Sarah found Andy skimming through brochures in the lobby. “So you weren’t kidding.” She sneered at him.
Andy looked up. “I’m trying to find a class I can commit to,” he pointed to the calendar in his hand. “Preferably, a beginners’ level one,” he said. “By the way, you think they have more of the tea you gave me earlier?”
“You liked that, didn’t you?” Sarah chortled. “I think they’re cleaning the pots now, but I’ll tell you what, there’s a Tibetan café just around the block where they serve this tea and other holistic goodies. If you’re up for it, we can have a cup or two.” They both looked at their watches simultaneously. “Or maybe some other time, if you’ll still be interested…”
“I can go right now…that is if you’re free, of course,” Andy said.
“Okay…” Sarah chuckled. “I have about an hour to spare.”
“I don’t, but I can’t resist the temptation.”
“Yeah, I have a reputation of turning people into Chai junkies,” Sarah said with fake somberness, “so as long as you are fully aware of the risks involved, we are good to go.” Andy looked at her with confusion, but she kept a straight face. “Shall we?” she opened the door for him.
Apart for the spicier aromas that filled the air, the calm atmosphere in the café was very similar to the one in the lobby of the studio. They picked a small table and Sarah stopped by the bar and ordered the special brew. When she walked back with the two mugs, Andy was rubbing his shoulder while sorting through the brochure.
“First time’s always tough,” Sarah said. “Tomorrow you’ll probably be a little sore, but I promise, you’re going to feel a lot better.”
“I already feel better. I don’t know what it is.” He paused and took a long sip. “Maybe it’s something in the tea… Wait, what’s in this tea?”
“Oh, I’m sure they have some type of narcotic agent for the extra kick just to calm things down,” Sarah said and watched Andy slowly putting down the mug and looking at her with disbelief. “I’m only kidding…Gosh, I didn’t take you for the gullible type.” She laughed. “Let’s see…” she took a long sip from her own mug and closed her eyes for a brief moment. “Eehm… there’s ginger, cinnamon, honey, and…maybe thyme. Pretty powerful stuff.” She winked.
“I don’t know how to put it,” he said, “It just feels like I took a long vacation and I’m ready for a new start.”
“Yeah.” Sarah nodded, confirming his prognosis. “I started doing this about seven years ago and it changed my life completely.”
“I’ll be honest with you,” Andy said, “I didn’t think it was going to be my cup of tea before I came in there today. And during the first few minutes, I was like ‘what did I get myself into?’
“I noticed,” Sarah nodded. “You got me a little worried there.”
“But now I feel so…” he paused and stared at the air, “relaxed?” There was a tinge of uncertainty in his cadenced exclamation, and he wasn’t sure if he chose the right word, but he couldn’t find anything else to say and they just looked at each other and smiled. “Well,” he broke the sweet silence, “now, all I can think about is making it a part of my life too.” He turned his eyes back to the calendar pamphlet that was still spread open on the table. “I don’t see any beginners’ classes that I could fit into my schedule,” he said. “I mean…I can squeeze an hour here or there…even skip a lunch break for this. The place is literally a five-minute walk from campus, but none of the…”
“You don’t necessarily have to lock on a single class,” Sarah said. “When I first started taking classes, my schedule was all over the place. I didn’t have a single hour slot available in my entire work week.”
“I can relate to that,” Andy said.
“So I took classes whenever I could. Beginners, advanced, intermediate, it didn’t really matter as long as I was able to make it. Although, I must say it’s good to start off with some basics before you commit. Wait…” she squeezed out of her seat and joined Andy on the other side of the table as he looked through the program calendar, “They used to offer general introduction classes every other weekend. I wonder if they still do. Yeah, there it is. There’s one this Saturday, 7:30.” Andy felt her breast rubbing against his shoulder as she leaned over the table, but he dared not turn his head towards her. He just nodded and kept his eyes locked on the spot on the page where she pointed.
“Oh, I didn’t even look on the weekend schedule,” he mumbled and took a deep breath. “That could work”, he said, though he knew he had other plans for Saturday night.
“I think it’s a 90-minute, maybe two-hour class,” she said and slowly returned back to her chair. “It’s a great way to start. The instructors are all yogi masters, and they’ll fill you in on the history and theory.”
Andy was looking at her but could only hear his heart beating. “Saturday at what time, 7:30? I’ll try to make it.” He kept looking at the brochure.
“I’m sure you’d love it. It’s a good conceptual introduction. As long as you make it to a class, any class, once a week, or as often as your schedule allows you to, you may be able to turn it into a habit.” Her smile made it hard for Andy to stay focused on planning out his future yoga routine. He tried to refrain from direct eye contact and kept nodding.
“In the more advanced classes, the instructors tend to spend less time explaining their moves, so yeah, it will be better for you to take beginners classes at least for the first few sessions. But judging by your performance, you’ll be fine taking the Thursday class with me, if you can, of course.”
“Thursdays eh...I think I can do Thursdays,” Andy said with a gleam in his eyes. He wasn’t completely honest. All his Thursday nights for the month that followed were packed with faculty meetings, and he knew that his unprecedented early departure that afternoon was something he could not make a habit of. But Sarah’s proposition sounded very appealing, and he wasn’t going to reject it for any reason, at least not at that moment.
“Take your time and think about it. Whatever works. I don’t want to sound like I’m pushing this on you, or anything.”
“Oh no, not at all.”
“It seems like you’re interested. That’s good.”
“I am.” Andy raised his eyes from the brochure and returned a smile.
“Once you get into it, you won’t need the classes. I rarely ever come here nowadays.”
“What do you mean?”
“I do take a class every once in a while, but only to stay current with new moves. I do my routine at home. Every morning.”
“You have a video?”
