Foul Pole by Tina Gallagher
I shiftedinto a reverse warrior pose, fighting to keep my balance as every muscle in my body protested the movement. Blinking, I crinkled my nose in an attempt to divert the sweat that somehow still managed to trickle into my eyes even though I’m looking up at the ceiling.
The curses ricocheting through my brain mocked the incense-and-serenity vibe in the studio. But seriously, this is bullshit. I’ve been through every cardio, strength, and flexibility training Major League Baseball has to offer and haven’t struggled or sweat this much. I’ve already done all these poses on the other side of my body and am definitely feeling it.
At least this hell is almost over.
“Exhale and come into an extended side angle pose by placing your right forearm on your right thigh. Then extend your left arm and hover it over your ear.”
I followed Clay’s directions, breathing through the discomfort as he had me flow through triangle and half-moon poses.
“Step back to downward dog and you can rest there for a few breaths, or if you’d prefer, move into child’s pose.”
Oh trust me, I’d prefer.
I lowered onto my knees and, reaching my arms forward, rested my forehead on the mat, thanking every supernatural power in the universe that this torture is almost over. I could have stayed like that forever, but once again, the taskmaster shouted out a command.
Okay, he told me what to do in a soft, calm voice, but either way, he was making me move.
“Shift to a seated position with your legs straight in front of you.”
My knees cracked as I moved onto my ass and stretched my legs out. The back of my right calf settled into the wet spot my sweaty forehead had created and I shifted it slightly to the left.
“Inhale and straighten your spine then bring your arms straight out to the side and up over your head, reaching toward the ceiling. Draw your spine up and inhale, keeping your torso long. As you exhale, lean forward from your hip joints, not your waist.”
My hamstrings, hips, and lower back protested as I did what he told me. I breathed deeply, compelling my muscles to give in to my will. But as I’ve learned in the past week of classes, it will take more than determination to make things happen.
“Don’t grit your teeth. Keep your face and jaw relaxed and with each inhale, lengthen your spine and with each exhale, fold deeper. Imagine your belly coming to rest on your thighs, rather than your nose coming to your knees. Keeping your feet flexed, grab hold of either your toes or your ankles.”
My toes? Yeah right.
I glared up at Clay, my jaw clenched. His raised brow and muted smirk would have made me laugh if I had the energy and enough breath. Despite my sneers and groans, it’s the first time in a week that he’s dropped his professional demeanor during our private sessions.
“Keep your neck a natural extension of your spine, don’t look up or down.”
I looked forward again and slicked my hair back off my face before grabbing my ankles.
“Keep breathing and if you’re able, deepen the stretch with each exhale,” Clay said.
Sweat dripped off my chin and immediately soaked into my shorts, forming a blotch that got larger with each subsequent drop. He had me hold that pose for what seemed like forever before saying the words I’ve been waiting for since this torture session started.
“Release your hold on your ankles and come back to a seated position. Now, with your core engaged, exhale and slowly lower your back to the mat. Rest your hands at your sides with your palms facing up and put your feet mat-length apart. Close your eyes and transition into Savasana, allowing your body to be just as it is and yourself to be whole and complete, simply lying there, breathing.”
My body felt heavy as I eased onto the mat and my muscles relaxed. I closed my eyes and listened to the soothing background music and focused on regulating my breathing until it settled into a slow, comfortable rhythm.
In my opinion, this is the best kept secret of yoga. I think if everyone knew the torturous classes ended with this relaxing pose, they’d be packed. The first few times I did this, my mind wandered, thinking about all the things I had to do once I left the studio, not to mention how much pain I was in. But after just four classes, I’m learning to Savasana like a pro.
My mind and body totally relaxed and I enjoyed just lying on my mat breathing. Then a beat pounded into my consciousness. I opened my eyes and looked around, trying to figure out its source.
I spotted Clay through the glass door of his office. He’d started going in there after my first class when I said the thought of him watching me in Savasana was giving me the wiggins.
Sitting up, I twisted first to the right side then the left and shook out my legs. I grabbed my water bottle and finished its contents in one gulp. As I swallowed, I identified the song that had intruded on my Savasana. Boom Boom Pow by The Black Eyed Peas is an awesome song, but not something to listen to while in a state of total relaxation.
