When the alarm went off I, naturally, wanted to sleep more. But I’d made a promise. I’d committed to waking up, driving from my University District apartment to Queen Anne to do yoga with my girlfriend. There’s a quote from a famous basketball player, Charles Barkley, who says, “When Momma ain’t happy, nobody happy.” In other words: don’t upset The Lady. In other words: don’t be late for your yoga date!
So I got up, dressed in shorts and t-shirt, packed a little bag for post-shower attire, and drove to my lady’s place to meet her for my very first yoga class.
Members of my family do yoga semi-regularly, so I’ve been exposed to it in the past, but I’ve never done it. My lady has been doing yoga for a few years now, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. So I met her at her place, kissed her, and walked down the street to the small studio.
My main worry was farting during class!
I set up in the back of the class next to my girlfriend. We each used two mats for comfort. The class began and we started, seated, moving quickly into the ass-up downward dog positions then plank, cobra. The class moved into a flow. I began to sweat. And sweat. I began dripping sweat onto my mat repeatedly. So much so that I had to grip the sides of it so my hands wouldn’t slide.
“Uncurl your toes,” she whispered, beside me, giving advice to make the positions easier. There is a lot to learn from practicing yoga: growing a comfort of your body looking strange and contorted, an openness to trying new positions, realizing some movements are more comfortable than others, not staring at everyone around you. There is a sense of pace. A sense of trust in the person directing you. The room was hot; I didn’t want to give up! Halfway through, I wanted to stop! My torso shook as I held a V-like position, my forearms shook as I held myself up like a table, my thighs shook as I put myself in “chair” position.
But I completed the class! Without farts!
The best part of the yoga class is the five minutes or so after the work when you’re in Shavasana, on your back, eyes closed, appreciating the work you’ve put in. The body is warm and resting.
The teacher came over to me after the class as I was cleaning my mat and said, “You are one sweaty man.” How kind of her to notice! My shirt drenched like I just jumped in Lake Washington.
My lady and I left the studio, walked back to her apartment hand-in-hand, talking about what we’d did. “You did well,” she said.
“Yes! You finished the class, you did some of the poses almost perfect, too. I’m proud of you!”
We took a shower together, the hot water cleaning the sweat off our bodies. Afterwards, feeling healthy, we went to a restaurant in Upper Queen Anne. The food tasted better because I’d gotten up and worked on a Saturday morning (I didn’t want to sleep in anyway!). We had egg sandwiches and fried rice – I don’t think anything ever tasted so good.
When the woman brought out the oyster, water and ice on her yellow gloves, giant smock over her front, small, sharp knife in one hand, the brown and white marbled shell of the crustacean in the other, I turned to my girlfriend beside me and took quick note of her pretty eyes – I was doing this for her.
We had recently started dating, and now we were on our first day trip out of the city. She’d planned for us to go to Bow-Edison, an area comprised of two small farming towns known for their cheeses, breads and seafood.
“Have you ever had an oyster?” she’d asked as we drove in my black Honda Civic.
“No,” I said, “but I had a snail once. I was in France visiting the grandparents of a friend. I only tried one. Sucked it out of the shell.”
“Did you like it?”
I paused. If I were to say “No” I would come off as ungrateful to the nice French family and, worse, closed-minded. If I were to say “Yes” I would not be telling the truth. I DON’T LIKE THE TEXTURE! I’M SORRY! PLUS THOSE THINGS ARE JUST GROSS!
“It was okay,” I replied.
We were driving a winding road, the sea to our left a few hundred feet below, glistening and blue. Trees on each side of the small county highway. She spotted an oyster shack down a ways.
“Oh,” she exclaimed. “Let’s stop there. I want you to try an oyster!”
We crossed some train tracks and got to the little shop where my girlfriend took care of business. She ordered me a single oyster. The oyster lady came out from the back with mine. The shack, small and a white that I’m sure originally had looked pristine but was now discolored from salt, water, fish scales and mud, smelled of brine. I’ve never liked fish (some say it’s a result of my astrological sign: Pisces). I never liked the taste of anything water-dwelling. I spent a large part of my childhood in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where my family had a small, run-down cabin. We used to catch fish, scale them, de-bone them and cook them. This was my least favorite part about Michigan. Yet, somehow, to impress my girlfriend with my willingness, open-mindedness and overall culinary capability, I was now in an oyster shack.
The woman behind the oyster counter struggled opening its shell. I’ve worked in restaurants that have sold oysters and I’ve watched dozens be opened on the spot. It’s hard but not that hard. This woman seemed like she’d never done this before.
She went at it from all angles. Jabbing, stabbing at it. Bits of shell flying to the floor. It easily took her three minutes to finally open the damn thing. When she finally handed it to me, I looked at the grey tongue-like thing staring up at me. This thing had been grown in the ocean, filtered out who knows what, and pulled from some rock and brought to this shack. I looked at my girlfriend again. I imagined kissing her after this was all done. I thought how sweet she was for setting this trip up and for wanting to share an oyster experience with me (weren’t they aphrodisiacs after all??).
I took the thing, my toes squirming, and lifted it to my mouth. I sucked out the meat. Along with it, came shards of shell and bits of sand. Before the thing could go down my throat, I had the immediate thought that the oyster woman, in all her briny glory, had tried to kill me! But why?? What was her motive?
Somehow, though, I managed to get the whole thing swallowed without choking.
“How was it?” my girlfriend asked.
“Um, okay,” I said, grimacing. She laughed.
When we got back into the car I told her about the extra bits I had to choke down. I didn’t have the heart to tell her about it in front of the inexperienced oyster lady inside. My girlfriend was pissed! She was going to go in there and give the woman a piece of her mind for almost killing me and for ruining my introduction to oysters! Instead, though, we drove toward another small town to find a restaurant for dinner. It was getting dark. As I drove, she began rubbing my right forearm gently. I was looking forward to sharing a glass of wine with her and to having some French fries.