“Why don’t you switch gyms?” Vor asked. “The hours at the gym you’re going to now are horribly inconvenient for you. Go to the Y. It’s right next to your office!” So, Grace joins the Y.
(One week later)
We’re lounging on the bed, ipads and laptops and papers and books all cluttered everywhere. It’s the life of two lawyers—your child is asleep, so you hide in the bedroom and steal time together, quietly, so that she doesn’t wake up. You laugh and work, argue and read amusing or thought provoking passages from books to each other and argue some more. The dog takes up more than his fair share of the bed, but it’s chilly—we have the window open, hoping for spring, and he’s keeping my feet warm, so I don’t care.
“Is that the gym class schedule?” Vor asks, leaning over and taking it. “Wow, they have lots of programs!” He turns it over, then hands it back, thoughtful. “There’s a synchronized swimming class.”
“I know it,” I tell him. He’s still silent, looking at me with his head slightly cocked to the side. I know how well he knows me, because he picks up his latest treasure from the used bookstore—a book of essays—and starts reading. He’s decided to wait me out. I fidget with the class schedule. “It might be fun,” I venture.
“You were kind of obsessed last time,” he says, without looking up. Still waiting me out. He’s not going to engage until I actually say it. “It was the best exercise I’ve ever had,” I offer. Maybe that will be enough. “Obsessed,” he responds. “Yeah,” I sigh. Obsessed doesn’t cover it.
“Don’t you think it would be a little…boring?” He asks. It’s my turn to cock my head. “It was many things to me,” I tell him, “but it was never once boring.” “No, no,” he says with a laugh. “I mean that you are way above that level.” He sets the book down, and stares at me. Say it or not Grace.
“No. It wouldn’t be boring. And I—they—we could adjust to whatever level I am at. They’re good coaches. It would be fun. To do that, just for fun, just for the creativity, just for myself, with no hope or desire to compete. For once, I would like to do that.”
Vor smiled and leaned over, kissed me. He’s got great, generous lips. “Then sign up”, he tells me, and picks up the book.
Later, I went up to Lis’s room to check on her before going to sleep myself. She’s burritoed herself in a blanket, with her stuffed animals standing silent watch over her. Her hair is curly from her bath, and her hand is tossed carelessly out to the side, palm out, as if she is a supplicant even in her sleep, asking for anything, and everything. Or, maybe she is my sovereign, and her palm out is her gesture of acceptance and an offer of love. Maybe it’s both.
My own mother was a national level athlete in her own weird sport—racquetball. She was also a phenomenal volleyball player, and a softball player, and taught me how to play both. I loved to watch my mother play her sports. She could be a shy, timid, subservient woman, but god, when she was playing her sport, she was suddenly taller and completely confident. She could be ruthless, this gentle woman, and she took no shit from anyone. She was clumsy in the kitchen, and once fell off the driveway (how do you fall off a driveway?) but she was grace itself with a racquetball, or a volleyball, or a softball.
I think I would like Lis to see that in me, so that she can find it for herself, if she wants it. That I can be, and often am, quiet and thoughtful. I prefer to avoid conflict and get people to work together. But I also want her to see that I have a reserve inside me that I can draw on when I need it, that allows me to compete and win; that I have skills on which I worked for years in order to make a national name for myself; that I can be aggressive, towards myself or towards others, when I have a goal to meet. I know I can show her this in the courtroom, as a lawyer.
I want to show her this in the water; I want to preserve this part of myself; I want to show her how strength and beauty, joy and determination, happiness and pain can combine into one person. It never has to be one or the other. It can always be both.