I’m visiting my parents.
The coffee tastes like COVID and the soap smells like me trying my hardest. Rolling out my yoga mat on the floor, I remember all the times I’ve been here before. In this house and home, in this practice of breathing, stretching, and manifesting that my existence is wanted. How long hope lingers in the body until it forgets itself. This time, the soundtrack consists of questions. Is it normal to have to fight to rest? Is it normal to have my bed be a nest of stress? The girlhood room is a wounded womb in which I’ve nurtured myself on punches and insults but dreamt enough to put pictures and words on the walls. Ten origami birds hang from the ceiling, folded to fly in air so dusty it triggers my lungs to cough.
I breathe from my belly. I move from my breath. On all fours, I make the mistake of glancing to the side and into the full-body mirror. My hair looks weird. It looks different each season, each year. I’m so much older now, but I’m also all my ages. Ideally, I would carry all their knowledge in thick skin, but the lessons learned rather feel like multiple fragile layers of immaturity. I’m seven, reading a book from the library, and eighteen, drinking tequila at the bar, and twenty, learning to drive my parents’ car, and I’m all of them, asking to be loved for who they are.
I feel like a cat, reborn over and over again, but never learning not to jump from the highest building. I feel like a cow, bigger than ever. Cat and cow, cat and cow. I breathe from my belly. I move from my breath.
There’s a tendency for tenseness when I find myself in plank. The push of the hands toward the mat and the subtle shake in the arms activate my presence and remind me I’m alive. I read the familiar as authentic, and the fight is all I’ve ever known.
“I am strong,” I whisper. To whom? I want to find alternative ways to prove existence, affirm value, and know I am here; I want an open archive that listens to its material. I choose to let go of my head and feel a landscape spread. A schoolyard where a child is left, looking for the inside of a chestnut. The kind and soft little heart in the sternum that broke apart from rehearsing the words of who she should be.
I bring my hands to myself. The chest hosts a fire, and with my breath, I try to blow it quieter. Once the flames have decreased into a comforting flicker, like a small bonfire a family might gather around on a cold winter evening, I notice the river flowing beneath it. I feel a waterfall pouring from a hallway hoping for renovation. The flow brings tired ruins and real ruination of all values and senses. I never know how long the river has been there or where it begins. I never know what I need, which is why the context has been chosen carefully: a caring voice and a solid floor.
A tear appears, and then I know – this is what the child was looking for.
Klara Pertmann is a twenty-two-year-old writer and dancer, currently back in her home country of Sweden, having graduated with a first-class honors degree from the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in England. Her interest in translation between languages and different systems of expression has resulted in an interdisciplinary practice where both movement and words shape her investigation of the personal and cultural, the remembered and forgotten.