Grab Your Mats, Let Us Begin
Your inner child is in your toes, the yoga instructor tells us, touch her.
I can't quite reach. I feel shameful. Before the shame can circulate around my body, the instructor is behind me, pressing my hips down. I make contact.
My inner child is six, playing outside by the pool. It's snowing, she's in a swimsuit. The pool is frozen solid, my adult body stuck inside it. Then the instructor releases me. My stiff back sprouts up and the six-year-old is gone.
I walk along the shoreline after class, waves sucking on my toes, submerging them. My inner child is drowning. Her lungs are filling with water. Die, I tell her.
I meet the yoga instructor for lunch. I have only one friend in town, and it is quite possibly her.
I'm a murderer, I tell her, over chardonnay and shark.
A shark swims around her plate and she frowns. Have you been doing your poses?
No, I tell her.
I can't allow you to waste my time and the class's. She gurgles wine and lets it slope down her throat like a flute.
But Matilda, I say, grabbing her wrist.
It's Ms. Pearson, she yanks it away from me. If we're not going to sleep together, she says, what are we really doing here?
I contemplate what I'm really doing here. I sleep for seven days before returning to class, hiding in the back.
Quell the storm inside of you, the yoga instructor says. Grab your ankles, roll around, happy baby, put out the fire.
Again, my ankles elude me. The storm inside of me extroverts. I'm up in flames, but no one is looking. Everyone's busy quelling. Matilda's eyes dart toward the fire and she glares at me. I burn up before the fifty minutes are over.
I walk home, singed. A man passes me on the street, frightened. As does another, and another. Identical. Finally one of them stops and informs me that a bird is nesting atop my head. We rehome the sparrow, and I invite him over to my apartment.
We sleep together for fourteen minutes, and then we sleep together.
I leave him there in the morning, sprawled atop my bed sheets, and wonder if he might rob me, and if he did, what he'd take. I have a silver hairbrush and a stockpile of medication, and a bust of my mother seated by the doorway. The bust is worthless. I try to sell it every year.
You cannot keep coming here, the yoga instructor tells us, if you are not willing to change. Pocket change falls from the ceiling. A penny lodges itself in my left ear. I hear out of it no more.
Reach for the sky, the yoga instructor shows us, standing on her tiptoes, arms outstretched, elongating, until they are touching the ceiling. The class follows suit, but my arms do not stretch, nor does the sky come down to me. I am level. I am hideous. I shrink to the ground, and soon I am a puddle on the floor, mildew upon the earth.
Then the yoga instructor is behind me, on top of me, whispering into my penny. I hear nothing.
The class ends and I'm back to normal size, but I swear I've lost an inch, in every direction. My ballet flats flop around my heels. My yoga pants slither down my legs.
I meet with the yoga instructor for lunch. She is picking bugs out of her hair.
You cannot always be at one with nature, she says.
My life's going nowhere, I tell her, swirling my soup. A vortex of carrots. And we aren't going to sleep together, I tell her.
Well that's a given, she says, placing the beetles in my soup. Yoga is an awakening. She pauses. For some.
I'll do better, I will. I grasp onto her wrist.
No, she grasps onto mine. You won't.
I go to the final class of the week—the instructor doesn't teach on weekends. We oscillate between down dog and up dog, until I've lost my sense of self completely. I spend the rest of class on all fours, searching for it. I never find it. We're ushered out of the studio, and for the weekend, I will have to live without it.
The man from last night is still in my home when I return. I tell him I've lost myself and he needs to leave.
Don't worry! I've just been polishing it, he tells me, and hands it back to me.
Get out, I say, get out or I'll scream!
My mother's bust stares at me.
I fall into down dog until my self is situated back inside me, between my spine and my pancreas, and then I lie for a long time. Dead man's pose. I lie till Monday, and This week, I tell the yoga instructor, I'm really going to change.
Skyler Melnick is an MFA candidate for fiction at Columbia University. She writes about sisters playing catch with their grandfather's skull, boarding schools of murderous children, headless towns, and mildewing mothers. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine, Moon City Review, Miracle Monocle and Night Picnic.