“You have five more minutes,” Clay said from behind me.
“I was rudely interrupted by your music.”
“I wasn’t playing music.” He frowned, then cocked his head to the side. The music changed to a slightly slower tempo as Sorry by Buckcherry started to play. “The floors must be finished downstairs.”
“What does that mean?”
“The floor was being refinished in the pole dance studio downstairs, which is why there haven’t been any classes there this week.” He looked at his watch. “Although there aren’t usually classes this late on a Sunday. Down there or up here. Which is probably why whoever is down there wasn’t too concerned about blasting the music.”
I got up and walked across the room to grab a spray bottle and rag off the shelf. Kneeling down, I sprayed down my mat and wiped it clean.
“I appreciate you meeting with me privately.”
“No problem. I can’t have you in my class distracting everyone with that pretty face,” he said with a chuckle.
“But seriously, we’ll do whatever works for you.”
“You’re the one with the busy schedule.” I sat and slipped on my socks and sneakers, then rolled my mat and stood. After returning the spray bottle to its home, I tossed the rag into the hamper. “I’m free most anytime since it’s the offseason. So if you need me to come during the day, I can.”
I reached down and grabbed my water bottle and mat.
“Mornings or early afternoons might actually be better during the week. I’ll text you tomorrow and let you know about Tuesday.”
“It’s getting easier, right?”
“Well, I see improvement in the few sessions we’ve had. Your balance is better and you don’t seem to be protecting your lower back as much, so it must be loosening up.”
“I do feel more loose, but this is harder than I thought it’d be. When the Waves’ trainer recommended yoga, I had no idea it’d be so tough.”
Clay patted me on the back and opened the door.
“You’ll get there.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
That said, I stepped into the hallway and walked toward the stairs. I was rounding the landing when the unmistakable thump of Fat Bottomed Girls pounded out of the open door on the first floor. I jogged down the rest of the way and walked over to peek inside.
I never believed in falling in love at first sight, but good Lord, I fell into something the moment I spotted her. With her long limbs, porcelain skin, and platform boots, she looked like some kind of goddess as she climbed the pole. When she reached the top, she released her left hand and extended her arm out to the side and held on by her right hand and her ankles as she spun around and around. With her body away from the pole, she gripped it with her right hand near her thigh then wrapped her right leg around the pole and continued to spin with her right arm extended.
My sister Angie used to have a musical jewelry box with a ballerina inside that would spin around when the top was opened. That’s exactly what the woman on the polelooked like.
I watched in awe as she straightened her legs and rolled around the pole then tipped back and hooked her left leg, seeming to hang on by the back of her knee. She arched and grabbed the heel of her right boot as she kept spinning around and around. I was getting dizzy just watching.
She let go of her boot and kicked her left leg back toward her head. And I don’t know how it happened, but next thing I knew, she was hanging upside down in a full split.
Hooking her left leg around the pole again, she wrapped one arm behind her and grabbed on. Twisting her body, she straightened her legs until she hung upside down with her back against the pole. She looked like a sexy bat.
Freddie Mercury continued to sing about how fat-bottomed girls make the world go round and I have to agree. Not that the enchantress in front of me has a fat anything, but her bottom is perfectly rounded, especially in comparison to her slim figure and tiny frame.
Releasing her hands, she let her arms hang toward the ground while just her knees held her to the pole. She slid down slowly until her fingertips brushed the floor as she continued to spin. Around and around she went until she finally placed her hands flat on the floor slowing the momentum. Once the spinning stopped, she let her legs fall back until her feet landed against the hardwood floor with a bang.
She stood, whipping her hair over her shoulders and gripped the pole again. Before executing another mind-boggling trick, her eyes widened when she spotted me.
Her sky-high heels added a sexy sway to her hips as she walked in my direction. My mind raced as I tried to think of something to say that would accurately convey how much her performance blew me away. But I didn’t have to worry about it because she didn’t give me a chance to speak.
“Show’s over,” she said, and slammed the door in my face.
I placedmy hand over my chest, as if that would still my pounding heart. When I looked up and saw that man watching me, it took all my willpower to hide my initial panic. Thankfully, I noticed the yoga mat under his arm and realized he must have been upstairs with Clay before I totally freaked out.
