It could be anything—crossword puzzles, video games, knitting. I need something I can concentrate on, and so, yoga. I wish it was knife-throwing or something that every other girl on the Internet isn’t already claiming, but there you go. Everyplace else in my life, I am a danger to myself and other breakable objects, but the yoga mat levels the playing field. Everyone falls in yoga. It is acceptable to fall in yoga, whereas on a moving 7 train or the sidewalk everyone stares at you and no one gives you a thumbs-up when you regain your footing. The yoga mat is one place where I have never gotten food in my hair while eating, where I can lay down my overly verbal life for 90 minutes and just make weird shapes with my body.
Yoga is the one thing in my life that isn’t broken. So, naturally, I decide to introduce a little man-chaos, and I text Bend to ask if he wants to meet me at a class at his new studio. To read about what happened with Bend last time, check out this link I may or may not have successfully entered. He says yes; I knew he would. The man can not resist an opportunity to show off.
The class is called Love Saves the Day. This means nothing to me, squinting at the schedule on the screen of my phone. There is certainly no indication that I am staring down the barrel of freaking partner yoga.
Laughing Lotus is a party-style yoga studio in Chelsea, way different from the studio I’m used to where they give you the stink-eye if you chat with your neighbor before class. Everyone at Lotus is laughing, singing, sharing that gross kombucha drink. The walls are covered in feel-good graffiti and Ganesh murals, the elephant god revised with a skateboard and a boom box. There is a glitter bar, stick-on bindis.
Bend and I take a second-row spot, behind the first row of teachers, most of whom will spend at least a quarter of the class in perfect handstand formation.
The teacher, a beautiful girl of an ethnicity so well-blended it is impossible to lay genetic responsibility at the feet of any single region, instructs us to find a partner. I actually look around, like I might find someone other than the one person in class I know, whose mat is parked directly next to mine. On my other side is the wall, no help from that direction. Bend and I finally nod at each other in acknowledgment of the inevitable.
Partner Pose 1: Bend lays me on my back, takes hold of my leg, turns the hip out, bears down. His fingers are in my hip crease, and my genitals are kicking out heat. I haven’t felt this simultaneously awkward and awesome since sixth grade, Stonybrook Elementary—square dancing. Paul Bendel had to partner with me, to my everlasting mortification and delight.
Partner Pose 2: Bend turns me over, straddles me, and gives me three minutes of free-style massage. Seriously. That’s what our beautifully ethnic-indeterminate teacher asked us to do. We have to do it, because that’s what the teacher asked us to do. I think I may have been babbling at this point. Also drooling.
Partner Poses 4-7: Simulated intercourse. Or what feels like it anyway. In the final pose of the series, you take hold of your partner by his slick, muscled back and pull him forward over his folded legs, directly into your crotch. Then your partner pulls you into his crotch. All these poses involve reciprocation. Also high-strung laughter and weird, involuntary noises.
But all of this is nothing, compared for the heart-stopping difficulty of:
Partner Pose 8: Seated meditation. Face your partner, your knees touching, and stare into each other’s eyes. Breathe deeply, and stay in this exact position for ten minutes.
Ten minutes. Awesome.
Something short-circuited in my brain, which began making keening. Here is a rough sampling of the internal monologue: “Oh shit. Eeeeeeeek. Do I have eyeliner and glitter caked in the corner of my eye? I do, don’t I? Can I wipe it? No, that would be weeeeeeird. He’s looking right at meeeeeeeeeeeee. It’s hot in here. Somebody in here smells. Is it me? Do I smell? Does HE think the person who smells is me? Why does a word sound weird if you repeat it enough times? Smell smell smell smell smell. It sounds like an animal. Like you could have someone who is professionally raising smells for their meat and luxuriant fur. Eeeeeeeeeeek!!!
But after ten minutes, something happens. The same way a word repeated enough times can get detached from its actual meaning, so too with looking at something. So, for the first ten minutes, I’m mostly thinking about myself, and how I look to him, with a sprinkling of appreciation for his sheer physical beauty on top. But after ten minutes, for a moment, I realize that he is actually a person. Just a person. That this thought should arrive as such a powerful revelation is probably a terrifying indictment of the narcissism and solipsistic tendencies in my fucking personality. But there it is. For a glittering moment, after much effort and concentration, I realized that a man I was attracted to is actually a person.
This revelation was worth the pulled hamstring I got from trying to reach his crotch with my forehead.
And then we went out to lunch, as friends, and talked about dating and ate lunch and it wasn’t a big deal when I spilled my water on my pants so that it looked like I peed.