Chapter Thirteen I
The next day, Janah appears at Lacy’s office. Lacy invites her to sit and take the chair next to her. She didn’t want an across the desk conversation. Lacy studies the girl, tranquility permeates the room. Lacy feels her shoulders drop, her hands relaxed in her lap. She is completely at ease, as if there were nothing in the world except her and the young girl beside her.
After a time, she begins, “Janah, as you know, our school is designed for a different kind of student. After they master basics, girls spend their time working on subjects or projects specific to their interests. Most of the younger girls are still in the basic education stage. Student must demonstrate their mastery of math, reading, literature and sciences at their grade level, and they may choose to enhance physical skills such as fencing, dance or gymnastics; others focus on specific subjects, computer sciences, languages or math. We have a drama series, which I find helps introduce literature and develops personality, speech and social skills. Many of our drama students act in plays around town, or do commercials, even movies.”
Janah smiles politely, big blue eyes intent on the headmaster.
“Normally, it would be a year or two before you began to specialize. At your age, girls are normally still on the basics, our basics bar is very high. However, you and I are well aware that you are long past that. Your parents suggested we talk this over so that you might tell me what Chapmans can do for you over the next few years. What do you need?”
“Perhaps the girls would be interested in learning yoga.”
“You want me to get a yoga instructor?”
“I can teach it.”
“I didn’t know you did yoga. That’s interesting. What shall you pursue otherwise, you won’t fill up your days with a yoga class?
“Shall I help the others?”
“You mean tutor? You want to do that?”
“Are there any subject or projects you want to focus on other than tutoring?”
“That will take care of itself.”
Lacy looks into the deep sapphire blue eyes. She has an insight that, for this girl, things would take care of themselves. That the thing to do, as her father had pointed out, is allow the girl to be.
Lacy continues, “Yoga. I’ve wanted to go further in it myself. I do some simple things. I’m not much for classes, I hardly leave the building, certainly not to go to a class full of people. I’m a little eccentric that way.”
“You prefer solitude.”
“Succinct and accurate. I love our school, our teachers and students. They are a strange and wonderful bunch. When the day is done, I also love to hide out in my apartment upstairs. I paint a bit, keep up with my dance, some gymnastics lite. I’m a little kid in my playroom, that’s our secret please.”
Lacy surprised herself, revealing even this much to a student. Janah tilts her head, offered no reply.
“Your father says you don’t repeat your discussions.”
Lacy felt Janah listening as if she could hear her heart beat, “Would you consider teaching me?”
“I can’t do this in the gym. I don’t want prying eyes into my private interests, even something so simple.”
“Would you be comfortable in your apartment?’
“Yes, would you though? Would your parents? I insist they know you are giving me lessons there. If I were a mom, I would want to know, the world being what it is. Do you understand?”
“We’ll tell mom when she comes back. You want yoga lessons, perhaps to talk, it’s fine.”
“I have mats, even stretch bars built in along the walls….” she paused, “I’ve let us get off topic. Take me through the class process you have in mind. If a few girls start, then we’ll go slowly and take it from there.”
Janah explains what she thinks would be a good approach. They talk back and forth for half an hour about the program. If the students responded, she would take the class further.
Lacy, “I’ve gotten into a short half hour routine and I’ve done okay, I think. I’ve stayed limber by keeping up with dance. I’ll be anxious to see what new things you can help me with. Have you been doing it long?”
“Almost five years.”
“Oh my. Who is your instructor, where do you train?”
“I quit going to class a year ago.”
Lacy starts to ask if it was too hard, then she realizes, “Too easy?”
“The instructor was quite good, I learned a lot from her.”
“But you went past her?”
Janah demurs, “Well, it was easier to do it at home. Like you, I both enjoy the school and a certain amount of solitude.”
They sit quietly, there is no urgency in the silence.
Lacy is lost in thought for a time, then, “Let’s call your mom. I have some things to talk over with you, we’ll have more time later.”
Her comment struck her suddenly. Why had she said she had things to talk over? What was that about? She recalled Janah’s earlier observation.
Kara came twenty minutes later. Janah had wandered down the hall to listen to one of the girls play her cello.
Lacy, “Janah says she’s interested in yoga. I asked her to teach me.”
Kara, “She’s been at it for years. She outgrew her class. Of course they’re very flexible at that age. She liked her instructor. She wanted to go further and the class didn’t offer further.”
