Audio Recording #7

I got the bad news yesterday, Superbowl Sunday, an occasion that's about as meaningless to me as Lent or Cinco de Mayo. It was about nine degrees outside, but I had to get out of the house, so I went swimming at the Y, in the medium-fast lane with four hairy men.

When I got to one end and stopped to catch my breath, one of these men, a middle-aged Asian man, who had also stopped to catch his breath, said that I had a babyface. Then his eyes dropped conspicuously down from my eyes to my chest. He didn't even try to hide it. He just looked down as though it was the most natural thing to do. I had this strange sense that he thought it was kosher because we were both Asian.

I didn't feel much like swimming after that. In fact, I felt a little ill, like I might throw up in the chlorinated water. But the lane right next to us was full of little kids and their parents, grandparents. In particular, there were these twin baby girls in tiny hot-pink bathing suits looking very miserable. I couldn't stop staring at them.

Then the man said, "This is the first time I've seen you here."

I turned to look at him. Then I dropped my eyes, as conspicuously as I could, from his face down to his chest. It was doughy and inconsequential. His nipples reminded me of my own. "That's not true," I said. "I've seen you before in the lobby."

I had.

Later, the twin baby girls were screaming like banshees in the women's locker room like there was hell to pay. It was relentless, merciless. It pierced my heart like a stake. I thought my brain was going to drip out of my ears.

Oh, but there is hell to pay, there is. Let me tell you.

My hands felt so cold. In the adjacent room, someone was laughing, deep and hard.

*published in Wigleaf