It wasn’t a usual Sunday by any standards, but we’d made a pact to ‘do things’ whilst Beth and Izzy were away.
What with the house empty, no commitments, no ties, no set Sunday routines for a while at least; we were set free to rediscover old things, to discover new hobbies, to find things to laugh about and tell them about when they came home – our tiny new life experiences to show we’d not just sat at home waiting for them to return.
Thus, we found ourselves at our inaugural Hot Yoga class. It’s what you do (please don’t judge).
Kited out in our black and grey fitness gear (nothing too tight mind) we found ourselves sat in a somewhat lukewarm room facing a wall length mirror – like a dance studio, but without the slender and the agile, instead, sat on mats with a handful of similarly attired hot yoga virgins. We sat, with no under certain trepidation, in muted uncomfortable, shuffling stiff jointed silence as we collectively waiting for proceedings to begin.
The Hot Yoga tutor arrived – with a breezy ease, but with that edgy unease of a tutor with new students. She elegantly sat cross legged with her yoga shaped back to the wall mirror to start the class. My first thought: Why’s it not Hot? This is Hot Yoga, isn’t it? She started the class with an enthusiastic ‘hello!’ and an ice breaker (pardon the heating pun) exercise asking each one of us who we were and why we’d come.
So it began, in lukewarm lycra, and so it remained. The temperature never rose beyond tepid for the next hour or so. It transpires your first Hot Yoga class is less about sweating and stretching, more about thinking and attuning yourself. The thermoset stays where it is, and you have think about your posture and positioning, think about your purpose in doing this and think about and practice your breathing. Lots of breathing.
Lots of talking about breathing, breathing in, breathing out. What’s happening to your chest as you breathe? Can you slow your breathes out? Can you extend your breathes in? Can you feel your lungs, your diaphragm, your posture changing?
And so it ended, with us rolling our mats away, swigging water, despite not being in the least bit thirsty, and leaving the Hot Yoga studio without a sweat mark to write home about. I, for one, I said in the car home, was not going back.
Roll forward 2 weeks.
The Phone Call. The phone call that marked Before and After.
(If you’re new to this laugh-a-minute grief blog please read ‘An Accidental Soundtrack to Grief (Part 1)’
A jolting shot in my chest.
Did my heart actually stop? The air was tangible, it always is in any confined space, more so in this stale Virgin train carriage, but now, it was closing in. Thinning, then thickening air. Rapid, shorter than usual breathes through my nose.
I shut down my Macbook.
Think. Think. THINK. Do, must do. Do. No, no, no no. Not true. Not true. No. Need to think, Now. Think. I close the foldaway beige plastic table. Do. Do. What? Call Maiya? Text? Shit, I don’t have her number. Ask Trace. Got her number. Blurred now. What? Some guy claims. ..it’s a mistake, obviously. No. No. Need air. Can’t sit. James? I need to text him.
And there it was. I needed to breathe. I needed to learn how to breathe again. I HAD to breathe. So I breathed in and gulped in air and I stood up. I packed my rucksack and managed to get myself out of the carriage. Somehow the vestibule seemed a more sensible place to be. Here at least I couldn’t be seen by commuters or fellow train travellers.
I breathed and I stood and I paced. I breathed in fresher, but not fresh air – Virgin train windows don’t open. I paced. I made a conscious effort to breathe, in, out, in, out. Deep as I could.
I needed to think. No. No. NO. No. Ripping, surging panic welling up inside my chest. I paced up and down the tiny space between the toilet door and the carriage door. I waited. I was waiting. I was trying to think. THINK. Breathe.
Plan, do. Cancel meetings. Text: I’m sorry I can’t make it, something’s come up, be in touch, DS.
No. No. NO. Move, shift from one foot to other. Breathe. Breathe.
At some point I remember standing on Platform 11C at Leeds train station waiting for the first train back. I still remember every time I’m there.
Think, THINK. No, no, NO. Need to speak to Maiya. I call Maiya. I speak. I have a blurred conversation. ‘No, I’ll deal with this Maiya. There’s been a mistake. Send me his number. There’s been a mistake.’
Text. ‘James, I’m David Squire the father of Beth and Izzy. It sounds like we need to talk! Can I call u on this number in half an hour plz? Best David.’ Send.
I don’t recall a single minute of the 40-50 minutes of the train back from Leeds to Sheffield. Yorkshire passed me by.
But at least I’d breathed. I must have breathed, because I got a call from Trace when I was walking across the concourse at Sheffield station. ‘The Police are here. They’ll pick you up. They don’t think you should drive.’
I got into Mario and I called James. I left a message on his phone. His UK phone. No good.
I ignored the Police’s advice. I drove Mario home.
And that was how After began.