The Second Door

Patrick Hodskins on

Occasionally the god idly thinks that it might be next. Though what the god meant by next, they could not say.

Exhaling, the god sinks into the pose; the god’s body is a cacophony of pain; a quilt work of suffering, angst, and despair. People think being a god is easy, that you are omnipotent, that you don’t feel pain, or that you can do anything. None of that is accurate. The god exhales again, sinks deeper into the pose. The god is forever scanning the sensations in the body. The god exhales once more, relaxing even further into the stance.

There are nineteen of them in the room now, the god thinks. Each god is practicing yoga. The god doesn’t for a second consider stopping to look around and count how many are here; the idea is unthinkable. There is only yoga. There has only been yoga for eons.

The god thinks its name is Chervil. Not that the god considers its name much. It’s a background thought of little importance.

Chevril’s experience of time wasn’t that of a mortal man or woman. The three exhalations Chervil used to settle deep into the current pose, if observable by a mortal, lasted nearly four years. They held poses for decades, sometimes centuries. Through the poses, humanity progressed, regressed, fell, rose, and began anew. Through it all, the gods practiced yoga in the hot, muggy room.

Towards the front of the room, on the far-left side, there is a door. Chervil can’t recall that last time a god had exited through it. It was always a quiet, happy moment when it happened. When it happened, the other gods would stand and briefly honor the departing god with a respectful bow. It was the only pause in the practice, and it was over quickly. The god would exit through the door on the left, and the yoga would then resume.

Chervil had been in the room countless centuries, uninterrupted periods without sleep, sustenance, and no pause in the yoga practice. Chervil couldn’t remember arriving, although Chervil assumes it must have happened at some point. Chervil moves past the question and returns focus to the pose.

Chervil observes a twinge of pain in the shoulder. Through it and IN it, Chervil sees a seventeen-year-old boy, ‘Patrick,’ furtively hiding a handgun under his bed. Tonight, Patrick will approach his parents, tell them his secret. If it doesn’t go well, there is the gun. Chervil notices the pain, sees Patrick and his pain without judgment, hope, or agenda.

Chervil’s scanning attention lands on a stitch under the ribs and sees in the stitch Cecelia and Bernard standing over an open grave, looking down onto a too small, pink coffin. Chervil feels a cramp form in the hamstrings and sees ‘Shirley,’ with a fresh black eye, packing her bags, sobbing uncontrollably. Soon, Shirley ceases packing, sits down on the bed, weeps softly, and then slowly unpacks her bags. Scanning the low back pain, Chervil sees the thousands of individuals suffering the indignation of racial discrimination. Chervil studies it and continues scanning the body, observing the sensations, seeing the people, seeing the suffering; this has been Chervil’s existence. All that Chervil remembers is the room, this practice, the scanning, and the human suffering. It is not quite right to assume Chervil feels or causes their pain. The pain is simultaneously something they share.

From the back of the room, Chervil feels a breeze. Chervil does not turn and investigate from where the puff of air comes. That is not the practice of yoga. Chervil deduces that another god has entered the room. Chervil has no thought about what any of it means. The entrance into the room is directly behind Chervil’s mat. Anything other than yoga, Chervil considers being an ‘event.’ Events in the room are rare. Chervil cannot remember any occasion when any day had two events.

Almost immediately after the new god enters the room, a god at the front of the room clears its throat.

That god, the proctor, is in a position of some authority all the other gods know, but that knowledge is vague and nonspecific. They know when the proctor clears their throat, to pause the practice, stand erect and direct attention to the front.

The class practice pauses, and the nineteen make that twenty gods now direct their attention towards the front. The proctor gestures towards Chervil. Chervil is being summoned.

Chervil bends over to wipe clean the mat he has stood upon, sweat upon for centuries. Chervil then stands again and begins walking to the front of the room. Looking forward, Chervil stops walking.

As Chervil had bent and wiped his mat, the new god (perhaps mistakenly, Chervil doesn’t know) has interpreted the proctor’s summoning to be for them. The new god approaches the front of the room, towards the proctor. The new god bows and exits the room by walking through the door on the left. The other gods are bowing at the new god’s back, already walking through the door.

That new god just took Chervil’s summons, Chervil thinks.

Chervil pauses for a second, shrugs, and smiles a ‘what are you going to do’ smile at the other gods. Chervil returns to the mat. The class will resume now, Chervil thinks without disappointment.

But then a third event happens. None of the gods present can ever recall TWO (to say nothing of THREE events) in a single day. It was always just yoga. From the front of the room, the proctor clears their throat and gestures clearly towards Chervil again. Chervil bows and approaches. As he reaches the front of the room, the proctor smiles, and a door on the right opens. A door none of the other gods had ever noticed, and certainly not one they had seen open; Chervil bows towards the other gods and exits through the second door.

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