Edited by Andrea Spofford | Barry Kitterman | Amy Wright
Tell Yourself to Split
This is the pose: Right leg extends behind you, knee pressed into mat, sole of foot up-turned, exposed to the world. Fists brace body above the ground so that gravity cannot trick muscles into doing things they shouldn’t. Your arms tremble. Your hip throbs. Fill your lungs and tell yourself to split.
The instructor walks from student-to-student adjusting shoulders, hips, ribcages, to square them with the wall. Her fingers are light on your skin, just a little shove on this bone, this muscle. “Feel that?” she says, circling a place on your hip, the lower right side. “Release tension here,” she instructs. “Here.” She moves her touch. “Here.”
The memory of the weight of her fingers lingers on the small of your back as light as a butterfly. Your thighs should be screaming, burning as lactic acid seeps from tissue, yet you feel the hurt in your joints, hips tugged apart like a wishbone. Lately, your body does not ache where you expect it.
This is a year ago: When you saw your husband’s I-have-to-confess-I-love-you message to another woman, you stood from the computer, your body pulsing with rage, hysteria, disbelief. Blood coursed through your head, thrumming in your ears, the sound as loud as wind in a mountain tunnel, rushing through you with the force of a semi. In the bedroom, you woke your husband and confronted him with what you’d seen. Your voice was far away. And when he couldn’t deny anything, your legs wobbled hollow as paper mache. You slumped on the edge of the bed, hands cradling your middle as if you’d been gutted.
Within months, the papers certified that the marriage was “irretrievably broken.” You split dishes and photographs and furniture. On moving day, your ex-husband decided to remove his half alone. He didn’t ask friends to help, but instead, he expected you to lift the other side of the couch. When the sleeper sofa you’d bought only a year earlier got wedged in the narrow doorway, he abandoned it. He climbed in his rental truck and drove away.
Your moving men arrived and dislodged the couch for you, leaving it on the front lawn as they packed the rest of the truck. The house you’d shared slowly emptied, and when the men asked you about the couch, you shrugged because you were afraid if you opened your mouth, a horrible noise would erupt. This wasn’t the first stranger’s shoulder you found yourself weeping against. They hauled the couch away for you, and you didn’t ask where it went.
This is the counterpose: You are driving home and squint in the glare of the afternoon. The tug of each stretch still warms your muscles, and your skin smells like salt. Chill seeps in the window at your elbow. The leaves on the ginkgo trees are thousands of tiny golden fans. The road hums under tires. Like a rash, your pain surfaces—here, in the sole of your foot, here, in the base of your spine, here, in the tips of each damp lash.
There is no song on the radio that reminds you of your wedding, there is no dimpled cheek to tell you about babies unborn, there is no taste of a slick skin against your mouth. There is only the sun, glaring in your eyes, your hand held up against the light, an empty shadow. Here.