"Look here, they have yoga," Wendy later said as they perused the schedule of classes at the club. "I hear yoga can change your life. Plus they have night classes." She nudged Ruth. "It might help you get over Paul."
In the locker room that first night, they overheard two women talking. "The guy next to me asked if I'd like to go with him to that midnight class, Togaless Yoga. You know, he says, the nude one."
"Nude? What a scumbag! ...Was he at least good-looking?"
"Not bad. But can you imagine facing the naked butts of twenty people doing Downward-Facing Dog?" The two women walked out of the locker room. Ruth turned to Wendy. "Who the hell would do nude yoga?"
"Me," Wendy said. "And don't look at me like that, Miss Shock-and-Dismay. At least it wouldn't be boring."
"Nude, with total strangers?"
"No, with my CPA, my dentist, my boss. Who do you think?"
In the crowded workout room, thirty disciples, most of them women, were staking out their turf, then adjusting mats as stragglers came in. When a man rolled out his mat next to Ruth's, she avoided looking at him, in case he was the scumbag. She glanced around. Most of the women had pedicured nails, precision-applied nail polish. Ruth's feet were broad, and her naked toes looked like the piggies from the children's rhyme. Even the man next to her had better-looking feet, smooth skin, perfectly tapered toes. And then she caught herself - she shouldn't have nice thoughts about the feet of a potential pervert.
The class started with what sounded like a cult incantation, followed by poses that seemed to be saluting a heathen god. "Urdhva Muka Svanasana! Adho Muka Svanasana!" Everyone except Ruth and Wendy knew the routines. Ruth followed along as if she were playing Simon Says. Every now and then the yoga teacher, a ropy-muscled woman, walked by and casually bent, tilted, or lifted a part of Ruth's body. I probably look like a torture victim, Ruth thought, or one of those freaks my mother saw in China, boneless beggar boys who twisted themselves up for the amusement of others. By this time she was perspiring heavily and had observed enough about the man next to her to be able to describe him to the police, if necessary. "The nude yoga rapist was five-eleven, maybe a hundred and sixty pounds. He had dark hair, large brown eyes and thick eyebrows, a neatly cropped beard and mustache. His fingernails were clean, perfectly trimmed."
He was also incredibly limber. He could wrap his ankles around his neck, balance like Baryshnikov. She, in comparison, looked like a woman getting a gynecological exam. A poor woman. She was wearing an old T-shirt and faded leggings with a hole in one knee. At least it was obvious she wasn't on the prowl, not like those who were wearing designer sports outfits and full makeup.
And then she noticed the man's ring, a thick band of hammered gold on his right hand, no ring on his left. Not all married men wore rings, of course, but a wedding band on the right hand was a dead giveaway, at least in San Francisco, that he was gay. Now that she thought about it, the signs were obvious: the neat beard, the trim torso, the graceful way he moved. She could relax. She watched the bearded man bend forward, grab the bottoms of his feet, and press his forehead to his knees. No straight man could do that. Ruth flopped over and dangled her hands to midcalf.
Toward the end of the class came the headstands. The novices moved to the wall, the competitive types rose immediately like sunflowers toward the noon sun. There was no more room at the wall, so Ruth simply sat on her mat. A moment later, she heard the bearded man speak: "Need some help? I can hold on to your ankles until you get balanced."
"Thanks, but I'll pass. I'm afraid I'd get a cerebral hemorrhage."
He smiled. "Do you always live in such a dangerous world?"
Reprinted from The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan by permission of G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2001 by Amy Tan. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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