Oh god what was I doing here, what were we all doing here, in our Active-Wear, “finding a comfortable cross-legged seat” on our “sits bones” and “inhaling for Om” — which, much like the burning of bras to feminism, had always seemed to me more like a hackneyed parody of yoga rather than something people actually did. But here we were, half a dozen men and women obediently closing our eyes and chanting om as a stick of palo santo burned gently in a corner while outside, everywhere, the world truly was, as the parlance went, in flames.
Several hundred strangers yelling their rage and resistance at JFK Terminal 4 had made a mighty noise. I’d shouted my favorite chant, This shit is illegal/ I-LL-E-GAL until it faded and I’d felt a brief disappointment as another rose up in its place. But this, a low reverberation of six strangers’ single syllables, just seemed hysterical. Awfully so. At least the string quartet on the Titanic played more than one note as the ship sunk.
I wondered if thoughts like these were crossing your mind too. I’d recognized you from the class the day before. It would be hard not to, because you were six foot six, leggy, and looked like Michael Stipe, if he were to wear high-gloss, skin-tight leopard print. (He should.) I gave you a smile of recognition when I walked in and it startled you — you shrank back with shyness, which struck me as delightful coming from a fifty-something man in leopard print leggings. Outrageously dressed introverts pierce me straight to a place of tenderness.
Half way through the class, your skinny buttocks were half a meter away from my nose as we squatted wide and lunged low from one foot to the other, our palms in prayer, like ninjas or cossacks. As you launched your haunches to the right there came a modest but definitive fart, a plangent toot sounding out into the quiet. For a second, I was six years old, ambushed with anarchic glee, casting for an eye to catch to share a suppressed giggle. No one blinked, of course. I don’t even know if you were blushing because my only view was your backside. Perhaps you’d achieved the level of yogic equanimity where a fart in class was just cause for a koan. A tree falling in the forest. Except we were around to hear it.
I recalled the way my husband’s delight had verged on mania when I’d told him what “trump” meant in British slang. It made me homesick, not so much for Britain as a place, but for its idiom, where intransitive verb predated incoherent villain. We’d Googled to confirm and the definition we found ended with this generous description: “often in a highly audible way (as in with trailing sound).” What with your resemblance to its frontman, I already had R.E.M on my mind, and now I found myself mentally singing their 1992 single ‘Everybody Hurts,’ except my brain was replacing “hurts” with “trumps.” I enjoyed the rest of the class.