"Something Like Angels" by Megan Fahey

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

prana

From the moment the curly-haired girl, whose name you can’t ever remember, set her first bare foot into the studio, you knew there was something special about her. The glow of her pink athletic tank gave her away. The way her Birkenstocks seemed rugged and worn with no trace of her foot’s imprint, as if she floated above or hovered just on top of them. Without taking your eyes off her sandals, you asked, like you do with every new client, “Have you ever done yoga before?” And she, unlike most of your walk-ins, said: “Yes, but not for a while.” “Yes, but not since I moved here.” “Yes, but not since I did it at home. Back East.” And even though you knew from a perfunctory glance of her registration form that “Back East” was something short of a five-hour car-ride away, the words came out with such mysteriousness and glamour, she had to have meant an undiscovered region in the Pacific islands or a speck of earth just south of Thailand. Somewhere that wasn’t here, at least. Here, in your yoga studio, was this person, this girl, youthful and vigorous, who broke the monotony of the Tuesday morning regulars. Someone who hadn’t known you since you were young, who’d never borrowed your baking tins or knitting needles or heard about the singles’ cruise you accidentally took while you were still married, who didn’t know or care to know a thing about your late husband. This was a person who decreased the average age of your gentle yoga class at the Eternal Happiness Day Spa and Ritual Healing Center by ten percent at least, and although you can’t remember her name, you can remember the smooth, looping way she signed it—that vivaciousness of spirit present only in young souls, which exerts itself on things even so small as a pen. “We’re having class on the lower floor this morning,” you told her that first unforgettable day. “You can leave your sandals in the lobby if you wish.” Your other clients had kicked their shoes sloppily aside, you remember, forming a tight semicircle of footwear beside the front door, just beneath the display shelf of incense and the vials of essential oils and the clearance case of aromatic tinctures. But the young woman with the curly black hair glided to this slipshod assortment of sneakers, each more petite and white and sensible than the last, and she levitated out of her sandals, which took their immediate repose amidst the flotsam of flats and clogs and flip-flops, which had, somehow, formed a perfect geometric halo around her Birkenstocks, a soulful choir around the throne of her feet, a veritable seraphim of shoes. “And don’t forget your block,” you said. And then you handed her this thing, this piece of foam. And you met her eyes with yours. And as the little purple rectangle changed hands, you felt, in that moment, changed—younger. Not younger like most women your age say it, as some purposeless expression of temporary puissance, but actually younger. It was a small, subtle change—no more than the difference a year makes—but even when the curly-haired girl gripped the block and pulled it from your hands, the feeling lingered. It lingered through your gentle yoga class. It permeated your lunges, plunging you deeper than usual into your crown and sacral chakras. It irritated the regulars in your class, who groaned when they felt the burn in their thighs and the stinging in their knees, but you didn’t groan, and neither did the curly-haired girl, whose black spiral locks fell in front of her bright eyes but never darkened them. You pushed yourself to match her pace, squat for squat, breath for breath, smile for smile.

In the final cycle of the session, just before you initiated the corpse pose flow, your body was in half moon, and your right arm was stretched to the ceiling, and your leg and your head were pulled—as if magnetized—east to west in a straight line running parallel to the floor. You felt the years peeling, literally peeling away as if you were the fleshy rind of a banana headed backwards in time, growing firm instead of growing mushy, while on the floor, balanced on the block, the dry skin of your wrinkled left hand flaked off on its own to reveal that it had been hiding soft, suntanned skin underneath all along, and you thought this can’t be real life, but as you looked forward and sidelong into the eyes of the curly-haired girl, and another year of your life peeled away like the bark of a tree reversing its rings, you realized this is real life but sideways, and you called everyone back to standing position with their hands over their hearts, and yours fluttered hardest and fastest of all. satya

