Rainbows in the Clouds of Our Breath

Reads: 182  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
Surviving a nearly fatal abusive marriage left me resolved to "never marry again." Then a scrawny, bearded guy who smelled of pine and truth leaned onto my boob in a crowded van...

Submitted: September 08, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 08, 2019

A A A

A A A


Rainbows in the Clouds of Our Breath

January, 1986. What am I doing in this stinky van with a group of strangers on our way to some ruins called Chichen Itza? What am I even doing up, for that matter? It’s 4:00 a.m. for God’s sake! The group leaders, a shaggy couple who run the Yoga Center in Albuquerque, are as proud and excited as crowing roosters. They’ve arranged for us to climb this Mayan pyramid and meditate up there before anyone else arrives. I close my eyes to go back to sleep, but the scrawny, bearded guy next to me keeps leaning on my boob. I suppose he can’t help it, the van is too small for this many people, even limber yogis and yoginis like us. I fold my arms tight across my chest and curl up tighter into the seat corner, trying to doze. 

But it’s no use. The birds! The Birds aren’t just singing; they are ferociously competing with voices that exalt, resound, and rejoice in their predawn opus. They are a jubilant cacophony, so loud we don’t even bother to talk. Who would hear us? 

To make matters worse, some of us are apparently on a garlic cleanse diet. They reek! At least the scrawny, bearded guy smells good. My breath slows and my thoughts get loose and drifty. He smells sort of like pine mixed with truth, I think. If truth had a scent.

An hour later, we spill out of the van like marbles from a bag and contemplate the soaring, 100-foot high El Castillo pyramid that we have come to climb. The eastern horizon is a deep turquoise expanse dotted with a few persistent stars and out of nowhere, I think, Turquoise for transcendence. Reluctantly, we inch forward and take the first step, about one foot in height, then lean forward to use our hands as we crawl up the long ascent. Ninety-one steps, each one foot high. 

As the grey mists of dawn swirl around our feet, we finally pull our panting, weary selves up the last step to the temple platform and stand together in speechless awe. Far below us is the unexpected grandeur of an ancient city cloaked by the secretive forest. The breeze carries myriad aromas of life running rampant.

The group leaders instruct us to find a place to sit so we can do the opening meditation chant together. I notice the scrawny, bearded guy’s voice even over the birds. It reminds me of an oak tree.

At last! We are all seated, legs crossed on the highest point of this pyramid, which seems to throb like a bass drum. By unspoken agreement we quietly lapse into our own meditative routines. The first rays of sunlight pierce my closed eyelids and I could swear I hear a deep chorus of chanting voices. 

Suddenly, my puny awareness of self is catapulted out into the air, taking flight as if I am a bird myself soaring high above the great valley before us, tracing a path through the clouds and no longer encased in bone and skin. I am limitless. I am as free flowing as the air. And I am elated, until… my human self dizzies at the height and the lack of familiar enclosure, and I whoosh back into my body. Now I’m just dumbstruck.What the heck was that?

I shiver and pull my sheepskin around me. The scrawny, bearded guy regards me curiously, and I tell him, “The air smells sweet.”

February, 1986. One month later, back home in Minneapolis, I am piling on layers of white clothing in preparation to teach my Kundalini yoga class at the Maximum Security Prison up in Stillwater. It’s a men’s prison, my students are five convicted killers, and my mother taught me well: the last thing I want to wear are tight leotards. I’m opting for a marshmallow look with layers of white clothing and a white turban on my head. 

On the way out the door, I check the mail. Huh. A letter in the mailbox from Albuquerque. Oh wow – it’s the scrawny, bearded guy. His name is Tony. He was a quiet, protective presence in the Yucatan, but he’s seven years younger than me. His letter is one paragraph. Each line is pithy and funny and I wonder why he didn’t write more. Maybe I’ll answer; maybe I won’t. I really don’t have time for a pen pal.

March, 1986. Tony has persuaded me to meet up for a white tantra class with Yogi Bhajan in St. Louis. We go to see a Star Trek movie and he says that the new Captain Jean Luc Piccard “baldly” goes where no man has gone before. Haha. He’s pretty funny. And easy to talk to. I tell him how I had to escape after my abusive ex-husband nearly killed me, so I left Phoenix and moved to Minneapolis. Now this guy I hitchhiked around Europe with, who has become a highly successful lawyer in Washington, D.C., is proposing marriage. Tony says, “Will you invite me to the wedding? I want to be there to look you in the eye.” I tell him, “sure.” But to myself I think, I have you both fooled. I’m never getting married again. Not after the nightmare of last time.

June, 1986. We are once again at a white tantra class, this time in Espanola, New Mexico, joining the Summer Solstice gathering for the day. We are staying the night at nearby Ghost Ranch. One thing leads to another…well, you know…we are healthy human beings with lots of Kundalini flowing. But I have only just completed eleven months of my earnest vow of twelve-month celibacy, intended to cleanse my aura after the terror and fury of my calamitous marriage. 

