The new guy

Shoes
There’s a new guy at my yoga studio. No, I haven’t been checking him out. Honestly. It’s just that this week, he’s attended three midday classes with me.

Among the day-time regulars, a newbie is fairly easily spotted. Typically, one or two of them per class, scanning the room anxiously before the start of the session. New students are always placed in the back row, under the watchful eye of the teacher, who instructs from the rear. They are trying to appear casual in the hot room. Yet covertly observing others. Seeking cues to conform to this herd.

Yoga practice at my studio is very calm and composed. An ensemble of bodies moving in synchronisation to the beat of the teacher’s firm but gentle instruction. Despite sweat dripping down our faces and limbs, standing still between the postures. Just the new guy, understandably, shuffling to a slightly different tempo. Off beat. The ever so soft sound of the breath of the class interrupted by his effort. A few frustrated huffs and puffs. A low “I give up” chuckle.

Diagonally in front of the new guy, I see a fidgeting figure in the corner of my eye. When turning to the back of the room for sit-ups in between all the floor series postures, I cannot help but to witness his struggle. I smile encouragingly. This 90-minute class is a tough call. For anybody.

Leaving the studio freshly showered but still sweating, I bump into the new guy in the narrow stairway. He’s slouched on a step, tying his shoe laces. I feel his stare as I try to find my ankle boots.

“Have you been to the Rockabilly?”, he suddenly asks me with an unapologetic, intent look, while I’m yanking the boot over my foot, pulling the straps.
“No, what is it?” My boots are definitely not slipping on gracefully. A poor sock choice this morning.
“It’s a scene for people like you”, he replies.
“People like me?”, I scream in my mind. Nothing comes out, though. Staring blankly at him, I make a quick inventory of my appearance. Sure, smudged mascara. The new ultra-short haircut. My favourite dropped crotch jeans. Definitely none of that advertised after-yoga glow. All my insecurities flash before me in an instant. Which stereotype is he referring to?

“Like the kind of hair and boots you wear”, he quickly clarifies. Still staring.
“Are you German?”
“No”, I reply curtly. But a bit insulted, I want to add.
“Two wrong questions then”, he mutters and walks past me down the stairs.

My husband often reminds me not to be so short with strangers. I’m lacking in the small talk department. I hastily add: “I’m Finnish”.
“You should go home”, he tells me.
For the second time in less than a minute, my blood pressure is off the chart. “Bloody racist”, I want to hiss at him. And he’s smiling. After a comment like that. Seriously? He wants to ship me back to Finland? Any last trace of the calming effects of yoga escapes my body and mind.

Until it dawns on me. He thought that I said I’m finished. As in tired. Beat. Exhausted. Finito. And yes, indeed I am. I go home.

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