I thought of you and it was like a day dream,
One that you choose to get lost in,
There you were in the distance,
It’s a long bench,
But I can tell you’re getting closer,
There are sparks, oh yes,
But they’re far away,
So they don’t look like individual sparks,
Kind of a blur,
But it’s nice because there’s still a light,
Just about to burst into bright,
I’ll be honest, I can’t tell, it’s far away,
And just like that I pop out into the street,
Just another person out walking,
Ambling over to my favorite coffee shop
Tapping my fingers to an unknown tune,
And sometimes you’d appear,
In a glance, out of the corner of my eye.
Like a memory in a different lifetime.
Yoga. It sounds like a friendly word. Sounds a little like yogurt. Smooth and creamy. Maybe a little like a low mobility shriveled old alien spouting words of wisdom in Star Wars. Or Maybe it reminds you a little of Yogi Bear: that lovable cartoon animal that really just wanted picnic baskets. He didn’t want to ravage people, he was just hungry for a sandwich. So what harm could come from doing yoga? Plenty. It’s a horrible practice that should have been outlawed by the Geneva Convention. The non-threatening name only exacerbates the horror and trauma it causes. I shall now attempt to explain how this system of abuse works.
It begins by a suggestion from your wife that yoga will be beneficial to you and that it’s something you can do together. While I don’t blame my wife for the suffering endured, she is responsible for tending to injuries afterwards. Anyway, what husband wouldn’t agree with that suggestion – so off to yoga I go. Keep in mind this suggestion has been made for a couple years before I finally relented. This is a great way to spend a Saturday morning if you aren’t a fan of sleeping or taking it easy on the weekend. I am not sure what every yoga studio looks like but the ones I have seen are similar to this. A big open space and as you walk in you feel comforted by its openness. It’s similar to one of those big empty warehouses the mob might ask you a few questions in with just a chair sitting at the center. Except there are no chairs. Off to the side the room is stocked with many implements of your future torture. Unlike in typical torture situations where the torturer has to at least expend some effort to get the equipment, you have to get it yourself. There is the razor thin mat, which gives you little protection from the floor, but prevents your feet and hands from sliding on the floor into a comfortable position which might save you from the pain you will have to experience. There are straps which you use to bind yourself with, there are blocks and pillows that you use to prop yourself up with (more will be explained later about how these will be used to weaken you psychologically).
The class is largely full of women. If you are a single man interested in women, you might think this is the place for you, but you’d be mistaken. The only way you can impress a woman here is through your ability to take pain. Some women might be impressed by that, but probably only the kind that want a man they can inflict pain on. Others might feel sorry for you and take pity. I submit that nothing here is the basis for building a meaningful relationship. My suggestion is that you hone other skills and impress women elsewhere. And as I’ll soon explain, it’s unclear how many people here aren’t part of the grift that is yoga.
Your instructor is the true deceiver here and you will look at her and really think everything will be alright. She is friendly and welcoming. She doesn’t look overly imposing although a careful glance will see strong muscles safely tucked into her yoga pants. Of course, she need not be too formidable in appearance as the method of torture comes from what she tells you to do to yourself, not what she does to you directly. This is the brilliance of it all.
As the session begins the trap is sprung. Why? Because this is the beginning of the psychological manipulation to follow. You start by sitting and breathing. Her voice is calming as she tries to relax you so you become more pliable later. Often there is some music in the background played at the exact right volume to make you more compliant and ensure complete submission to her orders. So there I am sitting and breathing. Pretty easy stuff. I’m getting relaxed. I look around the room…I feel a sense of unity as we are all sitting and breathing and I am on par with the rest of the class at this activity so I’m feeling good about myself. But this peaceful feeling doesn’t last. It’s not long before you have to start doing poses. This by the way is also the beginning of many Hindi words that I’m pretty sure mean rather insidious things, but sound spiritual.
