On the phone from the Cape, Kenny had kept things short. He told my wife Emily that our friend Josie had moved her cosmetics and vitamin catalogue business to the Internet, where, he said, she was making a killing, bought herself a Beemer and everything.
She was back around and Kenny was excited for all of us to see her. So was Emily. I, on the other hand, felt like I might be coming down with something. I wondered how middle-aged people like us ever reached the point in our lives where if someone mentions the words "weekend" and "away," magic is guaranteed.
Poof! We're all kids again. Walking out of second story dormitory windows in our pajamas and floating down to the gentle grass below. Listening to Steely Dan, Little Feat and the Grateful Dead. Planning summer trips out west from which we vaguely promise one another, we might never return. Do we still talk about books, I wondered. No kids either--the phrase intended to cast a fresh and jazzy light on our post-kids world. Not an x-ray. We're not going to examine each other. We're not going too far inside. No, we'll keep things light. We'll keep things in the soft, lambent blush of nostalgia for each other. We'll eat a lot. Drink. Probably shop.
I can do it. At least that's what my wife tells me. I can do it, and I've got to promise that I will do it.
"Don't be heavy," she tells me. "You can be so heavy."
"Not only heavy," I tell her, "but deep and real too, just like we all used to say back then."
"See, that's what I mean," she groans. "You're not funny."
I'm thinking about how I'm not funny as I lather my face in one of the scarred mirrors in the men's locker room at the Newman Y. I've just run five miles on a treadmill because rain is pounding the pavement outside. The TV weatherman had said the front would sweep out to sea by the late afternoon. When afternoon passed into early evening, I changed plans and now I'm at the Y. I'm rushing and thinking about my wife and about how long I haven't been funny.
I'm going to shower and shave here because I still have to buy wine, a coffee ring at the Handi Bake Shoppe and some martini glasses because long ago we all drank margaritas together, and Kenny has told my wife, "We'll drink some strawberry margaritas and catch up.”
So I'm rushing and as I lather, I splash some of the shaving foam in my eye. It stings like a bastard, and I dash over to the paper towel rack where I excitedly tear off enough paper to diaper a small child, rub the stuff out and return to the sink, where, in my haste, I have left the water running.
There I discover someone else in my space. My razor's still sitting on the shelf above the faucets. A little can of shaving cream is there along with a hand towel and other personal grooming stuff, but none of this evidence has deterred him, a little guy, maybe he's four or five, from washing his hands.
I sidle up next to him. There's room for the two of us, but I'm afraid I might drip my crappy mix of stubble and shaving cream on his head, so I tell him as I point to the sink next to us, "You're better off washing your hands over there."
"Isn't there enough water for us here?" he asks.
Oh he's a bright one. He's got those kid eyes that shine. Large, bright, wide open, brown irises offset by beaming white.
"You could stretch out over there, see," I argue weakly. "Have your own place."
He's reluctant but he says okay and moves over. We stand there at our sinks doing our ablutions. I'm running the water, a tepid mixture of hot and cold, at a trickle. My little friend, on the other hand, has a gusher going. The spigot is long and curved like a gooseneck. And water blasts out of it. When the cascade hits the hard bottom of the sink, it bounces out. Some splashes on his Shaq T-shirt, but most of it collects in puddles on the floor.
"Hey there," I say, affecting a cautionary tone, "I'm glad you're wearing that bathing suit because we're going to be swimming in here soon."
He looks shocked. "Huh?" he says indignantly. "We can't swim in the sinks. We're too big."
"Look," I say and gesture with my hands, "turn the water down and cup your hands like this. Then splash the water on your face."
He tries but doesn't quite put his hands together. The water slips through.
I try again. "You can make a big cup by putting your hands and fingers together, see?"
He glares at me. "A giant could make a big cup," he says. "A giant could make a giant cup."
I thought so before, and I'll say it again. A little genius.
"Do you think the giant would let us both swim in his hands?"
He frowns a little. He's skeptical. There's a hangup. "If he liked us," the boy finally says.
"Why wouldn't he like us?" I ask. "We're nice fellas, aren't we?"
He turns his eyes up, fixes me with those beamers, and says, “He likes his wife."
"He likes his wife more than us, do you think?"
“She cooks for him.”
Before he can say any more, a man's voice reaches us from the inner sanctum of the locker room. It's a deep voice, husky and sure.
"Finish up, Eric," it calls. "Your mama's waiting for us now."
The boy nods to himself, makes a nice little cup of his hands, splashes his face, turns off the water and begins to retreat into the locker room.
"Nicely done," I tell him.
"See ya," he says and disappears.
"Hope so,” I call after him.
While we talked, steam slowly fogged my mirror. I wipe enough of it away to expose my face. The glare of an overhead light shines on it. And I begin to think it might be all right. I mean, it might be a good thing for once, if I put on a glad face and cupped my hands together. If I tried to catch the flow, and maybe didn't let anybody, but especially my wife, down.
I've made a bit of a mess, and I focus on cleaning it up. I work hard at it because I still have the wine, coffee ring, and margarita glasses to get together, and people are waiting for me.
All rights reserved.
I was really at the Y. and this little guy and I were really talking about giants. The rest of course, is...The story has never seen the light of day in any form before. Maybe that's a good thing.