There’s a girl, Cherise, pronounced sure-EEZ, in my yoga class that meets in the church every Tuesday night at eight. She used to come to class with her boyfriend, a tall guy with a beaky nose and they would stand with their arms around each other, smiling. Or he would lie on his mat, and she would lie at a ninety-degree angle to him with her head on his stomach. I avoid people who are touching. In a yoga class, boundaries are loose. You might wonder why I’m in this class: it’s a test I’m giving myself.
A while ago, the beaky guy stopped coming, but Cherise didn’t. The second Tuesday that she came without him, I left class during Half Warrior because I had to pee. When I came back, she was in the hallway, crying. At first I thought: She’s doing a pose. Her back was straight and she leaned at a seventy-degree angle with her forehead to the wall. Then I noticed her breathing, which was quick intakes and big, shaky exhales.
I dislike touching. The dampness of skin is something I find very disgusting, but the hallway was narrow, especially with one person leaning. I didn’t know what to do. Then I had the idea to put my hand on her hair, so I did. Maybe it was another test.
I pretended to be Graham, our instructor, checking her form, except that I just stayed there holding her head, like it was one of the singing bowls Graham always bongs at the start of class. His bowls are stupid but I am disappointed when he forgets them, which is about every other week. Graham weighs ninety pounds and wears his hair in a French braid but has a girlfriend, which I don’t understand.
Cherise kept crying so I said, “I’m sorry” and she breathed out like she’d been holding the air and my words helped her release it and she felt slightly better. Maybe ten degrees better than the moment before. I don’t usually know what people feel, even if they angrily ask me why not, so this was new.
She didn’t talk to me after class and I didn’t help her when she couldn’t get her mat into her bag. I just let her struggle by herself. I think that’s what you have to do with people and their problems. It’s a test they’re doing. It’s not for me to fix.
Kris Willcox lives in Arlington, MA with her husband and two boisterous children. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Fiction Journal, Cimarron Review, Literary Mama, and Cleaver Magazine among other publications and she is regular contributor to UU Worldmagazine.