“No. No video.” Sarah laughed. “I just put on some relaxing music, light a couple of candles, and I pretty much do what we did in class today.” Andy nodded with a glint of admiration in his eyes. “You can do it too,” she said to him.
“Me? I barely remember which way we turned when we walked out of the studio.”
“You can start with something simple.” She slipped out of her flip-flops, raised her shins and crossed them together on the seat, slightly arched her back, and slowly let the back of her palms drop on her knees to form a perfect meditating Buddha posture. “Something like this.” She took a deep breath in. “If you can just stay in this position for three minutes every day, you’re off to a good start.”
Andy slightly rose and took a close look. “I’m not sure I can even get into that position.”
“Don’t be silly. All you have to do is sit up straight with your legs crossed, relax your arms on your knees, and most importantly, clear your mind from all thoughts and slowly breathe in and out. You can start with one minute the first day.”
“You mean tomorrow,” Andy said.
“Why not. Do this for a minute tomorrow and when you get too comfortable, add a minute. And once you start taking these classes, try to remember one simple position every time you go and add it to your daily routine.”
“Do I need to get anything, like a mat, special candles, incense, a Zen music CD?”
Sarah laughed. “You don’t necessarily have to go on a shopping spree for this. Just try to create a relaxing environment with what you have at home. A blanket, extra pillows, a light source with a dimmer or candles, the music of your choice.”
“I’ll have to find my AC/DC compilation tape,” Andy said.
“Well, I don’t think a highway to hell will lead you to nirvana, but hey, if that keeps you calm.” Andy shook his head. “Again,” Sarah slowly put her feet down, “The important thing is to concentrate on breathing. Emptying your mind and breathing slowly and fully,” she looked him straight in the eyes with a solemn, almost frightening expression. “Only when you’re conscious to it, you can understand what a powerful role the simple act of breathing plays in your life.”
“Obviously…” Andy nodded.
“Oh no, it’s not so obvious. We tend to take it for granted. Maybe because we never stop doing it.” Andy wasn’t sure if he was following but kept nodding. “Knowing this could be very useful,” she whispered as if she was letting him in on a big secret. “Oh, and it goes beyond concentration and relaxation drills. Like when I have trouble falling asleep, I just take a few deep breaths, and the next thing I know, I’m out. I even find it useful in dreams.”
Her last comment hit very close to home and captured Andy’s full attention. “How so?” he said.
“That’s right, Nate has mentioned something about you having nightmares.”
“Has he now?” Andy’s excitement quickly extinguished when he realized that his deepest secret was exposed.
“When I find myself in a dream I want out of, you know what I do?” Sarah continued amidst Andy’s inner turmoil. He shook his head slowly as his cheeks grew a rosy blush and his smile was gone. “I hold my breath and wake up immediately,” she said. “That always works! Of course, I have to be conscious of the fact that I am dreaming while I’m dreaming, otherwise my dream is just another facet of reality.”
Andy nodded, but his mind was occupied with breach of confidentiality concerns. “What else did Nate tell you?” he tried to respond in a calm manner and forced another phony smile.
“Oh, he didn’t go into details, he just said that you were very tired and that was why you weren’t able to make it for the second night of Passover. I personally thought it was a lame excuse,” Sarah pointed a blaming finger at him. “But I guess we all have our bad days… and nights.”
“Speaking of which,” Andy felt a strong urge to change the subject. “I never had a chance to thank you for being great company that night. I had such a wonderful time, and you made me feel like I was part of the family”
“Don’t be silly Andy, I enjoyed your company just as much. If anything, I should be thanking you for keeping me away from all the commotion. Oh, what a night that was,” She sighed.
“By the way, how is your grandmother doing?”
“To be honest, she’s not too well. That reminds me that I need to go visit her.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Andy said. “Is there anything I can do? Maybe join you on a visit?”
“Oh no, that’s probably not a good idea,” Sarah chuckled.
“So at least send her my best,” He insisted.
“No offense, Andy, but I don’t think I’m going to mention you when I see her.”
“What do you mean?”
“You don’t have to feel bad about it. She’s an old lady and she’s been through a lot in her days. She’s never really talked about the past, the war, and all that had happened to her. I guess she pretty much kept it all to herself. Then suddenly she sees this young man, and he must have reminded her of someone or something, so all the heartache she had managed to suppress for decades boiled up to an emotional outburst in one instant.” Sarah took a deep breath and wiped a tiny tear from the side of her eye. “And she’s not as strong as she used to be, or as she appears to be. After all, she’s 84 and not getting any younger.”
“The photograph,” Andy whispered. All the color suddenly drained from his face.
Sarah waved her hand and let out a smothered chuckle. “I’m sorry, Andy. I didn’t mean to sound like you had anything to do with it. It’s really not your fault.” She glanced at her wristwatch. “Anyway, I better get going now,” She said and reached for her purse, but Andy insisted he should pick the tab.”
“So will I see you here next Thursday?” he asked as they walked out.
“Not this Thursday. We’re going to Europe for a series of concerts, so I’ll be out for the next couple of weeks. But you should definitely try to make it, if you can.”
“I will,” he said.
“We have our annual Russian ballet night, Tuesday at the Pop.”
“What – Tchaikovsky?”
“Right,” Sarah gave him a semi sarcastic thumb up. “One last local concert before we head overseas, and I’m playing first violin.” If you’re interested, I can leave you a pair of tickets at the box office,” she said and waved her hand up in the air for a taxicab.
“Yes,” Andy said, “of course I’m interested.”
“If I don’t hear back from you by Monday, there will be two tickets for Andy Spencer waiting at the Symphony Hall box office.” She quickly kissed him on the cheek and stepped into the waiting cab. Andy stood still on the sidewalk and watched the taxi pull away from the curb and drive away.