He opened his eyes in the dark. There was an unpleasant taste in his mouth, and his throat was dry. The ceiling was of dark colour. The lights had been on not so long ago – in a different life. As he peered to the side, he saw more than ten people lying flat on their backs. In a flash, he saw an image of narcotized patients surrounding him. That image faded as soon as a gentle female voice broke the silence.
“You may now open your eyes.”
He felt he had cheated like it had been an experiment in which he didn’t follow the instructions.
“Gently stretch your arms and legs,” the voice continued, “wiggle your fingers, toes and slowly turn your body to the right side.”
The lights came back on as everyone moved to their side, placing the head lightly on the right arm. Looking at the muscular and tanned back of his female neighbour, he saw the desert sand. Above her left shoulder blade was an unusual birthmark in the shape of a gecko paw. The sight of the gecko paw made the bad taste in his mouth go away. Or it could be the change of position. He slept better on the side than in the supine position. In an article, he read that the base of the tongue can collapse into the airway and trigger snoring.
He was the first to leave the room after the Namaste. His girlfriend, Dawn, was waiting for him outside the studio, smiling. He was back to reality.
“Hey, babe,” she said and kissed his sweaty lips. “How was your class? Do you feel relaxed?”
“I don’t know.”
They got in her car, and she waited until all his yoga classmates had walked past the car. There was his neighbour with the gecko paw on her shoulder.
“Should I be worried that you might be getting too intimate with these ladies?”
He puts his hand on her big belly and felt a little kick.
“See how she agrees with me?” Dawn said.
He shook his head, smiling.
“Perhaps you should try yoga again,” he said.
She started the engine.
“I would love to, babe! But don’t you remember the last two times? My back was killing me! Savasana has never been so painful!”
“You can modify as much as you’d like.”
“I’ll be back,” she said. “I’m just going to stick to some light cardio workout for now.”
He knew that she was self-conscious and would always ensure that her body would remain in shape after giving birth. Three to four times a week, she would go to her co-worker’s class training; do her regular squats, lunge, cardio and weights.
“What do you think about the flowers?” she asked, nodding at the backseat.
All he saw at first glance was pink and purple, which turned out to be pink roses and lilies, as well as a bunch of baby breaths.
“She likes pink, doesn’t she?” Dawn said. “Well, I like purple. I thought they mix well together.”
They pulled in at the visitors’ car park at the hospital. It was late. Perhaps he should’ve skipped yoga and come earlier, he thought. An ambulance pulled up at the entrance as they walked inside. Some paramedics and a couple of nurses were wheeling a stretcher to the back of the ambulance. Dawn was adjusting the flowers in the bouquet when he grabbed her arm like a lost child.
“What are we going to do with you, Mark?”
His grip grew firmer.
The hospital smell made his neck hair stand up. He wouldn’t know what to do once the baby was due. Would he be able to witness the child’s birth?
When signing in at the reception, he watched two nurses and paramedics wheel in an unconscious older man breathing through an oxygen mask. Two opposing images flashed through his head – in both, people were lying on their backs in a dark room.
Upon learning who Dawn and Mark came to see, the receptionist said that the doctor wanted to speak to Mark. Dawn squeezed Mark’s hand.
“Please can you go speak to him?” he asked.
“Please? I want to see her right now.”
With the pink and purple colours tight in his arms, he entered a stuffy room where she lay motionless on her back.
She took a deep breath before she opened her eyes. Her hands looked brittle, and her stature fragile. Mark put the flowers down on the table near the door, as there was no vase and surely the flowers wouldn’t survive a day in that room. It smelled like the disease had grown along with her nerves and spread to the lungs. Would he smell the same at her age? His arm twitched.
“It’s so nice to see you, boy. How are you?”
He approached the chair to her. A fleece blanket and a book were lying on it.
“Were you trying to sleep?”
She shook her head lightly. “No.”
The book was on meditation. How could it not be a romance novel by Danielle Steele? Her shivering index finger pointed at the chair.
She indicated that she wanted the book as well. When Mark handed it to her, she looked for the bookmark. Her eyes were glowing.
“I was telling the nurse about you and your meditation.”
“Grandma, I told you I’m doing yoga, not meditation. Yes, there are meditative exercises but not as intense.”
“Lucy, the nurse, did a 20-day course. You reckon you can look that up for me and sign me up?”
He ran his fingers through his hair and took a deep breath. Hopefully, Dawn was doing ok with the doctor, he thought.
“Grandma, your knees won’t let you sit in a lotus position.”
“They will have chairs, won’t they?”
“I don’t know,” he said, rubbing his eyes.
He looked over to the flowers.
“You don’t think it’s a good idea?” she said.
At the sight of her phalanges, he believed that he could count all the bones of her left hand. Soon enough, the metacarpals will push to the surface, and he’d be counting himself to sleep. About twenty years ago, he counted her grey hairs when she was knitting – there weren’t many back then.
“I’m so sorry, Mark.”
A light knock on the door had them two stumped. The door opened with care, but mainly because Dawn was holding a vase with water in it.
Dawn looked like she had shed some tears. Mark’s grandmother seemed pleased to see her, although something was not quite the same. Her attitude towards Dawn was more polite than casual.
“Oh, Dawn! How is pregnancy treating you?”
“Good! Only a few more weeks.”
“I can’t wait to meet him.”
They’d told her several times that it was a girl but eventually gave up.
“Mark?” his grandmother said.
Her eyes were expressing concern and confusion. The silent movements of her lips indicated that it was important, but she blacked out.
“Oh,” she said, “oh, I thought I was going to say something, but it slipped.”
“Try to sleep, ok? Don’t read till late.”
“Read what? What is this?” she said.
She held up the meditation book.
His eyes were wide open when he spooned Dawn. She had long fallen asleep. She’d often read before bed, which gave him the chance to fall asleep before her. It gave him a sense of safety when watched by someone that he trusted. But he felt helpless. His body wasn’t warm enough to keep her warm.
Moreover, he had to think about the discomfort he felt during the blowjob that she gave him over an hour ago. She was really going to swallow him. It started with a pleasant handjob, and suddenly there were her lips. A few seconds before ejaculation, he had to push her head away. Dawn didn’t cry; neither did she say anything. He had witnessed her cry without a sound before. She would roll over to the end of the bed and curl up to a fetus position – like this very moment.
When the baby kicked lightly against his lower arm, he removed his arm from the embrace.
Dawn’s breathing was regular and deep.
In the living room, he spread out his yoga mat and grabbed the medium-sized medicine ball. After ten minutes of savasana, he placed the ball on his belly and pressed it down. He closed his eyes and saw pictures of Dawn massaging her tailbone and lower back on the medicine ball. On the contrary, he was using it to put pressure on his lower back while arching it.
The ceiling was of dark colour.
As the discomfort got more intense, he rolled over to the side – the ball still pressed against his belly. He was waiting for the lights.
by P-chan (c) 2016