Z is finally here! We did it! Or, as Dora the Explorer used to say, ¡Lo hicimos! More on my experience in this year’s A to Z Challenge will come in my reflection later, but for now, here is Z for zucchini.
It started with the breathing exercises.
“Sometimes, all you need is to exhale,” the yoga instructor whispered.
Spread your feet equally apart. Stand erect, stretching your spine. Relax your shoulders. Place your palms on your abdomen. Inhale. Take a deep breath through your nose. Expand your diaphragm. Hold it. Hold it. Release. Exhale through your mouth. Form a circle with your lips and push the air out. Contract your diaphragm. Press your palms into your abdomen.
“Do you feel it? Do you feel it leaving you? Breathe in again.”
Jessica breathed in deeply, inhaling the last 36 hours. The fear. The feeling of entrapment. Whitmore’s attempt to force her into marriage and motherhood. Dancing light on her feet to jazz music. Her sexual liberation with Bruce. The echoing sound of death ricocheting off her walls just as the bullet ricocheted within Whitmore’s skull. The rotten fresh spurted just across the threshold into her apartment. The ghostly image of Whitmore trying to drive her down into his hellish nightmare.
She drew everything into her. Let the particles deposit on her lungs. And just as swiftly, she breathed it all out. Pushed it from deep within her gut. She could feel herself gaining control as she relieved herself of all the extra weight and baggage. By the time they began to transition to the poses, she felt light as a feather. When she bent over for the downward facing dog, her head floated above the mattress, no blood rush, no weight of guilt or shame, only the air filled her.
“I just wanna say your skin looks ten times brighter than it did this morning!” Alex said, skipping around Jessica to stand in front of her.
“I feel better,” Jessica said with a smile.
“No more thoughts about Whitmore?”
Jessica curled her lips in thought. “I mean, I know it wasn’t my fault, but—“
“No but. It wasn’t your fault. Whitmore was a disturbed person, and it wasn’t your job to fix him.”
“I just wish I knew why.”
“You can’t ask people like that why. They don’t even know why themselves,” Alex said. “There are people out there who’d rather hurt and live off the pain, and they’ll blame everyone else but themselves for that pain because they don’t want to admit that they’re enjoying it, that they’re the ones causing it.”
“Misery loves company,” Jessica sighed.
“Yep, but it can’t have yours!” Alex said. She took her phone out of her purse. “Now, are we good, because Mr. Girlfriend whisper just texted me and said he’s cooking his signature zucchini and chicken stir-fry for dinner, and he wants you to come.”
“OK,” Jessica said, a bounce in her voice.
“OK? Does that mean it’s a date, or you’re gonna let ol’ Whitty’s ghost possess you and stab Bruce in the back with the knife he used to cut the raw chicken?”
Jessica threw her head back and laughed, her cackles vibrating her chest.
“There’s my girl,” Alex said. “C’mon.” She put her arm around Jessica’s shoulders. “You can take a shower at my place.”