Gymnastics

Outside, I wander and wonder at the piers, which are distanced from the highway and seem totally out of the way. The walk to Chelsea Piers is about a half hour to my bus stop – the one at least on 23rd street – since the x1 turns left as it trickles down Manhattan, into Brooklyn, and finally sucked into Staten Island. I don’t mind as I walk; I call my brother who earlier texted me.

“You’ll never guess where I was.”

“I don’t know. Where?”

“Gymnastics. It was really fun. You would think, ‘Oh, gymnastics, it might be a little weird,’ but it was cool.”

Then, without realizing it, I start to justify what I just said.

“It was about half guys and half girls” –

(and then, the issue of gender tenses the next comment out of me) –

“and everyone was really nice” –

(I say, using the ultimate justification of human kindness) –

“so it was good.”

My brother pauses for a moment, perhaps taking in the information, perhaps watching TV.  “Cool” he says. Then he adds: “We had a guy who did gymnastics.” This is news. A slight pause. Then: “He was a very good gymnast.” (This construction is weirdly more affirming.) “He was really short. But he was like a bull.”

“Cool. Oh, and by the way, the Standard, what you asked me about, that’s the restaurant by the museum.”

I work in a neighborhood in Manhattan that is becoming increasingly modernized: boutiques and men in pastels walk past crumbling mortar that used to glue together whorehouses.

“I’m going there with A— on Wednesday.”

“Who’s that?”

“He’s a friend of the family. He sent a very nice email to mom welcoming me to the neighborhood, because I think he lives in the area, and wanted to show me around. He became a member of the museum recently.

“How old is he?”

“I don’t know. Like 40.”

A pause. “Make sure he’s not a finocchio.”

For the past year or so my brother and I have started giving advice to each other in a way that is at once stolid and directive. It comes out of me when I give my brother financial tips (the little that I have) and it comes out of my brother when there is the idea that I am getting taken advantage of by people. I don’t know when we started doing this, but when it does happen there is inside of us a ghost – not a spirit – of my father who is still living.

I pause myself. “I think he is.” I’m not sure how to ask the next question. “Why?”

My brother raises his voice. “Because he might try to have sex with you!” My mother flares up in the background, yelling that A– is the son of Barbara, a long-time friend of our aunt. He is kin. My brother swears his ignorance, and over the din I pitch that A— already has a fiancé.

After some sorting out we hang up with the resolution to have dinner if I’m home in time. The gymnastics instructor whizzes by me on a scooter and stops in front of a flower shop, evidently below his apartment. I continue walking past him, my white sleeves fluttering in the wind.

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