Lacy, “It’s a little surprising she took to it, young children don’t always have the temperament to be still.”
Kara doesn’t respond. Lacy would eventually discover for herself that Janah can be still for hours. She recalled entire weekends when Janah hardly stirred from her cross legged position on the mat in her room.
“Would it be ok for her to work with me at my apartment upstairs? It’s my doing. I would like privacy for this, not the gym. I completely understand if it makes you uncomfortable.”
Kara takes Lacy’s arm, “Thank you for being sensitive to us, it’s fine. I hope you understand what you’re getting in to. Janah is quite accomplished.”
“Good, she’ll challenge me. I like that.”
“Actually, I’m happy she has someone to share it with. She gave me a program and I follow it religiously. It’s as far as I want to go. You guys will have fun.”
“I’m anxious to start. Oh, before I forget, there’s one final matter. As you suggested, I asked Janah what she wanted to do otherwise. She said tutor other students. I was a bit surprised, she expressed no other focus. Any suggestions?”
“Let her wander around. Tell us what you think in a couple of months.”
“Well then, we’ll have to make a change, Kara. Janah will also likely begin teaching yoga to the students; and with her teaching me and tutoring students, I can’t accept tuition. She’s essentially working for the school. Frankly, I wonder whether I should be paying her, is this a child labor thing?”
Kara laughs, “Lacy, you have much in common with her. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.”
Janah returns from the music room, “Will it work for you to practice after school for an hour or so? Can you begin on Monday?”
Lacy brightens, “It will work perfectly. See you Monday.”
Chapter Fourteen I
We are all born charming, fresh, and spontaneous
and must be civilized before we are fit to participate in society.
Judith Martin (Miss Manners)
Chapmans girls look forward to school. More than a few had been in and out all summer. Everyone knows everyone, except the first year students, who are shepherded by the older girls.
First year at Chapmans is seventh grade. By the end of the tenth grade there are no grades. In their junior and senior years students are basically on a self designed course of study. If there is a required course they have trouble with, one of the teachers, Janah, or another student, tutors them. They have to test out at eighty percent or higher to pass, there is no curve. Girls have to get the math, do the reading, write the essays. They have to be able to read, write and converse in at least one foreign language. The cafeteria sounds like the United Nations, English is the second language.
Helping new students get adjusted didn’t need to be obligatory, it is seen as a matter of common courtesy. Manners are more than helping people feel comfortable, sometimes they make people feel uncomfortable; however, courteous, appropriate behavior is an integral part of Chapmans curriculum. Once girls got to high school, they would be at home anywhere, from an elegant dinner party to introducing or being introduced at the White House or Buckingham Palace. Several of them would be, at both, more than once. Lacy Chapman encourages her girls to be independent and free spirited, they are also taught to be disarmingly gracious.
After the last class, Janah and Lacy walk to the rear elevator that goes only to Lacy’s apartment. It requires a key to open and operate. The school has twenty-four hour, seven day a week security. Not simply for Lacy, for the many students and teachers that come and go on weekends or evenings. Video cameras cover hallways, classrooms, common area, the entrances, interior and exterior. The security company, Paladin, is all female and specializes in women executives, diplomats and their children. A significant number of Chapmans students are those children. Attractive targets for kidnapping or terror.
Lacy codes them into the apartment, excuses herself to go change; Janah spots a teapot and a selection of tea. She makes green tea, Lacy returns in yoga pants and a loose shirt, like Janah’s. Lacy has a big mat, 10 by 10, and an assortment of throw pillows covered one end. One wall has stretch bars, plus a dance rail that ran for ten feet along one wall. She’d done serious stretching, the bars have marks where they were worn a bit. Considering only one person uses them, they clearly get used regularly. They sit cross legged on the mat and sip in silence. Janah surveys the room. It is spare. There is art painted directly on the wall, like a mural.
“Your paintings are beautiful, so alive.”
“You know, you’re the only person who has ever seen them.”
“You’re talented. Mom would enjoy seeing your work.”
Lacy thinks about it, “Kara is such an different level of talent, I think I’d be a little intimidated.”
Janah cocks her head, saying nothing.
Lacy, “I’m being ridiculous aren’t I? I’ll invite her then.”
Janah takes the teacups and lets Lacy settle into her meditation. She lights the candles spread around the room and turns the ceiling lights down. The room takes on a soft glow. The spotlighted paintings on three walls inject bursts of color into the atmosphere. Janah settles across from her and the two sat in silence for a quarter hour.
