An involuntary, long, dissatisfied yawn comes out of my mouth as I try to capture last night’s dream. I’m sick, and sore throats make me yell, slamming doors that morph into Amazonian expeditions that merge into illegal money making mafias. Strange dreams, but I’m awake now. So I stretch, slowly, tensing every muscle, taking up all the space I can. I hold the stretch for a minute, arms and legs in an ex. I look at my pointed toes, a dancer’s, just before I relax with a groan, wishing the swift hours of the night would stretch with me, too.
I sit on the black tile of the gym floor. My shirt plastered to my back. The open window does nothing to relive the hotness of a Chilean summer. My toes elude my grasping fingertips and my inflexibility frustrates my exhausted body. My foot tingles and responds to something my ears do not hear. A smile pulls its way across my face and it strikes me on the floor next to the bench press and stretching mats. I am in Chile. The reggeaton and salsa beats pump in confliction. Their interweaving lightens my body and teeth show through my lips.
Almost everything about attending a venerable boys’ school (45 girls to 900 boys my freshman year) was strange, but what I think most amused me was certain old faculty members’ visible, palpable discomfort in my presence. Whereas they called boys, “Smith,” “Harrington,” I was “Miss Ganley” or “Our resident member of the fairer sex.” One teacher, who tortured boys–”It’s a stretch, Jones, just to understand that you are speaking English. Would you kindly grace us with your full attention and your native tongue”– was unerringly polite and anxious with me. Undone actually. Stretched beyond the limits of his stunted imagination.
(I write from the Burlington airport–hope you’re all enjoying a writing-games-filled weekend!)
“A cat in a good home,” my mother always says. “In my next life, I’d like to be a cat in a good home.” We have two cats. They keep each other company when no one is home during the day. My brother’s pillow and sun spots are favorite curling-up places. On the rare occasions when they get up, they stand slowly and proceed to stretch, as only a cat can. When we come back in the evening, they are fed and petted and generally loved, except by my father, who prefers the integrity of couch arms to little beasties.
Always stretch. Never bounce. You’ll pull a muscle. Words of wisdom. For gymnastics, stretching is essential, but the urge to bounce comes along with the desire to excel and become as flexible as possible. I sit on the worn blue carpet of the spring floor, legs out straight in front of me, toes pointed, and stretch. Bending forward, sinking further with every breath. Nerves bubble up inside me as the time for the Star Spangled Banner looms. I rub my legs, trying to keep them warm, and close my eyes, seeing myself tumble through the air flawlessly completing my routines.
Being on time is a stretch for me, as is eating eggs or driving like a competent and legally sane person. It’s a bigger stretch for me to understand our dry cleaners,
and why, every time, they put safety pins in the shoulders of my shirts. Do you not FEEL for the inept people of this world who will ALWAYS maul their fingers with your damn pins?!
Also: Why does the grille put chips on my plate? I’LL EAT THOSE CHIPS AND I DIDN’T ORDER THEM! Don’t test me oh foul givers of salt and fat. I have hips enough.
For 12 years, the first classes in school were just an extension of my night sleep. At 7:30 in the morning, my somnolent brain definitely was not ready to grasp what the teacher said. My eyelids felt heavy; my arm was weak to support my weighty head. Despite having been up for more than an hour, my entire being was still stuck in some incredible dream. Sometimes I wonder how more ready for the day I would have felt if I started school the way my parents did during the communism – with a 20-minute energetic stretch out in the schoolyard.
Streeeetch. My moms voice is familiar, telling me to start a new day. I get up, hold my arms close to my body, and then point them in different directions – eventually ending above my head. I stand on my toes. I crack every bone in my body. I make them loose. My ears crack, wind comes in and out, the sound in and out. It is hollow, loud. I yawn. I make my last lazy sound – time for real noise. My muscles are tense then relaxed. It’s time for them to move. I shake and make the ground exist.
In one of my favorite memories, one of those Saturday nights that gets talked about beyond the Sunday morning brunch debrief, we were all clad entirely in spandex, in knit, in stretch everything; leggings, lycra aerobics outfits, sweat bands. It was for some themed event – 80s, or skiing, or another one of those dress-up parties that we adore and anticipate despite the fact that they feel really ‘high school’ and this, in fact, is college – and the best part was the dancing that took place in a cramped, stifling room before we even considered going down to the real party.
There is something beautiful about waking up in the morning and not feeling tired. Just to feel satisfied with your night of sleep. Knowing you didn’t have a hard time finding slumber and that you didn’t stay awake longer to worry. Turning off your alarm and thinking that you are glad that it is time to get up. Look to the sun and just stretch. It is like a perfect exhale. You can reach your arms over and out. Turning to the side. Reaching out, stretching further. Cracking your back. Not many things can feel better. Hop down from your bed and be ready to begin.
(sorry this is late, I didn’t have access to a computer the last 2 days)
Usually after I exercise I never take the time to stretch. I’m always in a rush to shower, get dressed, eat, and then continue with the rest of my day. The next day I really regret that decision because my legs are tight and my arms feel like bricks when I try to lift them up. I recently started doing yoga, which makes such a difference in the flexibility of my body. If I allow myself to go to yoga at least twice a week, then I notice changes within two or three weeks. I love yoga now.
Sitting for hours. Back slightly curved into a position that is meant to keep passengers sedate. Easy to deal with. Calm. When one stands at six feet and four inches above the ground, one is six inches too tall to enjoy any flight longer than five minutes. Knees are pressed against the seat back in front of me. My head rises above the top of my own seat. When the person in front of me leans back, I have no choice but to separate my legs and straddle the offender’s chair. I try stretching. It doesn’t work out.