It wasn’t a good day, so I needed yoga class all the more. I signed up for a 7:30PM class with live music, the kind of thing that my solitary self has the luxury of doing at the moment. I’ve been oddly early to everything lately- oddly, that is, for me, as I tend(ed) to be chronically late even to important appointments, and have to constantly fight my urge to putter around my home just as I’m supposed to be heading out the door. No joke, I suddenly decided it’d be a good time to organize my scarves right before a shrink appointment this week. That was the old me rearing her head… or maybe the mentally healthy me.
Anyway, I arrived at this yoga class among the first three– one of whom was a handsome, tanned, and muscled tattoo instructor from the same school who was going through his own routine as he waited for class to start. The other was a lean, lithe woman with tangled dirty blonde hair, a white tank-top that hugged her frame, and silver bracelets galore. She planted herself less than a foot from my face as I walked in.
“Hi. I need to know. What that means.” She pointed to the tattoo on my right arm.
“Oh, um, it’s a Biblical verse.”
“What does it say?” She leaned closer, peering at me intently.
There are two kinds of people who ask about my tattoos– the ones who perceptively read into my clipped answer that I’m not in the mood to explain (when I’m not), and those who will not be satisfied until they extract a full explanation from me. I won’t slow down the narrative for you by explaining which kind she was.
“Oh, um, it’s about angels. And love.”
Her eyes widened. “See. I knew that,” she said manically. “I knew that. You. Like. I totally needed to hear that right now. Like. God, or um, whomever put you in my path so I could hear the words of love on your arm right now. Y’know?”
I couldn’t stop thinking that I was having a moment of failure as a human being. What if she ended up inviting me to a bar? What if she’s a fascinating (ex-drug addict, or my radar is broken) person, and all I want is to close off into my space and ignore her, even when I’m so lonely these days that it seems the only thing I can feel or think? She and I could sit in a dusty Houston bar, painted yellow and red with rusty silver stars on the wall, drinking bottles of beer and talking about dreams.
But no, if she invited me I’d probably think for a moment about how I’d rather go to Starbucks and go home to my dogs, and end up making excuses as I so often do. I’m just not good at spontaneity. Or people.
While I was thinking all of this I was nodding along with her.
“Um, so you want to know what it says?”
“Please. I feel like YOU. Were put in my path tonight. For a reason.”
“It simply says ‘If I should speak in the tongues of man and angels but have not love, I am but a clanging gong or resounding bell,’ I recited in my usual monotone.
Her eyes widened: “Beautiful” she breathed.
I demured: “Well, it’s fairly commonly used in weddings. Not really all that creative of me, actually.”
She wasn’t listening to me. She rambled along, in the same clipped, rapid fire manner : “So it means you need to. You need to have love. Love is everything. Or nothing you say. Is important. If it doesn’t come from Love. That’s so important.”
My eyes wandered to the front of the beautiful, rounded corner room with its enormous windows overlooking the Houston skyline. I made a move to put my mat down, and in this nearly empty room, she placed hers a mere foot from mine. I closed my eyes and lay down.
This class was beautiful, the live guitar and the drums complementing the yoga done in a dimming room, the sun dropping behind the skyscrapers as we moved through poses. The instructor did have an odd habit of saying “That’s niiiiiice” repeatedly, sometimes more than once in a sentence… i.e.: “Drop into downward dog… that’s niiiice… leg up…. ‘s niiiiice.”
But she ran a good class so I decided to stop counting the nice’s and gloating about my superior crow pose, and just… relax into it.
Also, the blonde woman cornered her at the end to explain the “Real meaning of yoga”, so all is forgiven. The instructor’s probably still in that studio.
Sitting in my parked car and e-mapping my route home, I found myself looking up and over to the white van parked next to my little car. Inside sat six women in black burqas, with only their eyes peeking back at me. I suddenly felt self-conscious in my exercise tank top with my short shaved hair and tattoos. But as I glanced away and then back, I found myself smiling at the woman closest to me. And then, much to my surprise, she lifted the front of her face covering so I could see her own smile, before letting it drop again. I actually giggled out loud in my car.
I’m trying to put on a brave front in public, but I feel like crying is my full-time job these days. Crying, wondering how I’m going to get through the day, and trying frantically to argue with the negative voices in my head.
(Digression- I wondered why the dogs were so quiet… as with children (I imagine), this is rarely a good sign. I’d left the closet open and they’d found their toy box, taken one out at a time, and had assembled themselves a nice little buffet of furry toys, squeakers long since destroyed.)