"And from here, we return to the mat for Savasana. Place a blanket under your head if that makes you more comfortable, otherwise just lay back and close your eyes. Relax every muscle in your body. Let your feet fall open, face your palms to the ceiling.
"Imagine you are floating on water, in the middle of the sea…perfectly relaxed. Keep your eyes closed. The warm sun is shining on your skin, your body gently swaying with the waves. You are at peace.
"You are floating. Floating away from the stripped umbrellas in the sand, the plastic pink sun beds, and the people sleeping on them. They are so small, so far away. You are floating away from everything and everyone. Away from your grandmother, who brought you here. Your grandmother, who claims you for six weeks of every summer vacation, extracting you from your home, your friends, yourself. Your grandmother, who mocks you for putting on sunscreen. ‘You’ll go home paler than when you left,’ your grandmother sneers, ‘Do you have something against the sun?’ Your grandmother, now just a tiny dot out on the shore, soaking up UV rays for her wrinkles and bitterness. You cannot hear her and she cannot hear you, no matter how loud your muttered curses. You could scream and she wouldn’t stir. But, of course, you aren’t screaming; you are floating. Floating away. You are at peace.
"Breathe in…ahh…breathe out. Breathe in…ahh…breathe out. Deep, steady breaths of fresh ocean air as the breeze glides over your skin-kissed unburnt, cancer-free skin. Breathe in…ahh…then slowly breathe out any stress and frustration. The stress of keeping a smile on your face when she greets you for the summer with, ‘My goodness you’ve put on weight,’ instead of, ‘Hello.’ The frustration of having a grandmother who informs you that two-piece bathing suits really only look good on girls with smaller tummies; a grandmother who has never baked chocolate chip cookies for you the way grandmas on TV always do. In…and out.
"Allow your muscles and your bones to sink into the floor as the water effortlessly buoys you up. The salt sloughs off the remnants of your grandmother’s broken critiques, it doesn’t sting in your wounds. You are heavy and light at the same time. The water is clear and perfect. There isn’t so much as a strand of wayward seaweed brushing against your skin that could totally be a jellyfish poised to sting. No sea witches are plotting to steal your voice or your prince; you don’t have one anyway. Nothing is nibbling your neck, romantically or otherwise. Let the waves rock you in the kind of embrace your no one else gives you. Relax your jaw, your cheeks, your forehead; rest your resting bitch face because the sky doesn’t care, doesn’t judge. You are at peace.
"You are in control of how far out the tide takes you, don’t worry. If a thought enters your mind, allow it to travel through you and return to the ocean, foaming and crashing on the sand and disappearing. Don't linger on questions like whether it's psychopathic to imagine the smoke from your grandmother’s Dunhill Internationals filling her lungs, how each drag poisons her. It tars her throat. Let those thoughts travel freely away; don't hold onto them. Your conscience is as clean as a duck freshly hand-washed in a bath of Dawn after an oil spill. No, you are not complicit in the ruin of the water and the air and the land. You always cut up the plastic rings from six-packs, the turtles thank you. Keep your mind empty, your breathing steady, filling your lungs with air free from toxic smokes and fumes. In...and out.
"Slowly return to the room. Leave your family issues and your body issues and your shark issues behind you, churning together in the ocean and searing in the sun. Welcome back. Take a moment to wiggle your toes, your fingers; ten of each, the sharks didn’t get any. Gently roll onto your side and rest in fetal position. When you’re ready, come up to seated position.
Joanna Bettelheim is currently living in New York City and pursuing an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She is the Marketing Director for the program's literary journal, Lumina. After AWP 2018, she fulfilled her life's dream of swimming with manatees. Her work has previously appeared in Under the Gum Tree, Exposition Review's Flash 405 and Breadcrumbs Magazine. Her calico cat Moonpie is her best reader/editor. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @thewelllostmind.