You didn’t tell your friends about the curly-haired girl, but she told hers about you. She thanked you after your first session together, but how did you respond? By fidgeting your fingers. By picking at your nails. By building as much tactile momentum as possible so that at any moment your hands might possibly find a way to slip into the conversation and touch the girl one more time. Just how far back might she take you? And just where had she come from? And how by God was she doing this? She picked up her sandals and said goodbye, that she’d see you next week, but you yelled out, “No, you won’t!” just before the door breezed shut behind her. She turned around in the doorway and stared at you. “You won’t,” you said. “I’m going to be out next week. I have a pinched nerve in my neck. I’m going to the doctor.” “Oh, that’s a shame,” said the girl. “I had such a wonderful time. I was going to bring all my friends from school.” “Your friends? What do they do?” you said. What a dumb question that was. What had you expected she might say? That they’re all from “Back East?” That they’re all a race of something like angels fallen from grace to redeem old yoga instructors like you? That it won’t be long before you’re twenty-two, too? “They’re students,” she said. “They’re from my school.” “Oh, of course,” you say. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you. You bring as many schoolmates as you wish. We can always use new faces around here.” But that didn’t sit well with Janice, from the front row, who is eighty, who, for the first time in the seven years she’s been coming to your studio, fell over during Warrior Two, and whose aid you didn’t rush to, but instead led the class into Warrior Three. Janice, who saw you talking with the curly-haired girl after class and who scoffed viscerally in your direction on her way out the door.

You didn’t suspect you’d ever see Janice again, but then she turned around and said, “This is supposed to be Gentle Yoga.” And when you surprised her by not apologizing, by not saying anything, she went on to say, “You know, we’re not getting any younger.” And so that was it—Janice was jealous. Your daughter seemed more dismissive than jealous when you told her over the phone about the curly-haired girl, whose name you couldn’t quite bring to memory at the moment, but she said the same thing. “You know, Mom, you should be careful at your age.” And the doctor said it too, when, in the sterile womb of his office, you mentioned that you wanted to postpone your neck surgery at least another week because a miracle had arrived at your studio. And, yes, you were getting younger. Yes, you were. drishti

Your fifty-minute gentle yoga course at the Eternal Happiness Day Spa and Ritual Healing Center closes with the same exercise every Tuesday morning: corpse pose. In fact, each class at Eternal Happiness, and, allegedly, each yoga course everywhere throughout the world, closes with corpse pose, a restorative maneuver that looks exactly like it sounds. You, and all instructors like you, adjust the dimmer switch and the audiocassette of nature sounds in inverse proportions while the aspiring young yogis and yoginis in the room lie flat on their backs, their arms outstretched just short of T, knuckles down, heels slightly outside mats and pressed into the waxed wood of the floor. Their teeth, unclenched. Their jaws, relaxed. They breathe in for four. And hold. A young woman in the back row sneezes, and the very un-relaxed way she contorts her face afterward reveals that she has become self-conscious, and after all that consciousness-undoing you did. Her eyes dart madly behind their lids rather than focusing their attention on the third-eye center as you’ve instructed. Next to her, the curly-haired girl starts to move—the best, stillest student in your 10 am class. She’s a rock, a tombstone, and then all at once she fidgets, too, as if she has suddenly exorcised from a dimension of non-motion. She wiggles her nose, lifts her arm to wipe it, tries to let it fall in the same place, but her comfort cannot be replicated. The moment of serenity has passed.

In the next row, a young man in a Greek Life t-shirt straightens his fingers like two firecrackers, and his knuckles explode. Distraction dominoes around the room and echoes off the drywall, and maybe you could get this class back on track for the final five meditative minutes by flipping your cassette from Moods of Nature on the A side to Sacred Chants and Blessings on B. But the tape machine fails you. The deck door won’t stay shut. When you press play, the room swirls with white noise, and you wonder, for a moment, if the old machine is broken or if it is just getting warmed up. Press fast-forward. Breathe out for six. Hold. “Continue to focus on your breathing,” you say, but how could they possibly focus with you up there and all your