‘Now, we come into the mind space,’ the meditation teacher says in a breathy voice, no doubt hoping to sound like wildflowers blowing gently in a summer breeze. ‘The mind space is like the viewing screen of the mind, found behind the closed eyelids and at the front of the forehead – almost like you are watching a movie.’
I know, at this moment, I am supposed to be completely relaxed. In the depths of the space behind my closed eyes, I am supposed to be seeing symbols or colors. I once saw a goat, but today, all I see is a cheeseburger. A massive, juicy cheeseburger, steam rising in tendrils from its fresh bun, cheese dripping down its sides.
I don’t think I could conjure up a goat, even if I wanted to, unless it is slathered in butter chicken sauce, with a side of garlic naan and a hefty portion of carbohydrate-filled white rice. As if on cue, my stomach omits a low rumble, breaking the meditative sound of the Tibetan singing bowls. I’m starving.
When the class is over, Ally’s waiting for me by the door, branded sports bag slung over her arm and blonde hair pulled back into a messy-bun. She is face first in Instagram, probably liking a picture of a sunrise or a quote about healing childhood trauma. You would never guess she is a mum of three boys who run rings around her like tornados on the southern plains.
‘Hey.’ She smiles. ’Do you want to grab a coffee? Let’s do that little vegan place down the road.’
‘Okay,’ I reply, although neither of us is vegan.
Ally and I have been friends since forever. At school, she was always the more athletic type. Hockey and football and swimming. Homemade salads and fresh fruit for lunch. I could be found reading magazines or writing poetry, eating a ham sandwich on white bread with margarine. A plastic fruit thing was the closest I’d ever come to anything that remotely involved an antioxidant. But all that changed when Ally became an online Health Coach, obsessed with micronutrients and bone broth. Sometimes I feel like I have become her unwilling guinea pig in the quest for perfect health.
Out on the high street, the sky is blue, but the slight chill in the air tells us that Autumn is on its way. Ally hikes up the sleeves of her hoodie, letting the rays of the sun filter from her bare arms into her soul. Vitamin D, I’ve recently learned, is very important to her.
We pass one of my favorite shops on our way to the café. Summer dresses have been replaced with lush winter coats in rich colors of berry and mustard and emerald green, which makes me wish I was drinking red wine and eating cheese in front of a roaring fire. I stop for a moment and stare.
‘Come on,’ Ally says, averting her eyes from the decadently displayed window. ‘I thought we were going to do the Instagram challenge where we only buy secondhand clothes and turn them into new ones? I’ve been taking an online sewing tutorial. I’m literally not even going to buy new knickers for a whole year,’ she adds, speeding ahead.
I follow, quickening my step to catch up.
Inside the café, Ally orders a thick green juice that looks like ectoplasm. I opt for a flat white with almond milk.
‘How’ve you been,’ Ally says, placing her phone face up on the table. ‘It’s been ages.’
It’s been a week.
‘All good,’ is all I get out before she interrupts me.
‘So, you know I’ve been having problems with my eyes?’
‘Dr. Ellen thinks it’s a virus. Maybe something to do with my nervous system. You saw Doctor Ellen, right?’
I nod again. I did indeed once see Doctor Ellen, on Ally’s recommendation.
‘It’s weird because I was doing this new eating plan from that Doctor guy who can talk to spirits, and I was breaking out in all these pimples.’ She points to her smooth face.
‘Maybe it’s all the celery juice you’ve been drinking,’ I offer. I recently read somewhere that it could cause problems for people.
‘I was, but it started to get really expensive, so I’ve just been having carrot and ginger juice. I’ve also been taking lysine and calcium and magnesium and, oh my God, a vitamin B shot in the bum from Doctor Ellen. You’re taking all those too, eh?’
‘Nah, I’m just taking some basic supplements at the moment,’ I reply, looking down at my coffee, too afraid to tell her that I have recently thrown hundreds of pounds worth of expired supplements she had told me to buy in the bin, where I’d stood for a good few minutes choking on clouds of wheatgrass and silica and liver detox powder as they settled on top of the carrot scraps and an empty bag of family size Doritos.
‘I feel like I totally need to do another detox,’ Ally says, pouting, ‘but I just can’t do without my morning coffee.’ She takes the last gulp of her ghost slime. ‘I’d better head home. Steve will be wondering where I am. I’ve only got a few hours left to batch-cook our meals for the week. See you soon, honey!’ With a grab of her phone and a peck on my cheek, she is gone, leaving me utterly exhausted.
I walk to my car and drive home in a daze. I love Ally, I really do, but in the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a feeling growing like roots beneath unstable ground, a feeling that sometimes I don’t quite know where Ally ends and the real me begins.
At home, I drop my bag on the kitchen floor with a thud. Standing for a moment, I take in my surroundings. There is a selection of recycled glass jars ready to be filled with pescatarian, Mediterranean, gut-healing salads next to the kettle. Expensive supplements are lined-up on the counter, all promising to help me heal various ailments that I don’t even have yet. There are cookbooks for every conceivable diet available on a high shelf. Next to them is a bottle of barely touched vodka that I’ve had for over a year. Hell, I don’t even watch TV anymore – unless it is telling me how to align my Chakras or that I should take my shoes off and walk barefoot on grass.
I make my way from the kitchen into my small bathroom and start reading the neon-colored post-it notes I have stuck all around the bathroom mirror. ‘Positive affirmations are just so important to your healing journey’, Ally often says.
Heat rises from my stomach to my chest. I snatch at messages like ‘remember to breathe’ and ‘smile sunshine,’ taking them in my hands, ripping them to shreds and throwing them in the air like a madwoman throwing confetti at a wedding.
I leave the strewn words in my wake and head to the living room. Grabbing my phone, I flop down on the couch, wondering what my life would be like if, for just one moment, I stopped trying to find myself and started losing myself instead. I feel like a fog has lifted. I am emerging into the world after having my head held underwater by a blonde woman with a perfect messy-bun.
On the Uber Eats app, I order two burgers before I flick on the TV, put my feet up and pick the cheesiest, most mind-numbing movie I can find. I decide that, instead of buying adaptogenic herbs and self-helps books, I’m buying that coat.
Sarah Williams is a British born writer of short stories, poetry, and flash fiction. She currently lives in New Zealand where she finds inspiration in the stars and the moon, the sea, and the sun. Pigeons are her favourite bird. Her work has been featured online and in print. More on Medium @S..Williams_19