You’d always steered clear of yoga. Well, not quite always. There was that time you went along to a talk in a ground-floor lock-up near the Law Courts in one of those backstreets sought after by your better class of minor criminal – the kind who wouldn’t dream of letting their children catch a bus to a bail hearing, or attend a talk by some shady yogi from the ashrams of Modugno or Fesca.
The lock-up is about the size of a deluxe prison cell. When you arrive it is already packed with cross-legged students, mostly girls, mostly vegetarian-plain. Of the three guys present, two are wearing expressions of full-time smugness that you would love to punch out (but that is not quite the spirit, you quickly remind yourself, in which to begin a voyage of discovery of the inner you), while the third appears to be trying to resolve some kind of breathing problem by closing his eyes, swaying, and clasping his hands in prayer. There is a general air of expectancy in the place, evocative of a camp of spiritual rebels about to flee across a border into a land of mythical promise: if you closed your eyes, plugged your ears and took some of the right hallucinogens you might almost be standing on the south bank of the Rio Bravo.
While you are casually wondering which of the precariously-positioned candles will cause the first fire, your right thigh, closely followed by your whole being, is suddenly distracted by the arrival of a flame-haired Amazon exuding quantities of sex appeal far in excess of those permitted by law in enclosed public spaces. She is sitting so near to you that the scent of the Jump On Me shampoo from her auburn ringlets almost overpowers you. It occurs to the small part of your brain still functioning that you have discovered the source of the praying guy’s breathing problems: he must have bumped into her coming out of the Yoga Toilet or somewhere.
After looking around in vain for a stick to bite on, you promise yourself that as soon as the world comes to it senses and invests you with absolute power, you will require women as damagingly attractive as this to carry large supplies of suitable bite-sticks at all times – an absurd idea, you immediately realise: obviously, from the moment you have anything approaching absolute power all damagingly attractive women will be too busy ensuring your own round-the-clock felicity to worry about anything else whatsoever.
Without warning, a young guy with a shaven head, improbable dressing gown and the charisma of a walnut emerges from behind a velvet curtain. After a dramatic (or, to be honest, undramatic) pause, he begins to speak, very slowly and precisely, and you have a vague sense that someone is sticking blunt needles into your soul. But nothing of what the guy says actually makes it past your ears, because by now you are meditating on the profound beauty of the Amazon’s timeless cleavage. All around you people are pretending to be trees, or something, but the only thing you are genuinely conscious of is an unfamiliar flame burning deep within your inner self. For a moment you think that you recognise Love, but then a shriek from the Amazon brings you back to reality: the first candle has fallen, and your lap is on fire.
(to be continued)