On the first day of Reiki Training our teacher, Debbie, walked into the windowless room and asked if we were ready to change our lives. Yes? we said. But we weren't, not really. We had read the assigned book, Tapestries of Healing, we had done our research on WebMD, but with the exception of Hyun Jae we were skeptical. Hyun Jae had studied Reiki in Korea for years; why she was in our class no one knew. When Tom asked her she only smiled and said, What do it matter for you?
Before we could lay hands on each other Debbie had to perform a ceremony, an attunement, something about opening our bodies to the energy field. We went in one by one, chewing gum and joking nervously while we waited. Frances got attuned first; he had a certificate in craniosacral therapy and liked to show off. Lacey, the undergraduate, waited until last; she was ashamed of what her hangover might have done to her prana. During the ceremony Debbie played an Aboriginal CD while she waved her hands around and tickled our necks with a sprig of sage. There were other steps, too, but it was hard to keep track of all the jumping.
When the attuning was over, Debbie invited us back in the room and sat down with a large bottle of kombucha. She sighed and closed her eyes. Attunements are very draining, she said. We nodded, wanting to be supportive. When she opened her eyes, she asked us, How was that for you?
Frances shot his hand up. A few of us rolled our eyes. He said, It felt like we met in a field, a blessed place beyond our bodies, and communicated through a silence that said more than words ever could.
Debbie nodded. Yes, she said, absolutely. Anyone else?
Lacey raised her hand and said, I agree with Frances.
Good, good, Debbie said. Others?
The rest of us scuffed our feet and stared at the floor. Finally Tom raised his hand and said, It felt…windy?
Wonderful, Debbie said. And we moved on.
Our homework that night, which we diligently completed, was to practice Reiki on our friends and family. The next morning, Joseph, the marketing student – we called him Broseph behind his back – raised his hand and said, I tried to practice on my cat last night but she kept running away.
Were you able to calm her? Debbie asked. Did the Reiki help?
Well, I gave her catnip first, Joseph said, so she was kind of already passed out. But yeah, I think it worked.
Powerful, Debbie said. Lacey, how was it for you?
Two of my friends, like, loved it, she said. We were at a bar, so it was hard to concentrate, but I think it went really well.
The rest of us snickered a little. Reiki? At a bar? We had lit candles, we had put on Sade. Lacey's face puckered. I'm serious, she said.
We stopped talking after that. We graduated to prone Reiki, took turns laying facedown on massage tables while the others placed their hands everywhere on our bodies except our butts. Debbie played the didgeridoo and Hyun Jae taught us to vanquish negative energy. Everyone did Reiki differently; we could tell who was working on us even when our eyes were closed. Frances cupped our hands in his large palms, cradled our feet like they were baby birds. Broseph would sit near our heads and bow so low that our foreheads almost touched. Hyun Jae barely made contact, but where she touched us our skin turned hot as current. Later we would forget that we had loved each other momentarily, yet for years we would remember the smell of incense and feet with a warm, sloppy nostalgia.
It was dark by the time we left that evening. The weekend workshop was over. We walked to our cars together, said, Let's keep in touch, Let's get together, though we knew we never would. We went home and asked our spouses and cats to lie on the bed, and, with a sincerity reserved for the newly converted, we laid our hands upon them. We cupped their foreheads and touched the soft hair on the back of their necks, and we believed we meant those gestures more than we had ever meant anything. We thought about love, about blessings, about the meaning of grace, and when the session ended, and we wiped our eyes, and we asked our loved ones, How was that, and they said, Well we couldn't really feel much of anything, we took their hands in ours and we murmured reassuringly, Oh, just wait, just wait.
BIO: Sally Franson is an MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota. Her work has recently appeared in elimae and Whole Beast Rag, among others.