“Are you ready?’
“I’m in your hands.”
Janah leads her through standard warm-ups, sun salutations, up and downward dog. She finds Lacy to be graceful and flexible. It is a simple routine, about forty minutes, they finish with the crow then headstands and counterpoint bridges.
Janah, “You are in very good condition. How far do you want to take it?”
“To go beyond my current limits. We have plenty of time. I would like a regular progression, to make healthy progress. Would you show me some of your more advanced poses? You’re not showing off, I asked.”
Janah places her hands at her sides, palms on the floor, then from the lotus to a handstand in one movement, keeping her legs in the crossed lotus position, then extending them straight above her head. From there to a full back arch, feet on the floor behind her head, her hands grasp her ankles. From that, she rolls her chest to the ground with her head between her legs, her feet on the ground in front of her shoulders. She rocks forward, her legs ease up until she is back to a full handstand. Then a single handstand, back to a two handed fingertips only handstand, then lowers her legs through her hands finishing like a gymnast on parallel bars.
Lacy stares, “None of that is possible. You put something in my tea. Ok, I get it, I have a lifetime’s work to do and may still never arrive. If I could do half that stuff, I would consider myself a prima donna. Your strength is absolutely amazing.”
Janah, “I’ve been at it a while.”
Lacy, “Your mom said you had taken it a long way, she was understating. Okay, what do I need to do, what’s weak, what’s good?”
“You have excellent flexibility. Your legs and abdominals are in beautiful shape, you can improve the strength in your upper body. That’s where we’ll spend the time for now. We’ll do it all slowly, increasing the time bit by bit. No rush, no goal, just to appreciate and exercise the body.”
Lacy, “What do you call your yoga?”
Lacy laughs, “Good for you. It’s gotten popular to have a fancy name attached based on what I’ve seen advertised.”
Janah, “Fortunately, I have nothing to sell, I don’t need to jazz it up with marketing labels. I don’t care for old style yoga, which says you must breathe exactly this way, and turn exactly that way, for such and such a time, or follow the sequences in a specific order. The best I can tell is that’s just hype to make the teacher seem important.”
Lacy, “Strange, I’ve wondered about that too. I chalked it up to simply trying to get the student to pay attention. You know, give them a bunch of specifics to keep their mind on the yoga, not on their problems, work, home life, distracters.”
Janah, “And there’s some truth to that. Like getting a mantra from a guru, to keep the mind off itself. My difficulty with those things is the distraction part. It temporarily shifts the focus of attention, but the worries and concerns are still bubbling underneath. Better to have them surface and sit with them than tamp down feelings only to have them arise again after class. They have a way of being volcanic. The pressure valve is closed by a distraction, but the steam builds underneath. When the valve is reopened, there is a blast of anything or anyone in its way.”
Lacy, “Ah, so you say, face it now, whenever or wherever it occurs?”
Janah, “Yes. Feel it, feel all of it, right through to the end.”
Chapter Fifteen I
When an archer is shooting for nothing
He has all his skill
If he shoots for a brass buckle
He is already nervous
If he shoots for a prize of gold
He goes blind
Time stands still when you’re getting beat up. At twelve, I know every form Master Kim teaches, I suppose I could have qualified for any rank; I don’t care about any of that. Master Kim would test me for belts when he felt it appropriate and not before. I’m having too much fun learning Hapkido and weapons to think about more belts. I can make the nunchucks sing, collecting more than a few battered knuckles learning the tunes. I’d even whapped herself in the head with the sticks more than once. I’m not quite in the zone with them yet.
Master Kim began by making me the only student he had ever worked with privately. Then he steadily increased the challenges in my training. I am bruised, arms twisted, butt and hips taking a pounding. I never wanted to quit, but there are days I limp to the dojang. Once inside, I’d rather die than show pain, so I suck it up, and take my pounding.
He sets up sparring matches with all the black belts, regardless of dan; they might be first degree or fourth. Because of my unnatural speed, it is easy to escape punches and kicks, even from his most talented. I never get tired, I never lose concentration, I never have any concentration to lose. I am in the ring, some other person is in there with me. My body did what I trained it to do. It could kick or punch the opponent at will. I let them hit me, first, I need to keep in touch, second, I don’t want them discouraged. I guess it sounds arrogant, but I know I didn’t give myself this skill, it is just there. I take credit for working hard, but none for my mystery genetics.
