In my yoga class I keep my head down. I don't make eye contact or try to start conversations. Things are intimate enough, all of us attempting to loosen the daily debris of stress caught behind shoulder blades, in the muscles of the neck, heartbreaks rusting the jaw shut, all in front of eachother. It feels as though I am letting strangers watch me pray.
I go because I need the classroom atmosphere to spurn me into finishing the hour. It would be easier to get tired and turn a video off in the privacy of my own home than it would to abashedly pack up my mat in front of a bunch of people, because I was too weak or lazy to complete the class. Yes, I am using humiliation as motivation.
After and before, the students congratulate one another, talk about their favorite stretches, the returning pains they intend to conquer. I peek at them, without getting caught. I have learned many of their faces, having been to this class so many times I've lost count. But I feel it is best I keep quiet. I get too passionate. I blurt. My filter is faulty. I don't know how to speak to someone without them eventually coming to the conclusion that I am "weird," and not in some cute or good way.
A close, very tolerant, very kind friend tells me I don't make efforts to cultivate a social life. I wait for others to call me. I reach from where I stand. I come when called, but I am too nervous to risk approaching someone without express welcome or enter a life without having been invited first. ________________________________________________________
We are losing our beauties from the 30's and 40's. I have begun to collect them. At the flower shop I save their photographs from the obituaries. The senile stars of their eyes cold as granite. Lush filigree curls lap at their island faces. Their crimson grins so slight if at all.
In photographs from the early 20th century the smile began to emerge. Before then, camera shutter speeds were so slow that subjects shoved broom handles down the backs of their gowns to keep from slouching as they waited in the cold or heat. To hold one's face in rapturous repose for very long was so exhausting that one risked blurring her features if she attempted to do so, thus possibly ruining the only chance to have her image recorded.
Families were told by photographers to relax and let their expressions fall into their natural states, which were often wistful, stoic, prohibition, WWI, 19th amendment, recession faces.
I imagine the obit photos in the years to come of pretties in their primes will bloom with grins, wily, confident, curling like coffee cream, fibonacci, expanding with the years. ________________________________________________________
At the age of 7, I met a long whipping switch of a girl. Our mothers would visit eachother to share plant cuttings while we went looking for paint rocks and fossils, or we would soak her mother's hallway with soap and water and slide down it cackling like maniacs, deep south snow sledding.
She ended up my oldest friend. Neither of us was strange to the other. For ten summers I rode my bike to her house, my skinny black mutt trotting along side. In high school she wore drawstring hospital pants she found at the goodwill, because they were "comfortable." On the bus once, she beat a boy with her lunchbox for thumping me in the ear. When we were 15 we walked out of school and ran away for three days, sleeping in cardboard castles behind furniture buildings, stealing flowers from old ladies' yards to weave through our hair. We made our small town news and everything. We only came home because it rained so hard the streets flooded til stray dogs paddled through them. We lit cherry bombs in redneck bars. We sat in the bathtub tripping, taking turns pouring water over the other's head, feeling like candles, warm wax dripping down our necks. We were so brave we were fools. We lost touch.
I ran off to Georgia, grew up, knocked up.
Today, from all the drug use her skull is gutted like the burned house we trespassed through in our adolescence. Eyes blown out like the windows, throat clogged with ivy, dusty sink hearted. And I am the only one left who remembers our renaissance, building forts in the forest, picking wild black and blueberries from ditches, sailing paper boats in puddles, passing notes with pictures drawn on them of boys we loved, wearing crowns or horns.
I called her my best friend many years after she could no longer recall us, years after I became a vague stranger to her. My memory can be so precise and merciless in detail that I envy the forgetful. They heal so fast. They relinquish so easily. ________________________________________________________
I remember reading Where the Red Fern Grows as a child and coming across a bit about how you can catch a raccoon by carving a hole into a fallen log and driving nails into it at an angle. You then drop a piece of cheap, shiny tin or plastic into the hole and the raccoon will come along and try to grab it out. Once he makes a fist around the bait he is caught. He will starve and howl until the trapper comes to kill him. The nails make a barbed funnel, and will not allow him to get his paw out unless he releases the trinket, but he won't. It's too lovely to let go.