Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Directed by Michel Gondry

If my life were a movie, two things are for certain: it would be directed by Michel Gondry and star Michael Cera in a cascading blonde wig. It would probably focus on one rather banal day in my life, only in Gondry’s imagining everyone would have giant, inflatable hands. Dave would be played by Seth Rogen and Olive would be a robot. Every moment in my life up until page one of the script would exist solely to provide background for the script, and everything that happened post-page 120 would be unimportant. By the end of the film we would all see truths regarding relationships, art, and dreams.

The first act might begin with my first day of training at the yoga studio. As I travel to the yoga studio, following a crumpled page of directions, everything is just a little disorienting. For the first ten minutes of the film everyone on the bus is speaking to me in Spanish and I could certainly use a glance at the subtitles the audience is reading.

Once I finally find the studio, everything is peaceful. The studio director, played by Sylvie Testud, puts the phone to her chest and points for me to sit in an empty room across from the front desk. I leave my boots at the entrance and sit cross-legged on the floor. The room contains nothing but a room divider, an upright skeleton, and a system of ropes suspended from the wall. My face contorts as I scrutinize the system of ropes but my train of thought is quickly interrupted by a voice.

“Do you mind if I use the room?” a woman in the doorway says. She is very skinny and wears all gray. I nod and gather up my things so I can get out of her way. The woman tangles herself in the ropes and the gears behind her begin to turn. They are powered by some sort of Rube Goldberg machine: a mechanical hand dripping ice cold water from an infant medicine dropper onto the back of a dwarf hamster which runs on its wheel and propels a conveyer belt that rotates the gears of the rope system. It is Sylvie the studio manager’s invention. The ropes contort her body into impossible forms. I assume that she must be a teacher.

“What’s your name?” the woman asks me in a voice almost like a child.

“I’m Brittany,” I say. “What's your name?”

Her body is bent into a perfect triangle with bulging tendons and she looks at me from under her armpit.


“I was wondering what this machine was for,” I say, taking a closer look.

“Do you want me to show you how to use it?” she asks.

She helps me twist the ropes around my arms and waist and before I know my body is out of my control. The ropes pull me into downward facing dog and I hang from my waist like wet rag, my fingers and toes dangling just above the ground.

“Keep your knees bent,” Marie says. “You aren’t warmed up yet.”

“Brittany, what are you doing? I’m ready for you now,” Sylvie says from the doorway. “And Marie, what are you doing in the teacher’s room?”

I untangle myself and drop to the ground.

Marie wanders into a classroom, where everyone is standing on their heads. When the door shuts, the studio manager turns to me.

“Just so you know, Marie is one of our more… difficult students. I've been putting up with her for a long time, but sometimes she just loses it and I have to ask her to leave. Usually she does this when the temperature isn’t exactly seventy-four degrees.”

Just then, Marie ambles out of the classroom with a pair of black goggles strapped to face. We both give Marie a strange look. The perspective shifts to Marie and we see everything through her infrared goggles. Sylvie and I are outlined in red blurs on a fuzzy, black background. Green digital words and numbers pop up on the margins. Next to Sylvie’s head “98.6 degrees” flashes in red, and next to mine “96.6 degrees” flashes. The words “REPTILE” blinks across the screen. Marie gasps.

We watch her roll her hips and drop into warrior three. She bounces her torso to get a good stretch.

“Things have been better since I started going to that studio in Connecticut,” Marie says. Her torso falls and she hangs in a standing forward bend. “The teachers there are wonderful. I want to take the postures home with me, it’s really special. And of course, now that the season is changing I’ll be coming here more often. It’s just hard for me when the temperature is too hot. Anything over seventy-four degrees.”

She stands up straight. “I’ll see you on Thursday, Sylvie.”

Marie walks out the door, detecting the temperature of the passing vehicles. To her delight, this charming fall day is exactly seventy-four degrees.

I watch training videos on a computer screen. Over a period of a couple of hours my face grows increasingly weary and my eyes begin to lull shut. The first video is a busty woman explaining different brands of yoga gear, the second is about how to clean the rental yoga mats with a squeegee. I yawn. In the next video, an angry man in a bathrobe is nailing a yoga mat to the door of a Catholic church and yelling something about hypocrisy.

“What do you know about enlightenment?” he cries. “What do you know?!”

I stretch my arms out and it doesn’t strike me as unusual that at some point in the transition into the dream sequence I changed into a lizard costume. Now I am a lizard in a cascading blonde wig. I leave the desk and join a yoga class that starts at 12:30. The teacher is playing a popular song by Enya and the lyrics to the song are a string of pasta dishes served at the Olive Garden.

“Brittany, do you have any medical conditions I should know about?” the teacher asks.

“I am a lizard,” I tell her dreamily.

“Do you know what kind of lizard?” she asks.

I roll out my mat. As the class begins, we all come to our hands and knees at the front of our mats, tilt our heads up, bulge our eyeballs towards the ceiling, stretch our tongues to the points of our chins, and let out a growl from the backs of our throats that releases all the awkwardness and embarrassments of the day.  

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