A shoulder tap. The teacher in remarkably thin linen, gently observing that his head should point to the center, not the wall. This, even fifty-two years into the project, could create several seconds of shame.
Today he laughs, swivels on the mat, deliberately brushing Julie’s arm, and receives the soothing suggestions.
Connect to a heartfelt desire…
(That we take the peace of this class home to our daughter.)
Move awareness through your body..
(Oh wow. My shoulder feels better!)
Witness your thoughts…
(I’m sorry I’m even in that book. That last line is embarrassing. Writing makes me unhappy. Please, stop.)
Posting only pictures of garbage did not attract a slew of Instagram followers.
Maybe that’s not all McCormick was after.
He told Julie, who claimed not to notice unless they were pointed out things like melting snowbanks that shed chicken bones and soiled underwear, that he wanted to see art when he looked at trash. So life would be more beautiful and she would hear fewer complaints about the city.
Just one of the ways he deployed Dr. Bruce Blend’s mindfulness therapy. Decatastrophize, Blend urged. Slicks of shit and cigarette butt are disgusting, yes, but not signs of the apocalypse.
(Now that his morning funk has been rocked away by Steve Earle, McCormick is free to discover a new record from a favorite band…)
Because Julie called her high-school mate John Darnielle a genius, he resisted the Mountain Goats on principle.
Dylan was an ego-object back then. Making Bob share any space crowded McCormick when he really needed to feel large.
His change of heart wasn’t gradual. The recognition struck while hearing:
I remember California, I remember Malibu
I remember the states and the names of the cities but I don’t remember you
It was the perfection of college lit review writing. Things you just thought, rhymed and adored. Who hadn’t searched for that treasure?
Defeating jealousy gives him room. With pleasure, he listens.
(The Guru’s picture on his bookcase has Julie on Weirdo Alert.)
McCormick, shook, calculates.
Blending with Lakshmimani’s voice during Namaskirtana makes him One with God for sure. But that bald guy keeps saying he’s loud and flat when everyone else says he sounds great.
He’s seen the Blue Pearl, a rare spiritual gift. He’s also been scolded for letting his feet point toward the empty chair in front of the hall.
Is the Guru hovering above his Crown chakra, or is she the woman upstate who poses for the puja pictures and book jackets?
Turning back his way, Julie manages a smile. Heart restored.
Of course he will dismantle the shrine.
(a positive home-pregnancy test makes McCormick think back on how they got here…)
After twelve years of Julie on Wall Street and him teaching upstate, Digi-Match’s algorithm wanted them back together.
Eastern practice must have suggested connection. She frequented a Gramercy studio where celebrities learned headstands. He was a Sangam Yoga devotee searching for Inner Self.
On their third date, McCormick assumed his Ashramishly ordered apartment would advertise great worth
Julie liked the single sunflower in its green glass vase, and really liked the high-end kitchen appliances. But a big picture of the Guru, a young Indian woman wrapped in an orange shawl, whose eyes gathered and pierced? No, that she didn’t like.
(Julie and McCormick complete a mercifully short fertility odyssey…)
Yes, they did the wild thing. Ok, not wild, but satisfying. The demons were chased.
“You knew it was today!” she said, consulting her phone, in the after.
Her appreciation made him feel large, in the after.
Ten days later he is laying out meditation mats when she brings him the stick.
“I think…is this.. a plus sign?”
“Intersecting vertical and horizontal lines? Yeah, we call that a plus sign.”
Julie makes a big-eyes face. McCormick, already looking within, sees an elevator descend from his crown to his base and open its doors.
A new life.
He walks right through.
(the tedium of a summer day is suddenly dispelled…)
In Jackson Square his butt cheek buzzes. A distraction! Opiodic relief. He sets down the groceries, thumbs open the phone.
Julie’s agitation is evolving like a Pokémon into panic. “Help…I have to call London in, like, five minutes.”
Her Mansfield monograph won their year’s dissertation prize. She’s led her group to Platinum Plumes in Product Positioning three years running. Just yesterday she coaxed an HVAC man into replacing the dripping toilet’s ball-cock assembly. But sweet-talking a superior? Not her strength.
“First, thank her for noticing the discrepancy.”
His wife exhales. “I knew you’d have the language…”
Finally, a victory.
(Whiling away the hours of a free day, he sets out on his errands…)
Perched on his front steps, a beefy tour group hears from their guide, who wears a wool beanie in July: “The neighborhood was actually pretty rough a few years back.”
The tourists scuttle on, leaving only regulars. Like bucket-hat-guy, who chugs past unzipping knee-length denim shorts and splattering the sidewalk while holding a beer and a cane in his free hand.
The nice moms from Neighborhood Relations at June’s (private) school recommend carrying granola bars if giving money “isn’t your practice.”
At the market McCormick visualizes a fountain of pee and tosses nut-free cookies and dried mango into his basket.
(After a disappointing meditation session, McCormick wonders how he’ll fill the time until Julie and June come home…)
Refreshing Camp Rampart’s website would eat some minutes. Oh yes! A video shows Juney smacking a wiffle ball, then rounding the bases like someone is chasing her. Later she’s on the Rama Theater stage, arms folded, refusing to comply with a ringleted pediatric acting coach. June moves, like him, from spotlight to shadow. Not like her mother, the Queen of Red Ribbons, who proudly remembers entering every contest at church camp. To try or not to try? Such a hard question. Maybe nothing can be gained by leaving the apartment for an hour, but he’s still going to do it.
Failing to reach enlightenment during morning meditation, McCormick must contend with the seven hours before J&J come home.
Two undergraduate memories contribute (invade?): Asking his advisor how carefully William Trevor’s intricate plots were planned, and staring at a therapist’s beard one winter-break morning after crashing his Wagoneer into the big pine in Shelly Holland’s icy front yard the night before.
“I think he just sits down and writes,” said Vern.”
“Stop imagining yourself the hero of your life’s drama,” said Dr. Blackmann.
McCormick is sure both men meant well. But the problems of art, living, and Shelly Holland’s lips remain.