. Watching a lot of television and then telling me our lives are just like it.
Sometimes I humor her. “Which one?”
“The one where Nathaniel won’t let the gay cop he’s life-partnered with come to the funeral.”
“Well, you’re not a cop.”
“No, I’m not.” And she touches me and I am so hollow. I could break apart under her fingertips.
Tonight there is one man in the class. He is here because his wife died in a plane crash. A famous one. All of the women are attracted to him because he is sad and hasn’t shaved his face in a long time and they want to rescue him. But I am certain that he will be mine because I am the most beautiful girl in the class and because I want him the least. After class we both linger on our yoga mats, talking about music. When everyone is gone we start kissing because we’re alone and it’s dark and it makes sense.
He carries me into the locker room like I am a child, and places me on the granite counter in front of the mirror. There are travel-sized hairdryers where sinks should be– this is the ladies locker room. We are kissing in a wet way that sounds like crying and his hands are moving everywhere. We make love lovelessly and it’s nice. I like this, taking things that are not mine and hiding them inside my body.
When nothing more is going to happen we pull our clothes from the heap. We walk together to the subway station and discover we take the same train. There is a woman sitting on the yellow line with her legs dangling over the edge, right where the trains skims by. He and I had been talking about how strange the money system is in Prague, how a cup of milk tea and a scone costs five hundred koruna, but seeing her I fall quiet. I feel sick until an official tells the woman she cannot sit there. Two weeks passed before anyone knew my mother was dead. Depending on which resident you ask, the apartment complex either smelled sweet, like rotten fruit, or like cat litter, but never both. One of her neighbors told me that my mother gave everyone an alibi– said she was going to Spain for some sunshine.
He gets off the subway at his stop and I get off at mine. Though it is dark out, black trees and buildings smacked against a lavender sky, I do not want to go home quite yet. The only shop open on my street is a Goodwill so I buy three paintings, none of which I like or will ever hang up. One is of a flower I have never heard of, ‘meadow fleabane’; another is of a little boats rowed out too far. The third is of a girl wearing a green coat in a restaurant soon to be shut down for the night. She is drinking coffee from a white cup and sits near the radiator. I don’t like her. She’s one of those girls who never takes their coat off when they get places. They always think of leaving.
The paintings are heavy and bulky, so I go home. Inside, I hear the laugh-track of a sitcom, and my girlfriend is on the couch, not laughing. I fold myself into her, under the throw-blanket, and it is so warm and she is so soft. She pushes her head onto the top of mine so she can see the television.
“You smell bad, you beautiful thing,” she says to me. It’s true. I am the most beautiful girl a lot of people have ever seen. I start kissing her and we have a sleepy sort of sex, like usual. I probably would have preferred for her to have brushed my long hair instead. She didn’t even bother taking my jacket off.
I almost tell her that I slept with a man. I know that she can smell him on me, but can’t place it. I almost tell her, but I then think of the girl in the painting and where she will go when the restaurant closes for the night. I do not want to wonder where she will walk to while pastries dry to crust in glass cases.