Kim Nelson: The Sound of the Universe

We at DWWP love to use writing prompts to jump start new work. This story is based on the prompt “the fool and the cosmos.” April 1st, 2018 was host to two holidays that are quite different from one another: April Fools Day and Easter. Though contrasting at first glance, the pieces in this series seek to explore their common ground.

Prudence sat at the stoplight, her skin sticking to the car’s upholstery in the summer heat, waiting for the light to change and cursing her broken air conditioning. Traffic on the way home from work was miserable. All she could think about was the remaining bottle of hard lemonade sitting in the mostly empty six-pack holder in her mostly empty fridge. She heard the rumbling engine of several motorcycles as they rolled to a stop at the light. Prudence glanced in her driver’s side mirror, then did a double take.

Next to her sensible SUV with high safety ratings, two young women sat astride a black Honda motorcycle. The driver turned to whisper into the ear of her passenger, and Prudence caught the flash of her profile, her pearly teeth, her glossy lips. Strawberry blonde curls tumbled from beneath her silver helmet. The girl sitting in back rested her hands on the driver’s hips, bare-armed in a summery tank top, a tattoo of butterflies bursting in full color up and down her bicep. Their jean-covered legs hugged the sides of the bike. Two more single riders pulled up around them–a raven-haired woman on a crotch rocket, a blond with a turquoise bandana tied around her pixie cut on a custom-painted Goldwing. She could hear their voices erupt into bubbling laughter over the roar of the engines.

A strange emotion clenched around Prudence’s heart. Her button-down silk blouse and work pants felt like a prison. She could feel pit stains forming on the dry-clean-only fabric. She imagined where the all-girl motorcycle gang was headed to next–probably a honky tonk bar that served beer by the bucket, where the girls would dance on the tables and give fake phone numbers to any man that dared to approach their booth.

The light changed. Prudence watched the the strawberry blond open the throttle, lifting her boots off the hot pavement and resting her heels onto the pegs like a bird tucking its feet into liftoff. The bike sped ahead, curls and peals of laughter trailing behind them, sunlight dancing on the silvery helmet. She watched them until the car behind her honked impatiently, and she remembered herself and slammed on the gas pedal.

At home in her messy apartment, she felt claustrophobic. The hard lemonade didn’t taste satisfying. Prudence thought about the next day of work and wanted to jump out a window. She wondered if her finely highlighted, textured chunky layers would drift like tendrils behind her as her body plummeted into the building parking lot. Instead, she shuffled to the corner store in the rubber flip flops she usually wore to the nail salon, returned home with a fresh six-pack of Malibu coolers, plopped onto the couch with her iPad, and opened up the Groupon app. She needed an Experience™.

On Saturday morning, Prudence drove to her first yoga class. She borrowed a studio mat that smelled like feet, and following the example of the other class attendees, laid out flat on her back until the teacher entered the studio. Jessamyn was lithe, porcelain-skinned, and spoke in the voice of someone pretending to be a fairy princess while reading a picture book to a classroom of preschoolers. She prompted the class through a series of poses, which Prudence tried to follow to the best of her ability, but she quickly lost track of what she was doing when she was supposed to turn her elbows’ ‘inner eyes’ outward, lift up her kneecaps towards her thighs, suck her legs into her hip sockets, and kiss her shoulders’ tips together. Red-faced and sweaty, she hunkered down into child’s pose for the last 15 minutes, letting the gazelle-limbed twenty-somethings around her, drink in Jessamyn’s soothing instructions. After the final asana, corpse pose (which Prudence felt that she really nailed), Jessamyn asked the class to sit cross-legged on their mats and join her in a final Om to seal the practice.
“The Om, which is actually three sounds–’Ooooo,’ ‘Auuuuuu,’ and ‘Mmmmm’–is the sound of the vibration of the entire universe,” Jessamyn explained, her voice the nectar that hummingbirds drink. Prudence sucked in a deep breath along with the rest of the class, then let the air escape her lips as she mouthed the sound of the universe, which, let’s face it, is dying anyway. After bowing her third eye to the feet-scented mat, Prudence rolled it up and tossed into the bin. At the front door, she realized that someone had stolen her flip flops.

Back at home, Prudence fired up the iPad once again. For a brief 5 minutes, she searched for used Goldwings before deciding she didn’t actually want to take a motorcycle license class. Maybe she’d like yoga better if she tried it on a beach while wearing a gauzy caftan. She imagined the tropical breeze gently lifting her hair off her sun-kissed shoulders, the scenery as blissful as the label on a Malibu cooler. With the touch of her fingertip, she scrolled through the Living Social site until she found a photo that matched what her third eye sought.

Three months later, Prudence arrived at the Finding Your Inner Goddess™ all-inclusive retreat in Tulum, Mexico. The retreat kicked off with a welcome orientation party on the beach, where an Instagram-famous yoga teacher/leggings model, Penelope Trueheart, gave the keynote speech followed with a kombucha toast. Prudence mingled among the other attendees as they chatted and made introductions in the soft light of tiki torches and sunset. Her newly purchased sarong didn’t want to stay in place on her hips. Instead of softening into beachy waves from the humidity, her hair fell lank onto her shoulders and frizzed with sweat. She took a giant sip of kombucha and nearly spat it on the ground when her eyes locked with the yeast mother floating in her flute glass.

In the morning, determined to experience an Adventure™, Prudence signed up for a ziplining excursion. She took a 45-minute ride in a shuttle bus with a handful of other Goddesses, venturing into the thick of the jungle. At the ziplining site, a tanned, muscular, male instructor greeted them and showed them how to put on their harnesses. Each time he touched one of the women to help her tighten a strap, the others tittered and hooted, causing him to blush. The group huffed up a series of stairs in single file, climbing high into the thick leafy canopy. Prudence glanced over the railing and nearly became dizzy from the sight of how high they had gone. If she hadn’t looked, her sore glutes would have reminded her just how many stairs she had climbed. Her ass begged for a soft couch in an air-conditioned room.

Prudence volunteered to go first just to get it over with, craving the solitude of her yurt. The instructor clipped a series of carabiners to her harness while he flirted over her shoulder with a college-age blond from Odessa. Prudence lined up the toes of her Chacos to the edge of the platform. The jungle floor lay 6 stories below, her vision blurring from so much green. Nearby, some sort of tropical bird screamed shrilly. The blond giggled at the instructor, who was barely looking at Prudence. In that moment, she felt the culmination of every moment she had been ignored in a rush of jealousy and anger. A cacophony of noise pounded in her ears–the birds squawking, the women giggling, the roar of engines, the drone of repeated mantras.

“SHUT UP!” Prudence shouted, then jumped into the ether.

Behind her, she heard the instructor say “Wait!!”

The final carabiner had not been closed yet, and Prudence plummeted as she disconnected from the zipline, careening towards the earth. Her arms and legs stretched wide into a falling star. She felt weightless. Loose locks of hair from beneath her rental helmet trailed behind her like the tail of a comet. She closed her eyes. Wind whistled past her ears, and in those final seconds, she could understand what the breeze was calling out to her. It was saying ‘OoooooooooAuuuuuuuuuuuMmmmmmmmm,’ and she heard the entire universe.


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