Dear Hot Canadian Zumba Teacher,

You didn’t know she’d had a heart attack a thousand miles away in Iowa. You didn’t know that I had just returned from flying there, fatal lung disease and all, to see her in a cardboard casket and watch it slide, inch by inch, into the crematorium oven. You don’t even know my name. But you’ve seen me popping and dropping and locking it like a middle-aged moron to Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” at your class for over a year now, and you decided it was time I stepped into the spotlight. You were right.

Oh, Anne—I think that’s your name, though I generally refer to you as That Superhot, Badass Street Girl Zumba Teacher at My Gym—our bodies are such complex, frail mysteries, no? Granted, you probably haven’t considered it much, being twenty-something and hotter than a cast-iron skillet on a campfire.

At the beginning of each class, you bounce into the room with the fluorescent vigor of a cartoon character, your strategically torn tank top revealing abs like the Precambrian Shield. Granted, your taut body retains a bronze glow throughout the long, Canadian winter (11.5 months of the year), but surely you know this state of surreal vitality won’t last? Surely, in between sexy shimmy sessions, you’ve taken time to consider the immutable, eternal and indestructible nature of the jiva—that immortal essence of all living organisms which survives physical death, according to the Bhagavad Gita?

Perhaps not.

But you did stride into class this morning and announce that you’d just “pulled an all-nighter, but I’m not gonna slack, so none of you guys better slack either!” To which we all cheered like fools. Because you, my little hip-hop vixen goddess, remind us that it is the spirit—not the body—that so desperately needs to dance.

Actually, that’s not it at all. It’s that you’re smoking hot, and when we mimic your moves as you gyroscope to “Getting Nasty,” we think we’re smoking hot, too. (We’re not.)

Speaking of getting nasty, I haven’t for more than a year. Or two? There’s a point at which you lose count. There’s a point at which your body becomes a bruised bag of yams that you haul around, waiting for it to finally rot and return to the miserable earth whence it came, thus completing yet another karmic cycle in God knows how many not-so-merry-go-rounds it takes to be liberated from samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth.

You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you, Anne?

The thing is, my mother wasn’t supposed to die before I turned 40. And my cystic fibrosis wasn’t supposed to flare up like a giant, hooded king cobra, infecting me with its sickly sting.

The king cobra was a glamorous metaphor, wasn’t it, Anne? But CF isn’t glamorous; it’s the king of disgusting diseases. It slowly fills your lungs with sticky mucous and makes you die a raspy, rattling death. Oh, you can stave it off awhile with steroids and antibiotics, but they whittle your strong, supple body away, thin your thick mane and leave you with a low-grade, internal burning and the sort of rage that can only be assuaged by sucker-punching pillows and hurtling glasses at walls (sorry, neighbors).

But Anne, my Queen of Crunk, you and you alone provide sweet, syncopated relief for 60 minutes several times a week. For that, I owe you my eternal gratitude. And for pulling me onstage today during that killer T-Pain song, so I could cut a rug in this motherfucker under the strobe lights, throwing fake punches into the dark roomful of Zumba zealots as we all sang along with the rappers, who were clearly addressing the universe itself when they shouted, Why you had to fuck up the night? Now we got to fight. I’m gonna knock out your lights.

Your biggest fan,