To Make a Sauna, You Must Find the Right Wood

Daisy twisted her body into a pose that made four, then five, then six of her joints crack. And these were the joints she didn’t know she had. She was in her tiny studio apartment, with sweat dripping from her nose and her neck and her arms, and maybe even her eyelids, onto the yoga mat, but also onto the grimy grey carpet, which now smelled like wet sheep’s wool. The yoga teacher was speaking to her from her computer, which sat on the Ikea coffee table she had shunted against the wall. The teacher was not in a shoebox apartment with wet sheep’s wool smelling carpet, she was in a sunny warehouse with parquet floors. Daisy could see designer rugs and designer lights and designer bowls on designer shelves that must have been laid into the walls by men with designer tools. The teacher’s name was Molly, and Molly liked to tell her students that she went to a mountain river to meditate naked. Daisy knew why Molly did this. Molly was hot, and she wanted her students to picture her, naked and hot, in the swirling mountain waters. On this day, Molly looked extra hot. She was wearing a black-and-pink bra top with pink-and-black leggings. Pricey shit. Real breathable. Light streamed in the windows, striking her curves, so they looked drawn with god’s compass. None of her curves were sweaty, and her cheeks were dewy. The sight of the dew made Daisy’s own cheeks feel blotchy, as well as dry and flaky, while somehow also sweaty. Daisy moved into a chair pose, which was a real fucker of a pose. “Feel the burn, ladies,” said Molly. “It’s nearly wine o’clock!” Molly always made jokes like this. She liked to allude to all kinds of vices, like biting cheese off the block in the dead of night. Daisy knew it was a crock. Molly was one of those wellness people who would have been an enthusiastic member of the SS in a past life. As Daisy rose out of chair pose (thank god) she imagined reaching into the screen, smashing the window behind Molly, and using a shard of glass to sever the limbs from her sculpted body, which she would leave lying in a pool of blood and golden afternoon warehouse light.

She had been thinking about dismemberment a lot. She wanted to hack the limbs from all the people on her Instagram feed. The musicians bleating about their pedestals being taken away. The corporate warriors turned full-time sour-dough bakers. And the bougie artists waiting out the pandemic at houses in the mountains, chasing toddlers around overgrown gardens, taking breastfeeding selfies as cloth nappies blew in the breeze on the line behind them. Just in case you missed the memo that they were superior, naturally. Daisy hated them as much as she hated the models, and she really hated models. If she saw one more gazelle gazing over the rooftops of Paris she would scream. With their perfect bones and their pouty lips and their LISTS OF BOOKS TO KEEP HELP LOCKDOWN ANXIETY. What did they have to be anxious about? Also, if she hated them so much, why did she spend five hours a day (shout out to her phone for informing her of this unholy number) scrolling through their profiles? Why did she stare at them? In their beautiful homes with their beautiful pets and their beautiful men who probably had beautiful dicks that shot jets of beautiful jizz into their tresses of shiny beautiful hair… what was her deal? Was she a rage addict? Or did she secretly like to feel shit about herself?

And don’t mention her friends. Those petty moles. They were on Zoom every night, slurping wine and chatting shit. They never invited Daisy. She killed the vibe. They talked about cute bags and cute shoes and when a cute man would take them somewhere cute. If there were any cute places left. Lololol. They prattled on like this for hours. Until one of them wept into her lipstick-stained mug of wine, and the others cooed her from her slump, snickering all the while about what a melodramatic nutter she was. Where were they when her brother died? Not one of them came to see her. Actually, that’s not true. Nadia brought her a cake she had bought from Woollies. But at least she came. At least she held her and patted her back while she sobbed until her face looked like a drunken old boomer man’s cum-face. Where were Becky and Jane and Melody? Becky sent flowers. Melody sent a text message. Jane said she was driving over; then said she had to work late. That was the night Daisy cleaned out his apartment — scrubbed the stain he left on the carpet. That was all that was left of him. A dark stain on the grey carpet of a potato-smelling studio. Her hands reeked of carpet cleaner for weeks. Bleach. When she walked past it in the cleaning aisle at the supermarket, she nearly puked. Puked from all the pain and the guilt and whatever else you puke from. Puke germs or puke genes or whatever the fuck. But she was a bad friend, and bad friends deserve bad friends. She went overseas for those five years. She walked out on the group (or the lady pit or whatever they called it). And for what? To follow some softboi up and down punishing mountain paths. Her friends had moved on. But she had always been an outsider. The others had their high school connection, which Daisy knew to be an umbilical cord people spend their entire lives sucking social security from.