Kim doesn’t encourage his students to enter tournaments. Many did, some did quite well. He has no interest one way or the other. Yet he felt he should bring up the things that would surely come along if I chose to participate. He sits with Susan, Chris and me this Saturday morning.
“Sabum Daphne is an extraordinary student. I have not encouraged her to participate in any of the various tournaments around the area. I am neutral on these things. Some of my students go, I hope they do well, I do not attend myself. I would be dishonest if I didn’t explain Daphne’s alternatives. I want you to understand the possibilities, then I will support any decision you make. May I proceed?”
Susan and Chris look at me, I say, “Please Master Kim, explain.”
He says that martial arts has become a big business. There is a great deal of money to be made by those who could win tournaments and promote the products of the martial arts industry. Everything from shoes, uniforms, sports drinks, not to mention commercials, or potentially even television or movie appearances.
“You possess extraordinary skill, and would rise quickly. With your attractive appearance and personality, I have no doubt you would have your choice of endorsements and commercial opportunities.”
He turned to Chris and Susan, “It is not for me to keep her from taking advantage of these things if you and she wish.”
Susan asks me, “You want to be a martial arts star? Here’s your chance.”
“Master Kim, you already know the answer, why ask?”
“I know your loyalty to our school, and to the art. I wanted you to have the opportunity to choose without feeling any pressure, either from me or from yourself. With your skill, it would be easy. Easier perhaps than long hours of training with no reward.”
I shrug, “I like long hours of training. That is my reward. Doing this other stuff doesn’t feel right. It feels like I get to be imprisoned by what a bunch of other people want, to sell their stuff for them. The idea of being the next karate kid makes me gag. I hope I’m not letting you down, it might be good for the school if I did it.”
Master Kim, “Your answer honors you and our school.”
I gaze out of the window and say, mostly to myself, “Anyway, things are coming that, in addition to training, will require all of my time.”
Master Kim hadn’t missed the comment, but whatever I meant would surely reveal itself in due course, he is not an anxious man.
He stands to go, “Good. We will continue with Hapkido and weapons. Who knows what after that, it will make itself evident.”
Chapter Sixteen I
I am soaking in a warm bath, the vision envelopes me, the softest vibration moving through my body. I am motionless for nearly an hour. After drying off, I turn to the full length mirror on the far wall. My reflection isn’t there. In its place is a gentle light, then the face—startlingly lovely, pure white hair, deep blue absorbing eyes. I want to fall into them, captivated by the vision . Then it fades back into my own reflection.
I blink, begin to dry my hair and thinking, ‘She’s beautiful.’
I join Sis in the kitchen, “It’s a girl.”
Susan, “Wow, I didn’t even know you were pregnant.”
“Very funny, I’m the love child of Ellen DeGeneres and Margaret Cho. Your Vegas show opening soon? I haven’t seen the airheads from Entertainment Tonight.”
“So you’re not pregnant?”
I continue, “My white vision, it's her hair. It’s pure white. The dark blue circles are her eyes, deep blue electric eyes. I was at the mirror, but it wasn’t my reflection, it was her. And this time it was clearly hair, pure white hair, and blue eyes…a face. An unforgettable face!”
Chris, “How do you know it’s anything, not just some fantasy?”
“Haven’t a clue. Like I tell Sis, I don’t know how I know. She gets clearer each time, this time like a photograph. She comes when she comes. It happens when I’m at the mirror mostly, sometimes just before I go to sleep. I’ve tried just sitting and waiting. I quit trying. It’s more fun just letting her pop up.”
Susan, “I think I’d be anxious to find out something.”
Chris, “Me too.”
“I know, and it seems strange to me that I’m not. I just know she will come. She will come when she does, not until.”
Susan, “Honey, if you’re satisfied with this thing, these visions, we’ll wait with you. I’ll try to be as calm about it as you are. If you’re going insane, could you give us a few days notice so we can get the rubber on the walls?”
My eleventh year, the beginning of us, has come and gone. Now, at twelve, I know what, who, my vision is and began to hear a soft voice in my head. I relish the sound when it comes, letting it take me over. I know the other has seen me, knows my name, hears my voice.
Hearing starts out as sounds, not coherent words. It doesn’t matter, the sounds are as pleasant and loving as any spoken word. Then the words become clearer. I hear the word Janah in my head. I laugh at how strange it seems, she has a name. Then I hear the most delightful giggle. The sound is so gentle, light, loving. It sends a shiver through me.