I fling myself at you and you fling back, and the instructor says, Good, good! until the whistle goes. As the lights dim, we fade into the chairs provided, breathing hard, and then it starts again. When we are done with it, when our knees and backs and shoulders are sore with it and each of us has had our win, we are let go.
– I love you.
– Of course it is.
– They said it might rain.
– No, really, I’m not.
I think I am better than you, although we are still balancing a win, a loss, a win, a loss. The instructor is always supportive, loud-voiced and cheerful, though never allowing us to finish before time, never allowing us to settle. There is a hand on my hand and you are pulling at my elbow and I am sliding my foot under your foot. When the whistle comes, we fall, you into your chair, me into mine. Good, good! says the loud cheerful voice. Next week, then?
There comes a week when I don’t want to. Because there is something in your eye. Because there is something in the way your mouth moves now, the turn of your cheek. How you won’t.
– But we’ve paid upfront, you say, and there it is, your eye, your mouth, your cheek.
I go, but my strength is undone and you win easily, and win, and win again. Our instructor is still cheerful, but I smell disappointment and I know it’s me. As I am floored by you, I look towards the ceiling and I believe I see a cloud, a bird.
I keep going, but I never win. I pretend that I am in it, that I have that want, the desire to match you, but my hand slides under yours too slightly, I do not pull, I do not place myself where I should. I don’t catch your look or our instructor’s as I get up again, get up again.
When our upfront payments end, the instructor suggests – to you only – that there is another level. I am not regarded and I know these situations, so I pretend to be involved in putting on my coat. You make sounds of noncommittal, and we leave.
I wait for you to ask me. You don’t ask me.
– They said it would be here by now.
– Could you pass the other one?
– Orange is ideal.
– Nobody does, not really.
There is a day when you have gone into the garden. It is later, I have almost forgotten the moves we learned. But I have not forgotten how it felt to be on the floor. I have not forgotten the cloud, the bird.
I watch as you deadhead the rosebush. The way your back bends, how your fingers flow, your crouch close to the earth.
You turn round. The sun is bright, but I think you are looking right at me. You are looking right at me, holding the heads of two roses. I look back at you, I tap on the window, and I wait to see what you might do next.