Whenever she thought about her “friends,” her rage was at its most poisonous, its most vengeful. Why did she not feel sadness? Self-pity was as close as she got, and feeling sorry for herself only made her mad at herself. She always thought she’d be the kind of person to have best friends forever (BFFs!), and maybe it was that kind of thinking that made her a neglectful friend who ended up with no friends. What she needed was a cat. She’d call it Hambone or Jehovah. It would be the kind of cat that drew blood from every fur-seeking hand. The kind of cat that mauled small dogs, slept on sleeping babies’ faces. The kind of cat that ate raw T-bone steaks, leaped from trees onto the heads of joggers. That kind of cat that disliked folk music. That bit the barbs off of tomcats’ dicks. Basically, the coolest cat you can imagine.

The only thing that gave her joy was being mean to older men on Tinder. It was her new hobby. She set the age range from 45–65 and let the bullshit roll on. And there was bullshit aplenty. She had been chatting to a man named Rex. He sent her selfies. In one, he sat in his ute, wearing speed-dealer sunglasses. The cracks where his nose met his cheeks were red, inflamed, with flakes of dry white skin breaking free. The caption said: “get yer larfing gear round this.” He also sent pics in which he posed with fish. He posed with fish on boats and on rocks, on beaches and on the side of the road. Rex liked to talk about his ex. Daisy lost count of the times he called Sally (the ex) an evil sow that took his daughters away. He also called her a dog and a cow and a snake, and then he said he was lonely, and then he asked for nudes. His daughters — Chloe and Madison — stayed with him every other weekend. He tried to be the Dad he thought he was meant to be — letting them go hog wild on his credit card, and ordering them the best damn caramel and pistachio cheesecake in the city. Still, they treated him with scorn. He knew the source. Sally was in their ears, drip-dripping her multi-level marketing toxins. Calming oil of lavender, his arse. Sally was screwing a bloke from her essential oil pyramid scheme. Name of Donahue, her team leader. Donahue was right up there, apparently, Royal Crown Diamond rank. Rex found him on the website. He wore perfectly pressed khaki pants, and looked like he’d been under the knife more than twice. His cheeks were puffy and shiny, like he’d been cracked with a cricket bat, and his eyes were a light shade of lilac. Rex studied the eyes. He swore they once belonged to someone else and were pleading to be surgically removed from Donahue’s skull. When Rex asked the girls about Donahue, they told him to mind his business. Called him an angry boomer, said he used his white privilege like a mallet. “You ungrateful little sluts” he hissed and sent them to their rooms. Then he sat in the kitchen, alone, eating the caramel and pistachio cheesecake. Daisy loved to hear the details of his depressing life. She liked to make fun of him. Sure it was easy, but he’d never been made fun of in his life, of that she was sure. If he said Sally was a snake, she said he sounded like Phoebe from FRIENDS. Rex hated FRIENDS. He told her not to liken him to any of the cowards on that godforsaken show, except maybe Chandler, who, he had to admit, had a certain rakish charm. “Okay, Monica,” she said. To which he wrote back: THINK UR FUNNY U LITTLE TWERP JUST WAIT TILL I CHAIN U TO THE BACK OF MY UTE AND DRAG YOU THRU TOWN LETS SEE WHO’S MONICA THEN DUMB CUNT. “Bring it you weak old dog,” she said. “You greasy mutt.” Her phone buzzed like it was suffering a life-threatening seizure. She got scared. Rex might have been a pathetic loser, but history shows pathetic losers tend to be the most violent strain of man.

Ralph was her next match. He seemed weird. For thirteen years, he had been building a sauna in his backyard. He liked to talk about the sauna, about the process of building the sauna. He said he flew all over the world to learn the secrets of construction, and that he found the best wood (it was all about the grain of the wood) in Siberia. Which if she didn’t know was where the best saunas (and also dumplings) were made. She wondered if Ralph had some sort of brain injury. In the photos he sent of him sitting in the sauna — sweat dripping from every pore, ratty white towel wrapped around his waist — she saw a large dent in the back of his head. It looked as though he had been struck with a watermelon made of steel. “Did you have an accident?” she asked. “I been through one hell of an ordeal,” he said. “I ordered a load of larch wood from the number one boutique lumber yard in Siberia, only to have it held up at customs for an agonizing eight months.” After twelve solid years of R&D, plus the planning and the saving and the building, this was a bitter pill to swallow. Daisy tried to steer the conversation back to the dent in the back of his head, but she could not. He described the rocks he found in the Ural mountains, the pure water he pored over these rocks, the spitting sound the steam made as it rose up from the rocks, and how it could cure any psychic illness a person might be suffering from. As she listened to his talk of rocks and spitting steam, and the speech about the leaves on the branches the Siberians used to gently flagellate the moist skin on their backs, she slipped into a sort of dream-state, and, in this state, her anger ebbed away.

Photo by Ginny Rose Stewart on Unsplash


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