Picture your dream home. I bet it’s not filled with clutter. – Joshua Becker
It starts with Adho Mukha Shvanasana and ends 22 days later with Balasana. Ten dogs, all of them doing yoga. Impatiently. Peevishly. Ten colored pencil pieces, all of them made at one of the little round tables outside Café Regular du Nord at the corner of Berkley and Seventh. Why here? Because there’s no real place to work at home: the farmhouse dining table has been sold, much like the quick fold table that used to turn the fire escape into a makeshift art studio. As for what hasn’t been sold or given away and which doesn’t serve some essential purpose, it’s all in boxes. The stack of them piling up in the living room gets a little bigger every day. They hold my life: books, clothes, kitchen gadgets, all my painting materials. Hence the colored pencils for these dogs.
A little beagle I wasn’t looking for had arrived unexpectedly in my life three months earlier. Sophie. Fallen from the sky. Just like the job I wasn’t looking for in a private school I’d never heard of in a city I’d never given much thought to had fallen from the sky. When God speaks to you like this, it is wise to listen. You sell or give away the stuff you won’t miss, and you pack up the rest for the movers; you bid farewell to your friends and your favorite haunts; you get in a rental car with your dog named Sophie and you move to Providence.
But right before, you draw ten dogs doing yoga. Impatiently. Peevishly. Why?
“C’est une reaction à Jerry, il me semble,” says your friend Hélène. It’s two years later. She’s had a chance to look through Namaste, bitches, your second fanzine. The one you created with these ten dogs doing yoga.
But of course, now that Hélène has pointed it out. Of course it’s a reaction to Jerry. Jerry and his freaking yoga. And his Equinox and his CrossFit, his pull-up bars and rubber elastics, his biking and powerwalking and running and jump roping and throwing frisbees around. Can’t we just cuddle up on the couch with a cup of coffee in the morning? At least Sunday mornings? And what about lingering in bed? Can’t we occasionally do that on Saturday mornings? Why does the morning routine always have to be organized the way Jerry wants it to be organized? Why do we always have to get up and roll out our yoga mats every day and do freaking yoga?
Because it’s good for us, that’s why. Just like meditation is good for us. My impatience and my irritability in the face of these things, Jerry says, is a problem. Couldn’t I see that I had a problem? That my life was vapid and superficial? Was I truly satisfied with this endless series of meaningless brunches and outings to movies and theatres and museums and book clubs and shopping sprees? Was this enough for me? Jerry doesn’t know if he wants to be with a woman for whom this is enough.
One thing Jerry does know, however, is that he does not want be with a woman whose love is conditional. He gets a little ill on Friday nights when we have plans to go out or have people over and how does his wife react? Not with sympathy! Oh, no! With annoyance! What will it be like when they’re older and he is sick for real with cancer or Parkinson’s or ALS, and not just conveniently every Friday night right after work, but every night?
As for a woman who lacks hardiness, not her either. If Armageddon hits tomorrow, the last woman he wants by his side is the one who has openly said on numerous occasions that she would prefer to be amongst the first line of the dead! Jerry wants to be with a woman who has the courage to face adversity and difficult challenges head on.
These are his fears, Jerry tells the marriage counselors the one time we see them, as a courtesy to me. He wants them to help us decouple. I didn’t know this was a word; I do now. It’s my birthday. I’m 44 years old. And I’m crying. The only person whose opinion of me has ever mattered, and that continues to matter, is Jerry’s. When had it become so unfavorable? When had I turned into this awful woman he is describing so calmly to these people sitting in front of us?
Later, I’ll walk to my apartment on Adelphi Street. Alone. In my bag, a birthday gift from Jerry: Shade by Pete Souza. In my head, the things he said to the counselors. In my heart, the shame and the embarassment. The next day, I’ll text Jerry and ask him not to contact me for a while. I need some time and space to beat myself up.
I understand, says the guy who will sneak away from New York City to live out the worst months of the pandemic in an exotic locale with an uber rich girlfriend. Take all the time you need, says the guy who will abandon his fellow New Yorkers to whatever fate life in the epicenter holds for them.
The city in lockdown will appear surreal to him upon his return in the summer, the restrictions draconian. His ex-wife, he will learn, is not dead. Au contraire. He will find her doing well, looking happy and joyful. He’ll wonder what role he might have played in preventing her from being this way before. He’ll wonder, too, if somehow, she hasn’t transcended him spiritually. Maybe she has. If so, it’s not thanks to a yoga mat or a meditation cushion. It’s thanks, rather, to art. And to God, of course. It’s thanks especially to Sophie.
Sophie, my little Sophie. She’d come into my life not too long after I’d resolved rather abruptly to completely sever my ties with Jerry. I’d tried to be his friend; I just couldn’t do it. Did this make me immature? For all the work I had done trying to figure out what love means, had I just failed a major test? Had I been too hasty? Too harsh?
No, Sophie says. Sophie, my little Sophie: the ten dogs doing yoga. Impatiently. Peevishly. Why?
Because fuck yoga, that’s why. And fuck the horse it rode in on. We’re moving to Providence, and there is zero room in any of the boxes for this horse and all of its old baggage. It’s just clutter. Throw it out. Leave it on the sidewalk. Whatever. Just don’t bring it with you; you’ll need the space for bigger, more interesting things.
Note that Bhujangasana is based on the same cracks that inspired Marjarâsana, only upside down.
Paschimottanasana and Balasana, the last two pieces in the series, are not based on any cracks; they are of my own design.