Stacy the gym instructor’s blue eyes flicked back and forth from gym member to attendance list, checking each name off with a ballpoint pen. She had gone done to the middle of the list when she stopped and winced. The name with a row of red x’s next to it irritated her like a stain on fresh laundry.
“Pippa,” she mumbled. She hadn’t seen this student in over three weeks. Although she considered herself fairly lenient with absences, three weeks was almost too many. She could’ve saved her the embarrassment and just drop out instead. There were plenty of other students who would appreciate her efforts. Yes, she would get to the bottom of this and permanently erase that student from the attendance list at once.
“Has anyone seen Pippa?” she said.
“Yes,” came a voice from the back.
“Well where has she been? She’s missed three weeks of classes,”
There was an awkward silence that followed and then the sea of sweat bands and nylon gym shorts parted to reveal an extremely short woman in a bright blue track suit.
“I haven’t missed a single class."
“Are you sure? I’ve been looking—“ And then it dawned on Stacy as she looked up and down all of Pippa’s four foot nine inch frame. Stacy’s mouth dropped a little before she quickly shut it, stumbling over a quick apology. She proceeded to laugh it off as needing to update her glasses.
There were a few raised eyebrows in the room, but Pippa’s bushy brows remained where they were. This was the norm in her life. She was a shorter than average woman with a quiet disposition and as such was often overlooked and sometimes, even, unfairly judged. This did not mean she took it sitting down. She advocated for herself extremely well...in her mind.
She had prepared a few choice things to say to Stacy:
“Guess they never taught you to call people out by their names in Yoga school,” and
“Maybe if you cut your bangs you’d be able to see better,” and
“It’s okay. I like it in the back because you can’t see me when I don’t follow all your ridiculous moves."
But she would never be so ill-mannered to say these things out loud. After all, she needed to be a shining member of society, as her mother had told her so long ago when she was but five. It was pounded in her head and since then she’d kept a tight lip no matter how much she wanted to explode.
However, because she's never said much more than necessary people pegged her many things: shy, introvert, strange, deviant, and arrogant. Through numerous adjectives, Pippa has had to rise above it all.
Recently, she had even made a vow to surrender to the ways of Buddha and let the gossipers talk while she practiced "inner peace".
"Om," she said breathily as she sat on the Yoga mat surrounded by a forest of gigantic women.
She had a bad day at the office and so desperately needed to find balance in the universe again. Her boss wanted her to take up a sick coworker’s workload, but who knew the piles were comparable in size to that of Mount Everest? When she couldn’t finish, he had promptly accused her of slacking off. And when she just stood there silently with her hand over the other, he wrote her up for being difficult.
And that was why she was there in that studio that day. To imagine her boss lost at sea, never to return. No wait. That wasn’t it.
Her temples throbbed from the onslaught of that day’s stress. It was like someone was pounding down on her veins with a hammer. Honestly, there was nothing more she’d like to do than sit at home with a tub of ice cream and zone out in front of her television but her guilt had gotten in the way. She hadn’t exercised in over a month.
After all, Buddha did yoga too, didn’t he? She needed to live up to that ideal.
She preemptively inhaled, trying to calm the bubbling nerves that were surfacing. The mat felt squishy and cold underneath her. She couldn't help but compare it to her to her warm, soft sofa back home. A muscle twitched in her left leg and her mind veered off thinking of the physical pain she would put her body through. She fought down the urge to run out of the room at that very moment.
“And then she told HR about it and he got fired,” said her blonde neighbor excitedly to her friend. They were two lean but muscular types in pale blue and pink tank tops.
“Are you sure?” said her friend, a woman with fire colored hair.
Their chatter punctuated the air around them, the sonic waves eventually making its way into Pippa's ear and infiltrating her every thought. She found herself leaning over to hear more.
Meanwhile, Stacy had moved onto the more challenging poses. As they bent down on all fours and contorted their bodies into unusual shapes, Pippa’s neighbors continued their hushed conversation.