I got to do a cow. That was easy. I pretended like I had a really heavy udder. Then there was the cat. That was also not bad, except cats are ready to pounce and flee at a moment’s notice. This was only making me more stationary. Then there was the cobra. All I know is that if a mongoose found me it would be over quick. Then I am doing something called “a child”, which is not like my child at all who is energetic and obstinate. In this position you are more like a worshipper praising the teacher for the pleasure of being tortured. Then I’m told to take the strap and put it around my foot to hold my leg straight up in the air. I quickly notice how my leg doesn’t go straight up in the air. It is roughly at a 20 degree angle above the floor in order to remain straight. Everybody else in the room is like a fucking submarine and I begin to feel shame. I begin to wonder is yoga really just part of the feminist agenda so we know what it feels like to constantly feel shame over our own bodies in a patriarchal system? As a feminist I quickly agree that yoga is for the betterment of society and continue. My hamstring already feels angry as the teacher calmly has me moving my leg to the left and right. Her language becomes a maze of confusion. “Turn to the right, but open your shoulders. Pin your hips to the floor as if you are breathing through your thigh.” I quickly notice that my thigh is completely without the requisite respiratory system and begin to worry. That worry is quickly forgotten as I am told to lose the strap and do a cobra again. Now it’s downward facing dog. You will, in this moment, realize that no dog would ever pose like this. My arms quiver under the weight of my body. “No”, she says, “the weight is supposed to mostly on your legs.” I quickly try to work out how this is humanly possible because hard as I try I can only make my hamstrings scream. I collapse on to my knees and look around as everyone looks like statues and my complete incompetence becomes glaring. I’m sweating as I glance up at the clock. Only 15 minutes have passed. Also why does my sweat smell worse in this environment?
As I alluded to earlier the extreme shame you experience is what makes you go along with the instructor. Every move you try to follow her on reminds you that you aren’t worthy. All the while she will say things like, “Lift your arm up straight so that it brushes your ear. Now drop your shoulder.” What? How do I drop my shoulder while lifting up my arm? And on and on it goes, “Open your shoulders, stretch your spine, drop your tailbone, turn your pinkies inward to work your triceps, reach out with your ring finger to feel it in your armpit, bend down to left while lowering your right hip.” Basically the rule of thumb is that whatever direction they want you to move, you are supposed to, somehow, at the same time also move in the other direction. And I begin to realize that yoga is simply the art of tearing your own body apart as slowly and painfully as possible.
I am on the ground, left leg over right and told “turn to the left, but not to move my neck, and to keep my buttocks on the ground, and to reach behind me, turn my hand, open my shoulders, but now look back in the other direction, without using my neck, only my shoulders, also open up the sides of your body, push your ribs against your tailbone.” Somehow no time has passed since my last excruciating look at the clock. As I look around, illegally, using my neck, I am reminded once again that I am surround by flexible supple women who look like dancers and begin to realize that they are all part of the plan to torture you. The teacher beforehand selected them to make you look as pathetic as possible. And as you look over at the teacher, you can’t even feel aggression, which would be the normal way to get out of this situation, but shame weakens you. You are ready to tell her where the bomb is located, what the encryption code is, turn over your family to the authorities, but your tormentor doesn’t want any information and only wants you to experience pain. A 5’1″ sadist who somehow manages to say “namaste” with a smile on her face from the well of darkness that must be her soul. You want to run out of the room, but this would only add to the humiliation. Peppered throughout her tormenting instruction is “Don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.” Even though, minus the sitting and breathing, everything she’s asked you to do since makes you uncomfortable. If my comfort was her concern she would ask me to leave.
The final mockery comes with the warrior poses. As a man my instinct is to think that this is finally something I can sink my teeth in, but again she exposes the patriarchy for what it is. I look around and I see women who could very well be Amazonian soldiers ready to strike me with a deadly blow. I on the other hand feel like a Chihuahua who has less that confidently stood in front of Doberman Pincher, only to realize that not only do I have a sprained ankle, but I’ve also got spinach between my teeth when I try to growl. I listen to Yanni playing now. I hate Yanni. That bastard plays a note for 30 seconds while sipping a coffee, making millions and leads a pleasurable life, while his new age feeble “compositions” are now a soundtrack for my pain.
The best part of it all is that this was called “gentle yoga”. Imagine lying on the ground while a crane slowly in small increments lowers a 1 ton weight on to you. At first you are like it’s just touching me, now it’s a bit of a massage, and then “Oh my bones are being crushed and I will soon be flat as a pancake”. This is really the only way I can me sense of the use of the word “gentle”. Gentle and continuous pressure will still ruin your day.
