I lie down on the massage table and fidget a little, unsure whether I should close my eyes or keep them open. My neck feels a little odd so I turn my head a few times.
“Would you like a pillow?” Anna asks, and I nod. She asks if I’d like to begin and even though I’ve come specifically for a touch-based therapy it still puts me at ease to be asked and to have clarified that I’m ready to be touched. She places her hands a few times at my shoulders and my wrists. I begin to settle. She moves herself to a stool at my side, her hand beneath my right kidney. I don’t let go all at once–I look around a few times and then allow my eyes to droop closed. There’s a sound from somewhere beyond us and as I begin to scan for the source she reassures me; “That’s another therapist banging around in the next room.” I thank her and feel my face relax.
Some surge of movement bubbles up in my left side and my leg twitches a little, then I give in to the wash of fleeting feelings and little twitches, the flashes of imagery that ebb and flow as I lie still. This is what savansana used to feel like at the end of my practice. My consciousness relaxes and I don’t track the oscillation of my nervous system until I perceive a man running behind me. I feel myself jerk and my breath sharpen. Anna pushes her fingers into me a little and makes a sound. I remember that I am safe.
When she moves to my left I let go more easily. I’m barely aware of thoughts and images, sensations in my body or my breathing. I drift into half-consciousness until she moves again. When she cradles my head my awareness prickles. I feel a hollow ache in my heart and the vague foreboding of something rising to the surface.
I’m cold in my car. I know I’m lying on a table warmer underneath blankets, but my body remembers cold. It’s early morning, the sun isn’t yet risen and I’m curled into a tight ball in my car trembling with cold and fear. I’ve driven all the way from Raleigh after a sleepless night, figuring I can rest on bolsters at the studio. The panic of not being able to connect with my boyfriend has not left me for hours. I feel viscerally ill, my heartbeat thunders in my ears, I whimper occasionally with the searing emotional pain and I’m so cold. I forgot that another teacher added an early class to the studio schedule. There is nowhere for me to go and I’m exhausted and miserable. I remember the bags in the backseat, full of his clothes I said I’d take to the shelter. I drape a few t-shirts over my legs and wrap myself in his rejected hoodie. I can smell him on it and begin to sob again in the bitter, dark morning cold. I left too distraught to remember I’d need a sweater. I curl up with my face against my sleeved hands and the scent of him calms me just enough to drift off for a few minutes.
I feel Anna’s fingers against my occiput, hear her gentle murmuring and remember where I am. The intense lingering pain and the comfort of compassionate presence push against one another within me. Even with her holding me it hurts very much how he let go–even all these months later. My stomach begins to churn angrily and my eyes fill with tears that spill down my cheeks. I remember him telling me he loved me, that he was there for me, that he wasn’t going anywhere.
I think of how the people I feel loved by now largely haven’t promised me a thing–and that somehow feels hollow, too. I feel profound loneliness alongside the comfort of being witnessed in my pain. I feel a deep need to trust and be trusted in equal measure–and I wonder how I will know where and who and when.
A calm, steady voice comes from somewhere inside me. It is the same voice that comforted my student this morning in class.
“You can trust me. I’ve got you.”
The voice belongs to me.