“Now exhale…” said Stacy.
“It was because of his mistress,” said the blonde.
“NO!” said the red head.
“Yes, now shut up,” said Pippa, softly enough so nobody heard.
It had occurred to her as she looked around her vicinity that she was the only one who had bothered to pay attention to what was going on. And if she too were a respectable member of society, she would ignore their titillating gossip and try to find Zen as well. However, the conversation had brought her back to her own troubles in the office with her boss; she would’ve also liked to report him for wrongly accusing her of being lazy and rude. Perhaps that would get him fired as well!
A smile light up instantly on her face as the dark mental fog began to clear. Right as she swooped into a Locust pose, and she thought she might finally reach enlightenment, the hushed whispers stopped her in her tracks.
It left mental skid marks in Pippa’s psyche. Nirvana had been so close, but it had been ripped away from her. She desperately needed it today too. Now she would return home still filled with a continuous uneasiness she wouldn’t be able to shake off. How was she going to go to sleep like this?
The nerve of those women! They needed to take it elsewhere. It was a yoga studio, a holy place where people meditated and found their center again. Why couldn’t they understand that and go gossip in a shady bar like normal people?
She imagined herself unleashing her tirade of frustration and anger onto them. She’d tell them everything she was thinking until they had no choice but to take notice. They’d look up, shocked at first, their eyebrows most likely raised high in offense. But they would be embarrassed too, right? Yes, she would make them so horribly ashamed of being so rude.
Confetti would explode in the air as she came out victorious for once. Her chest would puff out and, with the help of some stilettos, she would look them eye to eye as she dared them to rob her of her quiet again.
She would do it. She would say something.
Using the momentum of her thoughts, she readied herself and waited for the perfect moment. As Stacy led the class into a child’s pose, Pippa inched her finger over to tap on her neighbor’s shoulder.
Before she made contact, her heartbeat quickened and her resolve weakened when she imagined what her mother would think. Her red stained lips would turn downward as her thick brows knotted together in disapproval.
“That’s not what a lady does."
If that wasn’t enough her mind shifted to another scenario where the ladies were not embarrassed, but enraged at having been told off.
And so in the end, Pippa’s finger shriveled back to her side as the room finished the last move and Stacy ended the session.
“Great job everyone!”
As they all folded up their mats, Pippa tried to quickly roll her’s to escape home when she tripped and knocked into a body to her right.
“Sorry!” Pippa said as she turned around to see her blonde neighbor rubbing her leg. The woman’s face was scrunched up in pain. In that initial second that followed, she concluded Pippa was ridiculous for hurting her and promptly rolled her eyes. Before she left the room, she said loudly,
“Some people are just so rude.”
Like she was possessed, Pippa found herself racing to catch up to them, the adrenaline coursing through her veins.
“Wait!” Pippa said.
They stopped and turned to her, their faces expectant, defensive, and a little curious.
There it was, the moment Pippa had been waiting for.
She was going to let them know what utterly horrible humans they were, just like her boss. Surely this would give her the peace she finally deserved. She would—
“But would you have peace?” said a serene, gentle voice in her mind.
“Buddha said peace laid in forgiveness,” she mumbled to herself.
“What did she say?” said the red-haired friend.
No. No! She was about to finally get vindicated. She didn’t want reason, she wanted delicious revenge! And just like that, the clear distinct voice of her self-help guru came through even louder.
“Peace is found in letting go.” A backtrack of gongs and meditative cymbals followed. It was nice at first and then became a jumbled mess when her mother also interjected with her own segment: “Be a lady."
Pippa waved the air away of their violations, causing the ladies to jump back at the mad woman in front of them.
“Oh my god, let’s get out of here,” said the blonde to her friend as they dashed off. Pippa watched as they fled.
“Hm,” she said, scratching her head. They were scared of her. That was not such a bad thing. Maybe this would be a good compromise.