After a length of time which can only be measured on the geologic time scale, the barefoot punisher allows you to relax and asks for you to reflect on what you did today. Afraid to relive the trauma I decide to think of the bagels I have at home and which flavor cream cheese I want. I do some more very competent breathing. She wishes us all happiness, and that we cause no harm, remorseless for the harm she caused me. I get up and put my torture implements away obediently, wipe down my mat, smelling the residue of my fear. As I leave, hips wobbling, the teacher smiles at me and I say “See you next week!”
Wake up, time to get up,
Make some tea,
The sun is out, that’s nice.
Brushing my teeth
Should I shave today?
Yes, no avoiding it.
A bite to eat
Go to the gym for a bit
The dew is gone, better mow that lawn
Take my son for a walk
Nap time for him now
Fold some laundry with Maggie
He’s up, dinner.
Bed and bath for the little one
Some TV, some computer time
Off to bed
Repeat the next day
Wake up, time to get up,
Make some tea,
The clouds are pretty, that’s nice.
Brushing my teeth,
Don’t need to shave today
A bite to eat
Off to work, same route
Driving home, same route
Hit the gym
Take my son for a walk
Empty the dishwasher
Cook some dinner
Bed and bath for the little one
Sneak in a bowl of ice cream
Read and fall asleep
Repeat the next day
Wake up, time to get up, Make some tea, Flossing, flossing, Looks like rain today. Brushing my teeth, Shave again? Yep, beard is pretty grey A bite to eat
Off to work, same route Lunch Driving home, same route
Hit the gym Lot’s of rain, staying in Grass is going to grow faster Wash some dishes Start the grill for dinner Skyping with family Bed and bath for the little one Read and fall asleep
What are we doing? Does anybody know?
Where are we going? Is there anywhere to go?
If a purpose was given to us, why do so few people show it?
If God suddenly appeared would anyone know it?
And if purpose is ours, can we make it good?
We really should
Too many people are looking for entertainment,
Content with containment,
Step outside of yourself and take a look,
Behind the crannies and the nook,
How others live and the pain they face,
The collective suffering of the human race
Do we shed that weight by pulling others down?
If we all saw the size of the load and shared it,
Wouldn’t we all feel it a little bit less?
We spend too much time yelling and shaming,
Pointing and categorizing and naming,
Bullied, berated, ground down and weathered,
Shortening the rope to the post they are tethered
What do we expect of people when they are made to feel small,
Is anyone paying attention at all?
This is serious yet we only hear laughter,
“This is funny we’ll deal with the consequences after,
Hurray for the charlatans, make them our leader,
Learn how to win being a liar and cheater,”
Scientists are mocked with joyful derision,
Horders of wealth keep creating division,
We laugh too much at authenticity,
Tired and mired, stuck in a rut,
Can we open hearts and minds that are shut?
Will technology render our abilities useless,
To hide in digital world that is toothless,
What kind of future are we paving?
Are we even a species worth saving?
Chasing money, and spending, acquiring more stuff,
Work away your leisure time, it’s never enough,
Believing in fiction, the worst of addictions,
The pestilence of wealth, the worst of afflictions
The beauty in this world comes at no cost,
There seems to be no reason for feeling so lost,
I listen to What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong,
Being moved by music, inspired by words,
And it seems so simple, so easy,
Life is so momentary.
Let’s stop filling it with wasted moments
The glass isn’t half empty or half full,
We’re just dreaming of holy grails,
Instead of breaking bread with our neighbors
Squandering the fruits of our labors
Thinking children’s smiles are made from action figures,
Instead of letting them chase you around the park,
Watching fireflies in the dark
We think that love is forged through diamond rings,
Instead of walking hand in hand in the bloom of spring,
Impressing our friends with bigger houses and cars,
Instead of trading stories about sources of scars
Under the stars
Close your eyes and feel the summer breeze,
Listen to the sounds of the whispering leaves,
And want for nothing
I tried posting this morning, but a number of people reported the link being broken, so I am reposting.
I was able to get another flash fiction story published on 101 Words. After the previous one I was encouraged to go again and am quite enjoying the challenge. Instead of a punchline though I wanted to go for something a little more dramatic. I hope you enjoy it. Please follow this link.
Also if you are interested in having a little fun and challenging yourself to see what you can put in 101 words, follow this link. You can even ask for feedback.