Resting my back against the wall, I slid down to the floor. After unzipping both of my boots, I slipped them off and rubbed my feet. For eight-inch heels, they’re pretty comfortable, but still squeeze my toes a little.
I heard a knock on the door and stood. Turning the knob, I opened it a crack and breathed a sigh of relief when Clay Moody stood on the other side of the threshold instead of the Greek god that had been there a few minutes ago. Whether he’s Greek or not, that’s what I’m calling him since he looks just like John Stamos.
After opening the door, I walked over to my iPad and lowered the music.
“What do you think of the floors?” he asked as he stepped inside.
“They’re beautiful. I’m really happy with them.”
Picking up my tank top, I shrugged into it before turning around.
“How was your vacation?”
“Relaxing,” I said. “It’s the first one I’ve taken in a long time and I made the most of it.”
“Do anything special?”
“Nothing fancy. A few friends and I rented a lake house in the Poconos. We hiked,
kayaked, and drank way too much.”
“Sounds like a good time.”
“Yeah, it was.” I nodded. “I’m surprised to see you here.”
“That’s actually why I stopped in. I’m doing private sessions with a friend of mine so I’ll be here at different times for the next few months.”
“I saw your car in the lot, but didn’t realize you were with someone. I hope my music didn’t totally kill your session.”
“No, he was halfway through Savasana when it started.”
“Oh good. Besides the fact I had the music cranked up louder than usual, I left the door open because there are still some fumes in here.” He blinked then shifted his eyes toward the door I’d had to open for him. “Your friend stopped by and I slammed it in his face,” I explained with a shrug. “Sorry about that.”
“No worries. It’ll keep him humble,” Clay said with a chuckle. “Anyway, I just wanted to stop in to welcome you back and let you know that you may be seeing me here at weird times.”
“I’ll be sure to keep the music at a decent decibel and the door closed.”
He nodded and walked toward the door. “Have a good night.”
A minute later Keera arrived.
“Guess who I just saw downstairs.”
“No, not Clay.” She waved her hand in a dismissive gesture. “When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw Leo Marakis getting into his car, but he pulled out before I could talk to him.”
She said the name as though I should not only know who that is, but I should also be impressed. I just looked at her and blinked.
“Leo Marakis,” she said again, raising her voice slightly on the last word making the name sound like a question.
I lifted my brow and shook my head.
She drew out the five syllables, as if saying the words more slowly would magically give me the knowledge she seems to think I should possess.
“You can say the name as slow or loud as you want, but I have no idea who that is.”
Keera rolled her eyes.
“Have you been living under a rock? He’s the catcher for the Carolina Waves and one of the hottest guys in professional baseball.”
“You know I don’t follow baseball or any other testosterone-filled sports.”
“They’re worth watching for the eye candy alone.” Keera’s train of thought switched tracks and she seemed to have an epiphany. “Wait a minute.” Her eyes widened and she grabbed my hand and squeezed. “He was carrying a yoga mat. Was he in this building?”
Her question was asked with a quiet reverence that made me laugh. She removed her hand from mine and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Look, just because you’re a total misandrist doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t enjoy the company of a hot guy.”
This is not the first time Keera has said that exact thing to me. And I’ll admit that the first time I heard the word, I had to look up the exact definition of misandrist. It’s not exactly in my everyday vocabulary.
“I don’t despise men,” I said. “I just don’t have the patience to deal with egotistical pretty boys.”
“You don’t have the patience to deal with men, period.” Keera rolled her eyes at my shrug. “You’ve got to get back out there sometime. You broke up with Travis the Weasel three years ago. Don’t you miss sex?”
I’ll admit that at first I did, but for the past couple years, not so much. In fact, all my toys have been collecting dust. Now I channel all my sexual energy into my business. The fact that Peaches & Pole is generating enough revenue to allow me to cut back on my web design business says a lot.
Instead of answering her question, I said, “I’ll admit your Leo Marakis is easy on the eyes.”
“You saw him?”
