A cold canteen of water. A green smoothie bowl with one-fourth a cup of blueberry granola, goji berries, chia seeds, and cacao nibs.
The on-and-off mental fogginess of the prior month has ceased. It is so unexpected, even magical, a transformation I text a friend about it. “Brain in wakeful state. Weird alertness. I have my focus back. Hmm.”
In yoga, the teacher is talking about one of the hand mudras. She says it is a hand position of both giving and receiving, and demonstrates with her eyes closed. I think about all the hand positions I know from Catholicism to Buddhism to Islam, and the commonalities and differences of kinesthetic prayer. I hold my hands up and bind my fingers close to each other in a receptive hold. I stay on the mat a few minutes after the end of class, noticing the way the cold stream of the air conditioner hits my face and neck.
The thirst isn’t that bad. By midday, more sleepiness than hunger. But I attribute this to the tiny pockets of sleep I’ve gotten the past few nights, going to bed around 1:30 in the morning and waking up an hour or two later to hydrate, meditate, read, or putter around on my phone.
I watch YouTube videos of the “OMAD lifestyle.” One-meal-a-day people who report on “extreme fasting,” “a cousin of Warrior dieting,” etc. I read an article on how the Romans stayed away from breakfast, and how fluctuations in work patterns (namely the rise of long working hours and the demands placed on the working class) morphed meal intake. No one appears to come out and say that the three-meal-a-day diet is a historical accompaniment of capitalism.
D. is arriving from out of town this weekend. He knows I am fasting but we agreed to see each other sooner rather than wait until summer. He sends playful texts whose libidinous temperature rises as the weekend draws near. I ask him gently but firmly not to sext me. “ITS THAT SERIOUS? WOWWWW.”
I train hard. I train like an athlete. I am an athlete. We have capoeira practice during iftār hours, so I train right through it, inadvertently extending my fast to 20 continuous hours without water. I ask the treineu if I can take a quick water break and he is supportive. Drinking during training is taboo, though no one ever discusses why. Some people think it has to do with mental toughness and discipline. Some do it out of habit, arguing that water sits in your stomach and slows down your game. One mestre told me that enslaved African peoples were denied water aboard transatlantic routes and he honors their suffering by shirking water during training hours. I never break this unwritten rule. Stopping mid-training to quietly take a few sips of water feels strange and slightly out-of-body, like signing my name with my left hand.
The long slog from Manhattan to Brooklyn on the C. I am so tired after practice that I decide to once again dismantle the constant multitasking feature of modern life and tuck my phone away on the subway. My eyes glide over the visages of my fellow passengers. It feels odd to write “fellow”: are women automatically part of the “fellows”? Does “fellow” imply a fellowship we swim in together simply because we are a part of the human species? What do we have in common with each other? I search the faces. I try not to assign to each an adjective, like distracted, tired, or unattractive. It takes concerted mental effort not to project labels on these perceptions based on sight. Old, short, wrinkles, pretty, hunched, big. I search my own body for a response to this fellowship.
We are in our little human pods, tunneling forward inside the vortex of private orientations, inward-turning lives. When we are in public in close proximity, we avert our eyes and tuck in our body parts. Our mobile phones protrude outward as ancillary limbs (hand, arm, eye, synapse, finger). To see each other, beyond the burrow of our singular body-vehicles, requires pausing, squinting, dismantling ready-made classifications.
One woman holding on to a railing with a hooked right index finger is reading a book called What Happened to Interracial Life.
When I lower my eyesight, it darts to an open chapter in a book floating next to me. It is titled “The Meaning of Life.” It is actually called this. Someone starts softly snoring across from my seat.
I have no appetite for iftār but persuade myself to make a tray of small things. Toasted bread, olives, avocado and cucumber slices. I sprinkle sea salt over it and pour a tall glass of mint iced tea. I eat slowly, uncharacteristically so. One of the cats curls next to me, sniffing the air curiously at the faintest whiff of oil molecules.