She opened the car door and stepped out. Had someone been watching they would have thought it was one of those intentionally shot, sexy scenes as a bare leg clad in a sexy black pump hit the pavement. As the rest of her emerged she was the vision of beauty and elegance. Her carefully chosen evening gown with the slit up the left side was sure to catch the attention of many, but it wasn’t because she was vain. She simply had good taste, and liked to look good for a special night out. Her husband was being honored today. Her husband had won another big case. Civil rights cases were tough to win, and he had been winning it for the little guy for years now, in several high-profile cases. When she had met him, it seemed they were just heading to a normal upper middle class future, with the normal rate of advance as lawyers. But practicing law was different than learning it. As having a family came into the picture, her passion for the law was less. She had been offered being partner at her law firm, but it just didn’t seem all that appealing. She also saw how much her husband loved practicing law, and how good he was at it, and it wasn’t a difficult decision for her to pull back and practice law part time. Children and family meant something to her, and she knew that she would never find enough happiness in her career to compensate for not seeing her children more often. They would have had no trouble affording a nanny, but it killed her thinking about a stranger spending more time with her children than her. They would still be very comfortable, they had a nice house, and a good life was about more than money. She hooked her arm in his and walked together into the venue for the evening.
It was a reasonably big crowd as they entered the room. People were dressed to kill, and she was equal to the task. Some familiar faces approached them to welcome them. She felt a bit like a celebrity as she saw more people swarm towards them. This was their life now. They had made it. They were doing positive things in the world, and she had the right balance in her life in terms of career and family. But as the people came and went the focus was not on her. There was requisite smiling and small talk. Even genuine heartfelt warmth. There were good people in the room, but even they wanted their time with the man of the hour, and in many ways conversations with them were the worst. “What was it like to be married to such a great lawyer? How proud are you of your husband? Did you think he would win the case?” She tried to remain positive. Of course he would be congratulated, schmoozed, networked, and charmed for his accolades. What else did she expect?
She expected to be seen as important. She expected to have value. The way that she saw herself. Was it so hard to believe that as talented as her husband was that he might have married someone equally talented, with equal intellect, and with an admirable moral center? The magnificence of her dress felt like it was fading into the scenery. She felt like an object attached her husband’s arm. No one seemed to see her as having value, even when she knew that it wasn’t true. She could put up with it for night though. Right?
But if this case was any indication, he would become busier and he would get bigger cases, and his fame would continue to grow. She realized in that moment she would not be putting up with this for one night. It wouldn’t stop. How long could she take being solely defined by her husband’s career and success? Why didn’t it matter that the only reason her husband had so much time to be a great lawyer and have two children was because of her? Why didn’t the excellence in the choices she made for her life, marriage, and family, make less difference than his? And she was invaluable as someone to talk to when he’d come home and talk about his cases. After all she was a lawyer too. It wasn’t her husband’s fault society was like this, but she couldn’t help but wonder if it even entered his head to think about these things. If he was he’d make more of an effort, wouldn’t he? She wondered, if the situation was reversed, would any man be treated with as much indifference as she felt from others right now? Suddenly she was jolted out of her grim analysis.
“What a stunning dress! It must be nice to buy such expensive clothes after your husband’s big win!?” She nodded and smiled and hoped that she look convincingly gracious for that horrible compliment. She had the dress for several years and she could afford it all on her own. It was like people thought she had suddenly been invented for the purpose of accompanying her husband. She expertly stopped herself from crying and made an excuse to her husband to go to the lady’s room. She stared in the mirror, not knowing whether a flood of tears or pure rage would come next. It dawned on her that the rest of the evening would be spent wondering whether it was better to just continuing being small and hide in a hole somewhere, or to be visible in the crowd but still feel alone. She decided the former was the easier choice, but then she’d have let this superficial group of people chill her into hiding. She was better than that. It might be a hollow victory, but she held her head high and walked out again. There was a loose line of people waiting to talk to her husband. Eventually they would sit down at a table to eat, and he would give everyone else their undivided attention. With the grace of an empress she crossed the room and sidled up next to him. Outside darkness gave a respectful wave goodbye to the dusk, and inside she was content to be the stars shining through the night, even if the heads in the room were too heavy to ever look up.
So after reading my friend Esme’s wonderful flash fiction that she published in 101 Words, I decided to give it a shot myself, as it seemed like an interesting challenge to try to create a story with only 101 words.
I am proud to say, they liked my story I was published too. I would like to believe that I am as excellent a quality of writer as my friend, but it may also be that they’ll publish almost anybody. I shall believe the former in order to keep my friend’s spirits up. 🙂