Interlude

I lie on my yoga mat, crowded to the edge of a packed yoga studio. The air is humid with our combined breath and sweat, and my mat is slightly sticky with my own perspiration. I do not sweat gracefully, whether it is on my yoga mat or in the temple in Haiti, and I don’t like dampness in my skin. Yoga keeps my muscles from aching too much and my bones from screaming, so, like a solid sweat in the temple when my feet pound the dirt and the spirits howl in the heads of their mounts, I sweat in a room full of strangers and twist my body to fit the instructions issued forth from a more knowledgeable head.

In this crowded room with darkened lights and the hiss of a radiator over soft, meaningless music, we all lie in savasana; corpse pose.

I think about all the dying I have done in the last year.

The instructor speaks quietly in metaphors, and instructs us to observe the movements of the jellyfish that lives in our bellies. It’s supposed to be quaint and relaxing and non-intrusive, but my eyes snap open and I stare at the industrial ceiling and the condensation sliding down the window at my feet.

I don’t have a jellyfish, I have a snake.

It’s a big snake and it lays coiled under my diaphragm, wound around and through my spine. Big loops of it’s body stack over where I imagine the talking yoga head and her jellyfish would tell me my root chakra is. My snake renders me sexless and comfortable. It’s safe there, and I am safe with it there. When I tighten, it shifts reflexively. Sometimes it whispers for me to breathe deep, other times it lays still and lets me find my own breath.

For someone who is utterly terrified of snakes, I deal with a lot of them. My spirits show themselves as snakes. I learn who is trustworthy and who is not by what sort of snakes accompany them in dreams. I have watched snakes as thick as tree trunks swim in impossibly large dream-basins surrounded by low-hanging trees, and screamed like a frightened child when I found a tiny viper in my dream-bed.

It was the great white snake who looked at me in a dream and said, in his disembodied voice, that we had to get married right away that very moment. Even in the dream, I knew what that meant and I protested because I couldn’t yet. I could barely pay my rent. How could I afford a wedding?

Now, he said, and so we got married in that dream. I stood next to an impossibly huge white serpent while a priest intoned a blessing, and we were dream-married.

He insists I for-real marry him all the way up to kanzo. He stalks me with snakes and snake wedding rings and desires communicated in dreams until I am almost screaming. I cannot do two ceremonies a once, I tell him, and I have to get in the djevo NOW. I light lamp after lamp and tell him that it can’t be now, no matter how much he loves me. I repeat the words of another to-be husband over and over: I need kanzo because I need bigger work than a marriage can guarantee, and I am going to die if it doesn’t happen soon.

He acquiesces while I inch closer to death. I know that I won’t be able to wait long for the marriage. He will be patient, but only so patient. Does he know I’ll survive long enough to get in the djevo and live? If he does, he’s not saying. In all my prayers and lamps and pleadings, I am not so sure.

He was an integral part of my kanzo.

On his most recent feast day, only a few weeks back, I sat at my table and prayed in gratitude for all that he did and has done for me; all the foundational work in the background and the strength that leeches upwards from him. I stare at the flickering flame of his candle, and wonder if I will be consumed as he consumes his offerings in possession; whole and unseen, with only a slight intake of breath and maybe a hiss.

Probably.

In return for my prayers and time spent, he grants me a vision that I see with my eyes open. For a moment, I am walking on a rough, pale road through a forest, through a war zone, through the Haitian countryside. Then, like the money shot of a big screen blockbuster, the vision pulls back and I am above myself. It pulls back until I am tiny in scale, and the road is not a road.

I unknowingly walk on the back of an enormous white serpent, too big to be fully conceived of by my tiny head. He was the road I walked all the way to Haiti and into the djevo, without ever really knowing that he was there. He is so big that my footsteps don’t disturb him at all, and I am so small that I cannot recognize the ripple of muscles and scales under my feet.

I think about all of this on my sweaty yoga mat, with the painted pipes of the lofted ceiling above me and the condensation obscuring the view of a busy Boston street at my feet and a tiny impossibly flexible woman beside me. I am the corpse on the ground, breathing only quiet breaths with a snake on my mind and in my belly.

If I had a jellyfish, he would eat it.

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~ by Alex on April 7, 2017.

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