Although I am the only male in the class, I did not start taking yoga
to meet women. Yoga class is a good excuse to lie down and do nothing.
For the last five minutes when the lights are switched off and the
warehouse-sized room turns cave-like, we are instructed to observe
sounds and sensations, and then let them pass. Every sound echoes like
the inside of a basketball and every sensation is relaxed away. It could
be real meditation if I could let all thoughts pass, as instructed, but
today I think about sex, then I think about doing laundry, then I think
about the two together and how relaxed my body is, like a warm blanket
out of the dryer. Then I remember to clear my mind. Then I remind myself
that idle hands are the devilís workshop, or so they say, so what of an
idle mind? A million monks could be wrong. I mean, I used to think all
that enlightenment stuff was really cool, but canít you be peaceful
and interesting? Canít you be free from suffering and wear what you
want to and dance like a maniac and meet someone at the laundromat who
wants to come home with you and do it on top of the folded laundry? This
is what I gain from yoga, more than the contortions. What Iím not
supposed to be thinking about during the meditation.
Everyone is in an exhaustive daze when the instructor says, "Okay,
wiggle your fingers and toesÖ.roll your eyesÖ..and turn over on your
side." I want the meditation to last for hours. I want volleyball
players walking by to look into the darkness and see the great empty
space between our bodies strewn on the floor and the air ducts scattered
on the ceiling. I forget all the chubby girls around me, and how their
panting has slowed to a light snore.
I made a friend in the class, a girl named Kristen with a septum
ring. We only just met and already we are instructed to use yoga belts
as sadistic forms of bondage while pulling limbs straight and taut. I
laugh sporadically because she looks uncomfortable and I donít know how
else to react. Itís always raining when we leave the warehouse. I feel
somehow younger than everyone because they wear yoga suits under
business suits and I wear oddly fitting multicolored rags. But Iím
pretty sure weíre probably all the same age.
They say at this age, at any age, women are more mature. I believe it
on some level. A lot of these girls, however, couldnít identify a Johnny
Cash song from a Tom Waits. And Iíd be willing to bet they donít know
how to hold a conversation past hello. Iím talking about substance here,
eye contact. They can go home and watch the Lifetime channel all they
want if thatís whatís called maturity.
I am still thinking about laundry and how to make my clothes rattier
and softer, so I go to the laundromat. There is only a dog waiting for
something, probably the dryer, and the old balding woman who runs the
place. Neither of them look interested in me. I open "Better Homes and
Gardens" and rip out a recipe for some kind of appetizing concoction. I
can hear a tattoo gun running across the street. I am secretive about
the recipe just in case someone else is interested. Although I kind of
wish someone else was interested so I would have a reason to concoct it.
I go home and dump the clothes out on the bed and spread them around
and stare at them all laid out. Then I look at my feet; theyíre too
dirty. I wonder if the chubby girls in white in yoga class noticed. I
sit on the floor and look closer at my foot like no one will ever see
it. I wonder what kind of first impression my foot makes. Itís
twenty-seven years old. Iíve known it way too long to have any idea what
it really looks like.
I figure I should eat something because Iím bored and itís about that
time. The garbage needs to be taken out. Still. I look at the recipe and
have no ingredients so I make dehydrated miso soup and mix it with ramen
noodles, which are also dehydrated.
The salt intake makes me drink a beer at a local bar. I look at some
girls there and think about how warm their little sweaters must be to
dance in. One girl moves like machinery. Everything I can think of to
say to her would make me sound like a total douche bag. "Hey, do you
want to learn some yoga moves?" "Do you want to roll around on top of
warm piles of clothing with me?"
I go home and jerk off into a clean sock and fall asleep with the
light on. I dream about cause and effect and miso soup and Kristen and
again Iím lying still, and letting thoughts pass like before. But
really, once Iíve thought something and I forget it the next moment,
doesnít it still effect every moment of my life from then on? And thatís
something I have no control over. Not even with the aid of meditation,
or drinking, or sleeping, or sex, can I stop it.
When I wake up in the morning my clothes are still piled up on the
bed, but in the shape of a person lying next to me so I nuzzle it. Maybe
I should get a dog or something. I want to take a walk because there are
people out. But today every conversation I overhear makes me feel
awkward and uncomfortable. To observe someone search for the next topic,
to fill in the blanks with short expressions and sighs, is like watching
Rock and Roll Jeopardy and trying to yell the answers through the TV.
Not that my topics are any less awkward. I could probably catch someone
off guard with an opener like, "So, did you have any interesting dreams
Thereís a dog tied up to a tree and heís smiling in the shade. I
unknot his leather leash and we walk to yoga together. A few girls pet
him and coo. One asks me his name and I pretend not to hear her. I tell
her heís a he and a spaniel/rottweiler mix, although I have no idea.
Yoga is three blocks north and I feel different with the dog, like if I
were carrying a bag or wearing a new hat. I tie him to a light post in
front of the building, kneel down and look at him very closely. He
averts eye contact, so I decide it wasnít meant to be. After yoga I take
him back to the tree.
At home I stare out my window at the wall of the business next door.
They closed at five. Now it is six and autumn, already dusk. The wall is
ugly beige, but partly covered with vines growing staggered upward an
average of five feet. I go outside to inspect them up close and notice
they have little feet that clutch the textures in the wallís adobe, or
stucco or whatever. I am careful not to rip the feet out of their
sockets as I peel the vines off the wall and drape them over my right
arm. Their little fingernails are not sharp but firm and fleshy. In my
bedroom I realize that their nails wonít grab hold so I use a staple gun
to completely cover my postered walls with the exception of a few band
names exposing themselves through curtains of ivy. Fucking
Kristen and I meet that night for the first time outside of class at
a local bar. I donít know how to keep her entertained for longer than
twenty minutes so I get exceedingly drunk hoping sheíll do the same. She
points out for me that yoga as a way of life does not include binge
drinking. I ask her if she wants to meet my dog and she says okay. We go
to my house which is nearby.