Afterwards, I burst into tears because now I have to start the celibacy year all over again from scratch and I hate celibacy! I doubt that Tony ever had a woman cry after sex before, but he listens and considers. “Maybe you already did enough celibacy.” I cry harder. “I think your aura seems perfectly fine. More than fine!” I sniffle. “Couldn’t you just pick up where you left off and do one more month?” I think about that. Then he asks me, “What are your favorite colors?” 

July, 1986. I receive notice of a package at the Greyhound Bus Station. My girlfriend goes with me to pick it up. The box is a flat 4 ft. square. Inside is a 3 ft. wide, stunning Ojo de Dios hand-woven in my favorite colors. My friend says, “I think you better take this guy seriously.” 

So I invite Tony to visit me in Minneapolis, and I start conducting little comparison tests, even though I don’t intend to ever get married again. I ask the highly successful lawyer who traveled around Europe with me, “If you only had $5 to your name and I wanted money, how much would you give me?” Without blinking, he says, “I’d give you half.” Fair enough. Who could ask for more than that? Then I ask Tony the same question. He studies the ground for a moment, then he says, “I’d give you as much as you need.” 

September, 1986. I’m visiting Tony’s house in Albuquerque. We are playing a make-believe game about how my furniture (hypothetically!) might fit into his house. I tell him that his brown couch would have to go, of course, along with the brown lamp and brown throw rug. I really don’t like brown. He says, “No problem, I’m really not crazy about brown, either.”

The next day, at the world-famous Frontier Restaurant, we stuff ourselves with homemade tortillas, roasted green chili and the best cinnamon rolls in the world. Then to my pleased embarrassment, he gets down on his knees and suggests that we get married. And even though it feels like the most natural thing in the world to say, “Yes,” I am shocked to the bone when I do. My traumatized self goes into a panic. What did you just say? Am I hearing things or have you lost your mind? Didn’t we swear we would never marry again? You're planning to back out, right? 

October, 1986. Tony and I are visiting Reno for the balloon festival. Ostensibly. In reality, I want my parents’ opinion. It was a disastrous mistake to marry the last time without their input. But even my Dad’s wife, who has a shriveled prune personality and doesn’t really like anyone, likes Tony. I find myself feeling relieved as things take on a feel of comfortable, even welcome inevitability. 

I am shocked once again when I hear myself giving notice at my apartment in Minneapolis, and at my job with Northwest Airlines. After my life as a flight attendant, relishing my own money and freedom and safety from beatings and abuse, I am going to move to Albuquerque, marry Tony and get my degree. Walking through Sky Harbor Airport after departing from my last flight, the enormity of what I’ve done and what I’m going to do brings me to my knees, and I remain there, kneeling in the concourse, until a nice, older lady helps me up. 

Thanksgiving Day, 1986. It’s freezing at dawn in Albuquerque. I wear fur lined snow boots and a rabbit fur jacket over my white silk dress. In my pocket is a copy of the wedding vows we wrote. Tony, his brother, my girlfriend and the minister help me climb into the basket of the huffing hot air balloon, while the pilot stokes the burner. The sun is blinding, and I can see rainbows in the clouds of our frosty breath. 

As we start to lift off and the safety of solid ground slides further away, I think, I’ve spent a total of only 14 days with this manSure, there have been letters and phone calls, but maybe I should jump out now while I still can? And yet, I have never felt so much like I’m coming home as I do at this moment, sailing over the ground in the early hours of sunrise, the sky painted orange and purple, and people cheering their congratulations as we pass overhead with our “Just Married” banner unfurled over the side of the balloon’s basket.

June, 2016. Tony and I stand holding hands in a circle with his sister and her wife, our three wonderful godchildren, and my brother and his wife on Skylandia Beach at Lake Tahoe. It’s been raining all day, but a sudden clearing signaled us to scramble down here while we have the beach all to ourselves. The sun is blinding and the air is clean and cold and for the second time in my life, I can see rainbows in the clouds of our breath. The magical lake is its usual sparkling dance of cobalt and turquoise. Turquoise for transcendence, I muse.

After thirty years together, we are renewing our vows of that marriage I was never going to do. Now we tease our family that we might stay together for “one more day.” We have survived nine cross-country moves, thirteen changes of residence, three years of interstate commuting on red-eye flights, twenty-two different employers, and the deaths of five loved ones. We’ve stayed steady even when sorely tempted by other people, other places, or other lifestyles. Even through the times when we didn’t really like each other very much.

Why? Because when we sat on top of that pyramid at Chichen Itza in 1986 and I whooshed back into my body and wrapped my sheepskin around me and said to him, “The air smells sweet,” he gave a kind smile and said, “This day will be sweet. One day when you look back on days that have yet to come, they will be sweet.” And I thought, What a strange thing to say! 

But a teeny part of me that had been battered and broken and shoved way down deep woke up, sat up, took a deep breath and stretched her hands up to the sky. Sweet? she asked. Did he say he thinks days could be sweet? I smelled his good smell of pine and truth and heard the oak tree in his voice. Then I told myself, Never mind sweet or not sweet. I’m never getting married again. 

But that teeny part of me, the broken one who just woke up? She smiled. 

 

 


© Copyright 2020 Colleen Jiron. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments: