I’m still trying to figure out exactly where I am when Blossym officially begins our Soul Session by introducing herself. She asks if there are any first-timers among us. Before I process her question, I find myself wondering if she has a subtle lisp, or if her microphone is simply of inferior quality. (Note: my curiosity on the aforementioned matter is not quelled for the entirety of the Soul Session.) Two or three hands sheepishly raise to confirm their amateur status before I decide to join them. Blossym gathers all of our names — I try to shout “Ryan” above a booming remix of some P!nk song and am subsequently referred to as Christopher for the remainder of the Session. Blossym doesn’t seem to have much time or energy for newcomers — she quickly moves on to discuss SoulCycle’s mission, the appropriate Soul Session mindset, and Soul Sanctuary etiquette.
First: “We believe in the power of positivity and encouragement!” she preaches. I find myself wishing someone could tweak the levels on her microphone.
Next: “If you’re new to SoulCycle, we move to the beat of the music!” I focus on the song that’s currently blaring throughout the cavernous space, but it sounds like four different songs of various genres layered on top of one another, and I become increasingly fearful that I will not be able to find “the beat.”
And finally: “It’s Saturday…it’s one o’clock…I’m still fucking hungover…but I’m here…and so are you…so…LET’S. GET. THOSE. ASSES. MOVING!”
And with that command, the group segues into an abrupt transition. Suddenly, everyone is pedaling very rigorously, Blossym is barking motivational quips from her rostrum, and the more experienced among us (a faction to which I very clearly do not belong) begin performing some sort of interpretive dance in unison like undead extras from Thriller. We are no more than 30 seconds into our spirited trot/gyration sequence when my water bottle dramatically falls to the ground and rolls out of reach. I am already short of breath and beginning to perspire uncontrollably, and the magnitude of this hydration catastrophe registers at once.
Somewhere in the vicinity of this moment, no more than a few minutes into our Soul Session, I begin to float in and out of consciousness. I focus entirely on taking deep breaths in my nose and out my mouth, hoping that if I can just remember to inhale and exhale, the human body’s fight-or-flight response will take care of the rest. I hear Blossym in the distance — the echo of her voice somehow sounds lightyears away now as she instructs us to increase our bike’s resistance, then to decrease it, then to take a water break, which I nonchalantly shrug off as unnecessary — instead, I press my tongue to the roof of my mouth in an attempt to fend off an embarrassing mid-Session vomiting episode. I am wheezing like a donkey with mesothelioma, which makes it especially difficult to hear Blossym’s uplifting monologues and pivotal directions. Everyone else is somehow galloping along like motherfucking Smarty Jones, and I briefly suspect that I must have missed the pre-Session cocaine buffet in the Soul Standby. I extend my hand towards the ground in the direction of my water, fail to grasp the liquid salvation, and reach a new level of despondence.
I feel so cold — I wish a Soulstress would enter the Sanctuary and cover my dainty, failing body with one of those tin foil blankets they give marathon runners after they cross the finish line. Blossym encourages us to high-five our neighbors after a particularly soul-crushing progression, but all of the riders in my vicinity think better of it, keeping their fingers wrapped tightly around their handlebars and their gaze locked dead ahead. I spend a few moments trying to figure out whether or not the liquid pouring down my cheeks is mucus, sweat, or tears. I abandon that internal debate, concluding that it is all three. I close my eyes and let them roll to the back of my head as Blossym breaks into another inspirational sermon: “Let life get complicated! Let life get messy!” she cheers as she stands on her pedals and begins to aggressively headbang like a veteran Juggalo. I reconsider whether a mid-Session vomit would be embarrassing or celebrated.
Later, after the Soul Session concludes, I will question if it is normal for one to immediately forget nearly all of the details of a life-altering event, or if I’ve simply experienced a lack of oxygen flowing to my brain that will result in permanent neurological damage.
For the remainder of the Session, I no longer feel the music rattling my epidermis. I no longer question which fluids my body is emitting. And I no longer hear Blossym’s maybe-lisp. Instead, I feel my soul escape my body and begin to perform consecutive cartwheels through the Andromeda Galaxy. I wonder if my prefrontal cortex has sensed my impending death and released a large quantity of soothing chemicals to carry me through the transition.
Before my out of body experience can fully take hold, I am brought back to earth when the soundtrack — heretofore composed of thunderous track after thunderous track — transitions into a calm, peaceful melody. The nausea-inducing laser lightshow concludes, and the house lights are powered on. Blossym’s forceful tone fades into a soft, sensual whisper as we follow her lead through a bike-top stretching regimen. Some of us (read: me) are audibly weeping. Our Soul Session has reached completion.
Afterwards, back in the luminous Soul Standby, a fresh batch of masochists are waiting to pour into the Sanctuary for the impending 2:00 Session. As for myself, I am having a difficult time adjusting to life off of the bike. I stumble around cross-eyed and dazed, much like a losing prizefighter after a 12-round slobberknocker. I look into the faces of several of my fellow Sessioners to see if they, too, are on the verge of premature death. They all look surprisingly healthy and spry, but return concerned glances in my direction. I tell myself that I must really look as bad as I feel before realizing that their cockeyed gazes are probably just due to the fact I have a two inch booger nestled in my mustache. I wipe it away with my sweat-saturated towel, take a seat on one of the Standby benches, and attempt to regain a normal resting heart rate.
By the time a standard BPM has been achieved, I am the only remaining human in sight aside from the two Soulstresses at the front desk, both of whom seem to be growing mildly concerned with my continued presence. I retreat down a narrow hallway towards the showers and very quickly learn they are stocked with a plethora of high-end bathing goods and accessories. I strip out of my clothing, turn on two of the two shower heads, point one at my genitals and the other at my face, and let the warm water flow over my war-torn body. I sample egregious amounts of all of the aforementioned products, dry myself, take a series of deep breaths, and return to my haggard streetwear. Finally, after polishing every square inch of my body with designer lotion, I emerge from the washroom.
As I stroll towards the exit of the the now-empty Soul Standby, I have a new sense of purpose, and the ship that is my life has altered its course entirely. I feel a pang in my heart and a lump in my throat as I wave goodbye to the Soulstresses and reacquaint myself with the outside world. I question whether or not I will ever be the same, but deep down, I already know the answer is a resounding “no.” I drift through the ether for the remainder of the afternoon and into the evening, walking with an awkward limp and wondering when, if ever, Blossym and I will reunite to pedal through the cold dark void together.
I don’t quite know when, but I am confident that someday, when the moon is round and full, I shall ride again. Night after night, my dreams take me back to the Sanctuary. Day after day, I bask in my newfound bliss, building my courage and strength. Until my moment of redemption comes, I remain lost in an orgasmic trance, constantly chasing the unmatchable high of my very first Session.