Sarah Ratermann Beahan (Goddard College, USA)
I always walk to my yoga class so my husband won’t wonder why I’m so rosy-cheeked and cold when I get home. It’s a half-mile walk, just a straight shot down Broadway. Every Thursday I think about it all day long. I watch the minutes tick by, closer and closer to six o’clock. My heart begins to race. Every week I think of all the reasons not to go.
I didn’t sleep well last night. I think I’m getting a cold. It’s just so nasty outside.
I feel the flesh spill over the waistline of my yoga pants. I can hear the nasal voice just over my shoulder reminding me that the best thing for you to do is to stay active. Sometimes the voice is thunderous.
So every Thursday at 5:50 I put on my parka, pull my hat over my ears and sling my yoga mat in its purple carrying case over my shoulder. I kiss the baby goodbye, wave to my husband and walk out the door.
As I get closer to the big glass windows on the ground floor of the fancy new condo building, my pace slows. I can see Heidi, the teacher, through the windows. She is standing before two rows of pony-tailed students in brightly colored tanks and pants, beaming warmth and welcome. They arch their arms above their heads, reaching for the ceiling, and then bow forward. Class has begun. It is too late now. I can’t imagine anything worse than clomping into a yoga class late, watching everyone avert their eyes and try to ignore the rustling of my parka falling off the hook, my keys jangling to the floor by accident. Every Thursday I stand on the opposite side of the street and watch, sometimes taking a step off the curb, but mostly just thinking about how ridiculous I am.
Sometimes I watch the class for a while and try to remember the sequences for later. Maybe I’ll sneak out of bed and do them in the living room while they all sleep. But mostly I just watch the students and how they react to the movements. Some are proud and limber, others shift precariously as they try to find their balance, some fold forward and their arms dangle many inches above the tops of their feet, and yet they still try. Once I saw a man cry as he brought his hands to his heart.
One time someone braver than me breathlessly ducked into class ten minute late, trying to inauspiciously unroll her mat in the cramped back corner of the room. I watched her with loathing and envy.
So then I walk through the neighborhood, carrying my yoga mat with me, killing the hour before I can go home step by step. I walk the dark streets with no destination or intention. I watch people coming home from work, struggling with groceries up the icy front steps, ungloved hands blistering red in the cold. I watch the dog walkers, talking on the phone or listening to music, cocking a hip to the side while their companions do their business. I avoid making eye contact with the runners, sleek and seal-like in their spandex and reflective gear, their exhalation rhythmically clouding before them.
There is an old man that walks deliberately from his apartment in St. Francis Assisted Living Center on South Fourth Street to Jimmy’s, the corner bar at six-thirty on the dot. He wears an army jacket and walks with a cane with a head shaped like a mallard duck. I believe that his daughter had the cane specially made so he will be more inclined to use it. He wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings, after all. I picture him, a duck hunter when he was more spry, kneeling in a field, carrying a thermos of coffee laced with something a little stronger to keep him warm. His daughter knows how he misses those hunts. Sometimes I follow him, afraid he’ll slip on the ice or trip over a crack in the sidewalk. He never has.
I always begin to make my way home at 7 o’clock. Once, I stood across the street from our house, just behind the juniper Tad from across the street planted in the midway, and watched my family through the living room picture windows. Ben never remembers to pull the drapes. That evening he was on the phone, pacing through the room with the baby cradled in one arm and the phone in the other. When the baby wrinkled his nose as if considering a wail of displeasure, Ben seemed to notice without looking, as if he could feel his son’s dissatisfaction in his own body. He rubbed his back lightly and nuzzled his neck. My boy beamed and crowed and they were for a moment like one creature.
Mostly, though, I walk up the porch steps and into the house at 7:15 and Ben looks up from his computer to tell me that the baby is sleeping.
“How was class?”
“So great. Just what I needed.”
He looks at me with eyes full of tenderness and resentment.
Sarah Ratermann Beahan is a MFA candidate at Goddard College. After traveling around the United States looking for a place to call home, she now resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she writes and teaches. She chronicles her adventures on her website. Previous literary accolades include editing The Pitkin Review, writing an entertainment blog for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, production of her play Gas’n’Go at the Webster University Conservatory Theatre and cleverly written Facebook status updates.