Jimmy changed a lot after his stroke: it scared him ‘shitless’. The first thing to go was the smoking. Prior to the stroke, he seemed to have a smoldering cigarette permanently attached to his lips as he barked out orders on the site. He smoked them quickly too: often finishing two in the same amount of time as other guys would have one. His coworkers asked him if he smoked in the shower. Sometimes, he did.
Upon leaving the hospital, however, Jimmy quit: cold turkey. For a while, he obsessively sucked on Werther’s candies, but he soon gave those up too. By the time he went back to work, the worst of his nicotine cravings had passed. The other guys offered to refrain from smoking in front of him, but he told them it didn’t bother him at all.
Jimmy’s eating habits also changed. Prior to the stroke, he would often bring a lunch bucket full of sausage, potatoes and chocolate bars to keep him going. These were all washed down with the rich dark roast coffee he always had in a gun grey Thermos. After the stroke, he only drank Roibos tea; for lunch, a big salad and a tin of tuna fish.
Jimmy was never pushy about his change in lifestyle. He never made anyone feel guilty for smoking. He never once critiqued his coworkers’ eating habits. From experience, he knew that one has to make up their own mind if they want to change. Prior to his stroke he had received several warnings from his doctor, about the smoking in particular, but chose to ignore them. It took his stroke (and Jimmy often referred to it as ‘his stroke of luck’) to make Jimmy change his ways.
Temperamentally, Jimmy hadn’t softened at all. He still swore with the best of them. And if anyone fucked up, or cut corners, Jimmy would be the first to tell them so in a way most profane. He still told elaborate stories about fuckin’ the old lady, and gettin’ drunk with his buddies, but he did so without a cigarette in his mouth. He even inspired one of the younger guys to quit.
In the months following Jimmy’s convalescence, he made passing reference to ‘his practice’. A few of the guys wondered what he was talking about, but never remembered to bring it up. For example, every Friday, the boys would all go down to Big Bad John’s for a few pints. It was a tradition that the crew held dear. Jimmy no longer went, though, saying he had to get down to the studio to do ‘his practice’. The other guys figured it was some kind of spiritual thing.
On a cold day in December, the boys noticed that, along with this lunchbox, Jimmy brought a long, cylindrical sac of some sort with him to the site. It was an unfamiliar addition to Jimmy’s belongings: they assumed it was blueprints or something like that. After lunch, while the rest of the crew ‘shot the shit’, as they often did, Jimmy excused himself and rolled out a 6′ by 3′ thin foam mat right next to the port a potty.
Jimmy then took off his boots and his overalls. Underneath, he was wearing loose-fitting sweatpants and a Lulu lemon top: he bowed and immediately started in on the first of three sun salutations. The rest of the crew stood with mouths agape as they watched Jimmy display his newfound, remarkable flexibility and strength. They were especially captivated when, after finishing the third, and last, Sun Salutation, Jimmy chanted for over five minutes. He then rolled up his mat, put on his coveralls and boots and went back to work as if nothing happened.
Nobody mentioned Jimmy’s new addiction. He still barked out orders and cussed and spat. If anyone were to make fun of him, they did so at their peril. Since the stroke, Jimmy’s strength seemed to have doubled. He knocked nails into cement, for Chrissakes! The crew couldn’t help but speculate as to whether Jimmy’s lunch time ritual was responsible for the change.
By Spring, four of the other members of the crew laid their own mats out next to Jimmy’s. He led them in ever-increasingly complex transitions. By August, the entire crew rolled out yoga mats at lunchtime: Jimmy was the great construction yogi. At lunchtime, large groups of people would gather outside the site’s fence to watch the construction crew’s miraculous feats of physical discipline. Sometimes, Jimmy would show off and levitate three feet of the ground for a grand finale, garnering applause and cat-calls from the other side of the fence.