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The Vast Wishing Well of the Universe

M. G. Herron

The Vast Wishing Well of the Universe, a literary story, ebook cover“He said he wanted to lick my toes, for chrissakes,” Sarah told her girlfriend over the phone after a particularly distasteful encounter. “Can you believe that?”

Sarah was tired of putting her dream of becoming a yoga teacher on hold. The next day, instead of going on another bad date with a guy who was creepy but managed not to look creepy in his profile picture, Sarah took a deep breath and pitched a coin into the vast wishing well of the universe.

She posted a flyer next to the mail room in her shabby apartment advertising her first class. The flyer said “Sunset Yoga by the River” in bubbly letters. She drew a colorful crayon sunset at the top and buzzed with anticipation all week.

On Wednesday night, Sarah waited at the wooden dock across the river. When no one showed up, she went through her routine alone, pressing her bare feet into the sun-warmed oak planks.

She continued to wait there every Wednesday evening. It’s good karma, she told herself. Eventually, someone will come. Eventually, someone did. One or two at first, then, when she was late one day and expecting no one to be there, a large group of ten people stood on the dock waiting for her.

There she met Lachlan. He smiled at her, a kind of smirky smile. He said, “Hello.” Just Hello, formally like that, as if he knew he had instant access to the echoing caverns of her soul.

Lachlan, it turned out, also lived in Sarah’s apartment complex. The next day he eyed her down the row of mailboxes. They started dating and a few months later, when the power went out in the apartment for the third time in a week, they decided to move in together, to a newer building across town, to a unit on the top floor with a balcony and large windows; together, they gambled, they could afford a brighter existence.

Lachlan had aspirations as a photographer. In the new place he copped to shooting Sarah with a telephoto lens during her yoga classes. Although part of her was weirded out by this hidden behavior, it was also kind of endearing because they weren’t just photos, they were art. Sarah included them with the resume she took around to yoga studios, and eventually one of the studio directors liked her enough to hire her part time. To celebrate, Lachlan bought an expensive bottle of Chandon and they popped the cork from their new balcony into the street below. “Salud!” they said. “Prost! Cheers!”

Sarah busied herself becoming a “real yogi” at once, and cut back her hours at the restaurant. Lachlan called her “Yogi Bear” affectionately, but all her meditating and breathing exercises and her zen new friends made him acutely aware of his own failures. He smoked a lot of pot and started planning a trip to Burning Man, which he imagined would be his breakthrough moment as a photographer. He pictured the giant effigy of Man consumed in flame, his ethereal self rising up on the smoke into the timeless immortality of space.

To his surprise, Sarah wanted to go with him to the Festival. She suggested they stop going out as much to save money for the big trip. She even helped him look for magazines and websites where he could send the photos to get them published afterwards, researching submission guidelines online. Then they drove Lachlan’s old Subaru station wagon to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.

The Festival itself was an other-worldly experience. Marooned on that alien planet, The Desert, among monolithic man-made structures and endless open space, the two of them passed into a singular meditative experience lasting a week. Wearing amber-lensed sand goggles, their faces wrapped in bandanas, they drifted to and fro on a breeze of song; they danced out with the machine and back through the temple; they made passionate, unprotected love in their tent at night, and the only thing that mattered was now now now.

A month later, back in Austin, after Lachlan had received his first rejection for the photo of the effigy, Sarah woke with an irrational craving for falafel and Nutella. She was halfway to the store before the full implications crashed down on her. We can’t raise this kid, she thought. Not in an apartment building. Not with the money we make.

When the #StandWithWendy hashtag came across her Twitter feed after a night class at the studio, Sarah rushed down to the Capital building with her yoga friends. They crowded into the rotunda outside the Senate chambers and sang with the crowd: “The eyes of Texas are upon you / And you cannot get away.” Though she had never shown much interest in women’s rights or activism before, the life growing in her belly made her suddenly very passionate about Wendy Davis and SB5, a bill that, if passed, would shut down dozens of abortion clinics across the state. But the bill passed anyway.

“The whole world is going to hell!” she said to Lachlan, back at their apartment. He was so angry. She didn’t expect him to react with such revulsion to her decision, which he felt was not her decision alone but their decision together. This dragged up a whole mess of past infractions, from her “moodiness” to his smoking habits. First Sarah stormed out of the apartment, then Lachlan slammed the door.

When there seemed no way to resolve things, Sarah moved into a spare bedroom in the house of a friend from the yoga studio. Her friend accompanied her to the clinic and held her hand while the doctor performed the simple procedure. She cried for days afterward. The universe gave her more than she wished for, but she couldn’t give it back.

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