It feels good to walk out of LAX and into the white prius awaiting me as depicted in the ride sharing app. People are doing this from Paris to Tokyo, and I wonder if they share my instant sense of worldliness.
Jorge’s phone display reads thirty-five minutes, which should be enough on the way back depending on traffic. I’ll need to gain insight on the rush hour situation.
“Have you driven this route much?”
“My English still bad,” Jorge says. I can’t locate the accent.
“What language do you speak?”
“Spanish,” he says. “But I want to learn. Please speak in English.”
“Have you been here long?” I ask, switching topics for both of us.
“Seven months, and you?”
“I’m here today,” I say. “I fly back to San Francisco in a few hours.”
“Wow.” I believe while he says this, he switches his eyes from the road to his rearview mirror. To me. Though he’s wearing sunglasses. So I can’t be sure.
“No,” I reply. About this I can be sure.
“I never see this,” he says, putting emphasis on this, like it’s a question.
I explain there’s a yoga teacher I took a class with a couple years ago, and I’ve come back to learn from him again. “Actually, I thought I’d save money by coming for the day. I won’t need a hotel.”
This seems to make sense to him, which pleases me. As I watch the palm trees lined up beside us, taller than the ones at home, the thought occurs to me that as a written dialogue our exchange would read as a collection of space fillers, pleasantries. To me, we’re already complicit in understanding one of my more unusual choices to date. To him, trying to shake things up with a rekindling of love for learning, or yoga, is demonstrative of my vitality.
“My ex-wife was teaching yoga back in Mexico City. Every morning I do five stretches. It’s nice!”
“Good for you,” I say building a foundation of mutual admiration for our friendship.
“You do meditation? Sometimes it’s going together.”
“That’s true. Sadly, I only do a bit of meditation.”
“Everyday I do meditation. I go in a parking lot, I breathe in and out. And then beep.” The beep is meant to signify the next rider summoning his services, and it touches me more than I expect, this image of the mindful rides he’s giving people rushing to places all over the city, including yoga studios. People like me.
“When I see you at the airport I think, she looks happy. Now I know. Happy for the yoga class.”
“That sounds accurate.”
“I’m a playwright,” he continues. “You gave me a beginning for the story.”
I laugh. “But what if the yoga teacher doesn’t show up in class today?”
“That’s perfect,” he says. “He flies to San Francisco. And your planes cross, like this,” motioning with his hands long enough to animate his synopsis, but not so long to make me concerned about his driving. At one point in time I, too, would have been excited that an event might make for a good story on paper. In fact, I’d tell myself that’s the gauge with which to determine whether my experience is worthwhile at all. Now, I want more. I would like to have feelings about my life while I’m living it.
I learn the topic of his writing is migration and we have similar sentiments about our “president”.
We start to talk about actors and films from Latin America. “Did you see Roma?”
“I saw it three times,” he says, turning his head around towards me to break the fourth wall.
I like Diego Luna, he prefers Gael Garcia. When I tell him he was good in Narcos, he agrees. “In this, he is serious.”
“What about Gabriel Garcia Marquez?”
“Oh, he’s very good, I like magical realism. Here there is also a prevalence.”
“Like Botox,” I say, trying to be witty with a genre I don’t know much about. Our exchange on a handful of movie references is doing wonders for my mood. These nine miles of speaking are more satisfying than the conversations I’ve had in San Francisco lately, surrounded by talk of Big Data, Algorithms, and A.I.
When the teacher does turn out to have a substitute for class, I know my new friend would be delighted. I sit with my own disappointment for a while, and in child’s pose replay a sample of yoga teachings (Instagram quotes). The journey is the destination. You are where you need to be. The guru is inside you. I smile at how well they blend together, like a fresh fruit smoothie.
After class I have a less talkative driver. I start taking notes on my cell phone. I’m assuming movement of my body has opened up the urge to write, less about yoga and more about Jorge. His insistence on my vitality, the state I’d hoped to remember that afternoon in LA.