Shift 42: Passing


Nadja told me I was crying in my sleep. I don’t recall. I just know I felt so heavy that it was hard to get out of bed.

Everything was going so well. Tracy said it looked like I’d be ready to run track this spring. My grades were all A’s and my test scores were high, so it looked like I’d get academic scholarships, too. I was feeling like everything was working out.

And then, the world came crashing down, and now, I’m not sure how to get through this.

Mary, one of the YOTO volunteers, collapsed at YOTO. She was dead by the time the paramedics arrived.


I didn’t know her that well, so it’s not like there’s a hole in my heart where she used to be.

And she was old and had lived a good life. They say it was an aneurism. Seeing the paramedics wheel her out triggered something in me. I reacted as if it were someone I knew and loved.


I felt angry, too. Why was she working here, if she wasn’t well? Why did this have to happen on Aadhya’s day off? If Aadhya were here, she’d know something were wrong, and she’d have had Mary sit down and take it easy. We’re supposed to be safe here. It’s not a place for old people. It’s not a place where people are supposed to die.


I realized none of my thoughts mattered. My response wasn’t rational: I knew this. It didn’t make it hurt less.


Darling didn’t help. When I told her at school in the locker room, she got all upset, too.

“Mary died?” Darling said. “She died? I knew her! She was my neighbor! Oh, God! She was the first person to give me a job, watering her plants when she on vacation. How can she be dead? You were there. Why didn’t you do something?”

I didn’t feel better.


I had a hard time keeping up my training. My restrictions had been lifted, so I was free to train as much as I wanted, within reason.

But it was hard to even finish my morning runs. I came back early. Everything ached.


Working out wasn’t any better. In between sets, if I could even finish them, I ended up breaking down.


Aadhya told me to take a break from everything: school, working out, everything. Not for long, just for as long as I needed.

“What if what I need turns out to be a long time?” I asked her.

“It won’t be,” she said.

“How do you know?”

“Because I’ll be right here.”

So, I took a week off of school.

During the days, when the other kids were at school, Aadhya and I talked, and then I slept until they got home.


During one of our talks, Aadhya asked me, “How many people have you lost?”

“I didn’t lose Mary,” I answered. “She didn’t belong to me.”

“That’s not what I’m asking,” Aadhya said. “I have a feeling this doesn’t have to do with Mary.”

In her silence, I thought of Scott. I was still glad he was out of the picture. I wish I could have been strong when he was around, so I knew I could protect myself.

“I lost my uncle,” I said.

She kept silent. I thought of Gran. Once the EMTs came, I never got to talk to her again. She collapsed, and she was gone. I was alone.

“Gran,” I said. “I never had a chance to say goodbye to her.”

Aadhya looked at me in silence.

My mom and dad drove off, and I stood with Gran and waved to them. I was glad to see them go, because a weekend with Gran meant reading and climbing trees and drinking tea and staying up late to watch movies, cuddled under the log cabin quilts.

“They never came back,” I whispered.

Aadhya held me while I sobbed. I was so alone. All my family, gone.

“I never said goodbye. Not to any of them. There’s so much I never said.”

Aadhya held me. When I looked at her, her eyes were moist and ringed in red.

I held her shoulders and looked into her eyes. “Aadhya. I love you,” I felt fierce. I grasped her shoulders and I spoke really fast, like the words were racing to get out. “You have been a mentor and more to me, and to all the kids here. You’re like a grandma, only more. If I never say it, you’ll never know it. I love you. Thank you.”

She held me. We wept together. And then I went upstairs to sleep.


I still felt sad when I woke late in the afternoon. But I got up anyway. I could hear the kids coming back from school.


I got dressed. I dished up leftovers for myself. I thought maybe I could eat. Aadhya came into the kitchen.

“The volunteer who’s on duty tonight, Nancy, she just found out about Mary,” Aadhya said. “She’s very upset. Do you think you could talk with her?”

“I don’t know what I could say,” I said.

“Sometimes, you don’t have to say anything. Just being there, being present and listening, can be enough.”

Nancy joined me at the table. She started talking before I could say anything. She rambled on about all these esoteric things. She talked about spirit and essence and nothing ever being really lost. I think she thought she was comforting me. The thought made me smile, in spite of myself.

“Thank you, Nancy,” I said.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” she said. I could see she was still upset, so I sat there, in silence. It wasn’t nothing, and I wasn’t alone.

“Pain doesn’t have to separate us from everybody,” I said to Nancy. “Sometimes, it can draw us together.”

I was still sad, and I could see that Nancy was, too, but I could smile through the sadness, a real smile that reached out to the person across from me.


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Shift 20: Practice


This is what I see when I wake up. I got new clothes, a purple hoodie that I love and some t-shirts. I feel happy to see my hoodie hanging there, on an actual clothes hanger. And then when I look across the divide and see Marquise’s gray hoodie hanging on an actual hanger, too, I feel so happy I can’t stay in bed any more. I gotta get up and bounce!

This is what I hear when I wake up: Xavier murdering racoons. He says he’s gotta practice if he wants to make orchestra, and he’s got to make orchestra, because have you seen the first violinist? He says she’s gorgeous.


Amy Guajardo practices every morning, too. Even though she’s learning the keyboard, her music sounds good. I guess it’s easier to play something that you just push keys on, rather than having to draw a horse-hair bow across tiny metal threads.


When I wake up early enough, I like to shoot a few hoops before school. I suck at basketball. But with practice, right?

So far we’re all pretty bad at it. I’ve got this idea, though, that we can make a team and compete in Five on Five.


Since YOTO is run by actual yogis, we’ve got yoga classes all the time. They open up classes for the community, too, when we’re at school, and they make a lot of money that way. But the morning and evening sessions are reserved for us. Aadhya, the coordinator, usually teaches them. I like her classes.


Amy asked me once why I thought they had yoga here. I mean it’s obvious: We learn focus. And that helps with everything.

She said, no. That wasn’t why. It’s so we stop rebelling.

“We accept, right? And then, when crappy stuff happens, we accept it. It sounds like selling out to me.”

I was about to say something when she continued.

“It sounds like selling out. But it’s not, really. See, Vivaan told me that the only way you can really change anything–yourself, other people–well, you can’t change other people–but the world–is by accepting first. Accept, then change.”


I guess we all get something different out of yoga. We get what we need.

I asked Aadhya about that after class one day.

“Can yoga be different things to different people?”

She got real still and looked at me for a while.

“Yoga involves looking within to meet the true nature of the mind, body, and emotions. Are your mind, body, and emotions different than those of other people?”


I didn’t know how to answer her. At first, the answer was “Yes!” But then, the more I looked at the question, the answer mutated into “No.” So now I wonder if our minds, being in a body, and having emotions makes us more similar than different.

I don’t know, though. I was still thinking that over when I had a weird conversation with one of the volunteers there. This lady was telling me that she usually just contributes money. But that lately, she’s been contributing time and money.

“And taking classes, too!”


“Yoga does me good,” she said. “It keeps me young. It helps me understand what they mean by ‘inner riches,’ you know?”

She droned on and on. I stopped listening. Next thing I knew, she was offering to get me a make-over.

“You’d look real pretty with a new hair-cut, a little make-up, and a nice new wardrobe . You’ve got a rocking bod–might as well show it off!”


I closed my eyes and breathed.

In me was a little ball of rage that wanted to explode out and hurt somebody. I was triggered. My uncle used to say stuff like that to me, before Gran forbade him from coming over. “Put on a dress, why dontcha? You’d be real pretty. You’re a pretty girl. Show some leg!” I wanted to punch him. After he started doing stuff, I wanted to kill him.

Now I felt that rage stirring up from the back of my brain, down through my spine and out to my fingers. My fists were clenched. I simply noticed it.

I breathed.

Acceptance. Yeah, I can see that maybe yoga does teach that. It beats useless anger, at any rate.

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