January 2020

It was yet another hot and humid day, one where Sara still felt sticky and gross again a mere five minutes after her second shower. The smog and exhaust fumes settled on her wet skin and left her throat sore. She rubbed her temples, trying to ignore the smells and noises echoing through the restaurant from outside.

“I’m still not used to this heat,” she said, using her lunch menu to fan her face. “Or this pollution. How the hell am I supposed to run in this?”

The chaos of the past weeks had driven her stress levels to record highs, and without her primary means of relaxation, her back and neck muscles felt like rocks.

“I’m heading to a yoga class this afternoon if you’d fancy joining,” said Alice.

“I’m not really the yoga type,” said Sara. “Like, I still cringe when I hear non-Indians say ‘namaste.’”

“When’s the last time you tried it?” Alice asked. “Because it’s personal for everyone, it doesn’t have to be anything you don’t want it to be. If that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I just don’t wanna be one more American girl who goes to India to learn yoga. Little too trendy for me.” She immediately regretted saying this, as Alice’s situation was nearly the same, minus the “American” part. And Alice was different than those other yoga girls anyway, or at least different than what she imagined those girls to be like. To be fair, she couldn’t think of any she really knew that well. She hoped she hadn’t just ruined her chances with Alice with that comment.

August shrugged. “If you ask me yoga’s for hippie-ass leaf eaters, but why do you give a shit what people might think? Screw ‘em.”

“Well it’s not that, it’s just that I—“ Sara paused, realizing she didn’t actually have a response to this. It’d be nice to get her body moving again, but she hated the idea of feeling like such a stereotype.

“Well, maybe it’s not for everyone,” said Alice. “But I’d really love it if you joined me.”

Sara felt her pulse quicken in her chest. This was probably the most direct show of interest she’d gotten from Alice so far, and suddenly yoga didn’t seem so bad. She kind of wanted to do it anyway, and why not embrace the local culture a bit? It would be a waste to come all this way and not at least try. She smiled at Alice, trying to mask her giddiness by slowing her speech.

“You know what? Sure, why not. I’ll do some yoga.”

“Brilliant,” said Alice, holding her gaze with and matching Sara’s smile with her own irresistible grin.

Outside, a car drove by playing a catchy Bollywood tune, and the smells of flowers and sandalwood outside mixed with the wafting paprika breeze from the kitchen fan.