[In honor of a dear friend who recently passed away.- Editorial Note]
Lou walks among the moving pillars, commenting on balance, weight, and leverage. She strikes her palm against the uniform extension of fists, testing strength, searching for weakness, giving physical feedback.
Thank you, Lou.
I close my eyes, soaking in the calm snap of white uniforms. The focus, turned toward Lou, her instructions, and the application is soothing to me. Grounding. I need it.
The most recent call on my phone was five minutes and ten seconds in length. Three minutes of talking, two minutes of silence, then a “thank you, I’ll call you back soon,” goodbyes, and hanging up.
Do I cry? I let my eyelids drop.
Snap. Silence. Snap. Silence.
Class will finish even if I don’t step back in. I can stand here and Lou will send them home. I can take the time and cry.
I open my eyes.
No. It’s not time to cry yet. My body isn’t ready.
I watch Lou, her words commanding the air. She moves like she’s a living part of the room. An amazing woman—my wife.
The students are crisp.
Okay, I tell myself. Go finish. This is your space. Don’t think about the call. Yet.
I take in shuddering breath of air, lock my eyes on Lou, and find the rhythm of the room. It pulls me through the doorway, into the flow of my art.
The pillars have faces, individual accents, and differences in strengths. They’re beautiful, and the honor of walking through the drift of their focus settles in around me. Every single one of them has angles his or her movement differently, telling a slightly different story.
The current warms my body, calms my mind, and carries my breath.
I lose track of time, reading the stories in the room—studying them.
Lou’s voice peels back the focus and wakes us up.
The clock’s short hand lines up with the eight; the long hand rest on top of the twelve.
My feet carry me to the front.
The students fall into place.
Lou calls attention.
Goodbye, I tell each student. And, thank you, I add. They’re wonderful. Then, they leave… and, there’s room.
Lou picks up the mitts, with their worn smooth leather faces. She holds them up and we track around the room, me striking, her meeting my strikes with the mitts.
We break a sweat, but my eyes stay dry.
The sweat slicks the leather.
My fist slips. My balance shifts. And I tighten my core, throwing a counter-strike I didn’t announce to my body.
Again, it slips off the mitts, and frustration lurches in my throat.
Twice more my strikes land on the leather faces.
A third one slips off; and a sob reaches up. Liquid climbs into my nose, and I sniff.
I throw again. Everything is blurry.
Help. I’m falling.
Lou’s arms wrap around me, and she squeezes. Tears seep through my guard, and we go to our knees. I sob, she rocks, and my body shudders.
“Thanks, Mom…” I say. And, “Goodbye, Mom.”