I am heavy with her body. That is to say, my chest is heavy with a great sadness at the sight of what she has done to her body. Perhaps I’d never have had to bear this pain had we not encountered each other in such a revealing place. The yoga studio where I saw her pain carved and burned into her skin is a purposefully sweltering place, as the practice of Bikram Yoga is designed to be. And she knew this when she asked me to meet her here, on our mats, side by side, facing a wall of mirrors, wearing only athletic bras and shorts.
Lying on our backs adjusting to the 105-degree heat before class, I had curled toward her to whisper something – likely some bit of quirky gossip, knowing me – and that’s when I saw four nickel-sized burns in a neat row down the length of her left forearm. I instantly reached out and grabbed for her wrist, eyes wide. She whipped it way. I softened and held out my hand, whispering, “please…let me look.” Averting her eyes, she turned her forearm over.
How long must a red hot cigarette be held to skin in order to make such crisp, ugly, charred yellow-red circles? I imagined her gritting her teeth, screams held in, while fire seared her deeper and deeper, burning out or in or through. One…..two….three….four….and then, a nothingness, a breath of freedom in that space between the act and the acknowledgment of wounds.
Now, it is my eyes that look away, tears held in my throat in a knot for another time. The class begins. Ninety long, hot minutes….of stolen glances at thick scars on shoulders and thighs….of faded lines and lines and lines on chest and arms and belly. A roadmap of pain. A story on skin. I love. I hate. I love. I hate. Me. You. Me. You. Let me in, let me out.
Later, I will cry for us both, and feel a strange envy. Her body screams my pain. She is me, turned inside out.