There was once a girl in a poetry class I took to pad up my master’s program credits. The class was on ekphrasis, and everyone in there was an MFA, except for me. Almost everyone in there also considered themselves serious poets and would have bored, yet snarky discussions about moods. This girl was really a woman who had a child and wore combat boots and short, short hair. She was possibly the most serious of all the students in her self-regard as a wordsmith and in her interpretations of others’ output. She was no one to fuck with; she was a large reason I rarely opened my mouth in class.
The first day of the course, the instructor, a kind, inoffensively pompous poet herself, had us gather in pairs, in an effort to form bonds of trust, I imagine, as we would spend the rest of the class writing and sharing our poetry. Wendy, her name was, sat at my right; she turned to me sluggishly and drafted long breaths to relay her vast writing experience and search for the sublime in all she endeavored. Her process was evolving, she felt. Her eyes, framed by black-rimmed glass, were cast down, and she flopped her head from side to side as she spoke about what she hoped to gain–and selflessly give, of course–in this class. Her speech ended with a tight little smile, indicating it was now my turn to regale her with my various writing accomplishments of yore as well as my raison d’etre.
Unaware of myself, I blithely mentioned my degree pursuit in the publishing program, and my purpose for taking this course.
“An…ee-lek-tive?” she drew out my last word, eyes wide, her inner eyebrows forming a pained caret. Then she gave me that tight smile, blinking her eyes cartoonishly, and faced the front of the class, never speaking to me again.
She wrote well, and spoke her written words in dynamic volume; she gave her opinions of classmates’ work sharply, decidedly. She wasn’t a bully; she was absorbed in her own potential. I still felt self-conscious before reading aloud to the class because I was afraid of her inevitably pointy feedback. But there was no need to worry–she refrained from saying anything to me or about my writing.
In future recollections of this class, I didn’t really give Wendy a second thought. The instructor was encouraging, as were most of the students, and I think fondly on that quarter.
About a year and a half after getting my degree, I decided on a whim to attend a community yoga class in an up-and-coming part of town. I was house-sitting for a friend down the road, and felt guilty about eschewing adult responsibilities like taking care of one’s body. That’s really the only reason I do it these days, not unlike my mother’s bidding.
I walked through the door of the little studio, and Wendy was there, speaking in a concerned tone about a back injury to the receptionist. I thought about bolting, but instead I signed in and quietly took a mat to the little room they used for those without much money. I didn’t look up when she entered the room.
It was only two of us in that class; our instructor was overweight, out of shape, and probably high, and directed the flow from her little bolster on which she perched for the duration. Wendy was careful and contemplative in her movement; protecting her body, she didn’t stretch its limits. The instructor knew this and didn’t push her.
After class, Wendy turned to me in a glimmer of recognition and we reminisced briefly about the poetry class. She left the short conversation with a smile and a nod. I smiled back and rolled up my mat.