“I’m guessing the man you’re talking about is the one Clay just told me he’s doing private sessions with. Dark hair and eyes?” Keera nodded. “Looks like John Stamos?” Her eyes widened and she nodded again. “He was watching me freestyle.”
“And what did you do?”
“I slammed the door in his face.”
“Seriously?” I nodded. “What is wrong with you?”
“What would you do if you thought you were alone then looked up and found a guy watching you dance?”
“If he was a muffin like Leo Marakis, I know exactly what I’d do.” She bobbed her eyebrows.
I grabbed my grip spray and coated the top of my feet, shins, and inner thighs. After placing the cap back on and returning it to the shelf, I turned to face Keera again.
“You and I both had shitty exes and are dealing with our breakups in our own way. Your dick band-aids seem to be working for you, but at this point in my life, casual sex would only make me feel worse.”
“I’m not saying you have to go out and throw your cat at every guy you see, but don’t you think it’s time to put yourself out there again?” When I didn’t answer, she continued. “By not dating, I feel like you’re still letting Travis have power over you.”
Instead of answering, I grabbed a spray bottle and rag and walked over to the pole I’d used. After spraying the rag, I tucked it in my bra and climbed to the top, cleaning the grip off as I slowly slid down. Just for good measure and to give me extra time to collect my thoughts, once I reached the ground, I gave the lower half an extra scrub.
“He doesn’t still have power over me. This doesn’t have anything to do with Travis. Not specifically anyway.”
Other than my therapist, I haven’t talked to anyone about this. But maybe it’s time. If anyone would understand, it’s Keera. She had a shitty ex too. I didn’t know her when she was with him, but from what I understand, he was just as bad as Travis.
I walked over to the iPad and turned the music back on but lowered the volume. What I’m going to say is difficult enough to admit, I don’t want my words echoing through a quiet room. Keera had settled on the floor and I sat across from her and rested my back against the wall.
“After I left Travis, my therapist made me realize that since I started dating in junior high, I hadn’t been single for longer than a month. I’ve been stuck in a cycle of relationships, moving from one guy to the next, always focusing on fitting the mold of whoever I was with at the time. I’ve given up pieces of myself or ignored my own wants just to make whatever guy was in my life happy.”
I shifted my gaze to the side and blinked away the tears that threatened to fall. Drawing my knees up, I wrapped my arms around them before looking at her again.
“Travis was a dick and borderline mentally abusive, but the fact that it took me three years to realize that tells its own story. I made it easy for him to totally bend me to his will. I lost myself in that relationship because I didn’t really know who I was.”
Looking around the studio, I smiled. Pole is the one thing I wouldn’t give up for Travis. At first he thought my dancing was cool but quickly started to resent the time I spent at the studio. After a while, I compromised and only attended classes I taught and trained on my home pole the rest of the time. That appeased him at first, but after a few months, he pushed for me to totally stop again. Thankfully I had one brain cell working and didn’t give in to his demand.
“After I finally broke up with him, my therapist suggested that I take a six-month dating hiatus. The fact that I had such a hard time being single at first made me realize how much I needed a break from men and I decided to extend it to a year. And now, I’m happy with myself and my life, my friendships. I know who I am and what I want.” I shrugged. “Part of me is afraid that I’ll backslide and lose that if I get involved with someone new.”
“Not if you’re with a good guy,” Keera said.
“The fact that I’m a bad picker is a whole other therapy session and the reason I’ve been taking an extended break from anyone with a penis.” I released my knees and shifted to my feet. “But we’re here to figure out the end of our routine and practice, not lament on my sexless existence.”
Keera stood and walked over to give me a big hug. With her arms still around me, she pulled back to look me in the eye.
She released me and stepped back.
“Why didn’t you tell me this before? I would have shut up.”
“I didn’t tell anyone. It’s not exactly something you want to shout from the rooftops.”
She nodded and seemed resigned to let the subject drop.
“Now that I’ve brought down the entire vibe, I need some feel-good music.”
I scrolled to an upbeat playlist but just before I hit play, Keera spoke again.
“But you have to admit that Leo Marakis is seriously hot.”
Full disclosure, my hoo-ha had perked up for the first time in more than a year at the sight of Leo Marakis. But I’m keeping that to myself. I’ve shared enough already today.