"So whereís your dog?" she asks.
"Oh." The memory of retying him to the tree surfaces. "I think he ran
awayÖ.erÖmy roommate took him for a walk. Here, check this out."
We go into my room and I donít have to point out the vines because
they are obvious, hanging off the walls and dangling from the ceiling.
She opens her mouth. "Whoa. This is your room? How did youÖ.?"
I lead her out and close the door behind her. "Look, Iím gonna go to
bed now. Sorry my dogís not home." I know Iím way too drunk and never
should have showed her. I babble a bunch of random stuff because I think
she wants to kiss me as I lead her out the door. "See ya later, er, at
yoga, thanks for coming out."
"Okay, but, do youÖ.ohÖalright, later." I close the door and know
that the vines will soon wither and then she wonít want me anymore.
I look at my albums and none of them seem appropriate for the
occasion so I listen to the radio for the first time since like sixth
grade on a whim. What are the Fourteen Year Olds of America getting
themselves into these days? I donít recognize it, but goddamn if it
isnít catchy! Anyway, thereís a contest on for the eighth caller so I
call in and win. Radio contests these days donít even ask you to have a
basic understanding of trivial facts, just a fast finger. To tell the
truth, I was probably the only one listening at two in the morning. I am
to pick up a free Justin Timberlake CD at the station. I ask them if I
can get it on vinyl. "No." Either way Iím gonna scratch it to hell.
I decide never to go to yoga again because I donít want Kristen to
see me in those vulnerable positions. Iíll just wait until I run into
her on the street someday and itíll be really awkward and sheíll be
thinking "what an asshole." Then maybe a few weeks after that Iíll run
into her at the bar and I will be in the mood to talk to her and sheíll
be thinking "I can be with anyone I want if I put my mind to it. No one
is unattainable, especially not this asshole." And I will be in a more
appropriate state of mind and able to kiss her after all.
So I go to the radio station and pick up my CD instead. The cover is
flashy; I can tell itís overproduced. I hand it to this woman walking
out of the post office and she accepts. I wonder if she was just mailing
a letter to the Justin Timberlake fan club, or maybe a package to
herself since no one ever gives her any presents. So I can be her hero
and her Santa Claus. Then I vanish, like heroes always do.
Actually I just go to the graveyard. On the way there I make sure to
walk only in sunshine, so it takes awhile because I have to keep
crossing to the sunny side of the street every time I turn a corner. I
imagine that the buildings are rubble. In the cemetery itís sunny but
the headstones are cool to touch. The ones made of sandstone have
crumbled in slabs that lay on the ground above where the corpseís head
should be. I try to read all of the names and dates but most of them
have been sloughed off somewhere in grainy heaps. This is the cemetery I
would like my tombstone to be in, but not my tomb. I would rather
quickly turn to ash than gradually decompose.
I avoid the shady areas and when the sun looks low I go home and turn
the lights on and close the curtains. I pace around and worry, thinking
how whenever I see someone I know they always say my name at least once
instead of just "hello, how are you." And I never say anyoneís name. Iím
good with names, itís not that I forget them, itís that when I see an
acquaintance I am instantly barraged with images of how I know them and
what I know about them. Their name is the last thing that occurs to me.
But I know how it feels to hear my own name. I know I revel in that
extra attention, that little extra bit of affection as much as anyone
else does. So Iíll have to work on that.
Another pressing habit has to do with the people I meet when Iím
drunk, or those Iíve had only one brief conversation with in my entire
life. I see them on the street and I avoid eye contact because I know if
I say hi to them once Iíll be pressured to say hi every time and it will
become more and more clear how little we know each other and how false
our relationship truly is. There is no solution to this predicament so I
get in the shower and think about it some more. My feet will not come
In my dream Kristen is there, but I know itís not her, sheís just a
symbol. Iím on the beach, probably in Mexico, and sheís in the ocean,
pretty far out so I can only see her head and neck and her hair lying
flat out around her. Itís dusk and feels like autumn, although seasons
are tricky when youíre on the beach. My feet are buried in the sand, so
I canít go in the water. They seem to be stuck, and then in my dream I
fall asleep on the sand and thatís when I really wake up.
I only like to do my laundry in the afternoon, around four, so I wait
till then when the sun is low and will shine warmest on the west side of
the street. Itís too soon to do laundry again so all I have to wash is a
bunch of dirty socks. Thereís Kristen, also doing laundry, or at least
sitting outside the Laundromat by chance. I get a ticklish feeling, like
a little girl would if she saw Justin Timberlake.
"Hello, Kristen, how are you?" I think about her name and how it
sounds so good and crunchy coming out of my mouth. We kind of bask in
the sun for a while, facing west.
"Because itís autumn," I say, "this is when the sun is most orange. I
wonder if light is diffused differently through the cooler air or
something like that."
Kristen comes back to my house with me and doesnít ask about my dog.
I throw my laundry on the bed and turn on some music I think she might
like, some Yo La Tengo. We lie on our backs on my bed looking at the
dried ivy leaves, falling slowly around us like they should, because
Janine Cipolaro is completing her B.A. in
English at Northern Arizona University. This is her first publication.