A shoulder tap. The teacher in remarkably thin linen, gently observing that his head should point to the center, not the wall. This, even fifty-two years into the project, could create several seconds of shame.
Today he laughs, swivels on the mat, deliberately brushing Julie’s arm, and receives the soothing suggestions.
Connect to a heartfelt desire…
(That we take the peace of this class home to our daughter.)
Move awareness through your body..
(Oh wow. My shoulder feels better!)
Witness your thoughts…
(I’m sorry I’m even in that book. That last line is embarrassing. Writing makes me unhappy. Please, stop.)
Julie and the contractor consider stains for June’s new bed and closet.
Recalls a prompt he gives students. What’s the first room in which you remember falling asleep?
June’s window reveals green-leaved limbs, a sweet swath of sky, a balcony directly across where four Dachshunds pee at barking intervals. At sunset, tattooed owners dine on the same concrete plat.
McCormick’s place is Montana. Cinder block bare in Married Student Housing. To doze off, he listens to Bulldog football and songs that weren’t popular in Delaware. “The Streak.” “Country Bumpkin.”
Should be a lonely memory, but no. He was good then.
It’s Staff Appreciation swim, so members can’t get deck chairs or loungers until 10.
McCormick, taking a mere table, gives June an iPad. Watches the workers’ kids splash and laugh. When they get out, the regulars reclaim their territory.
Pretty quickly a toddler fight breaks out, causing several fit women to don DVF Cover Ups, extract their progeny, and retreat to separate corners of the roof.
The core of this epic meltdown, a neatly coiffed six-year old, won’t stop hollering “I had it first!”
McCormick—a Neiman Marxist—can’t resist the cliché: Brown children shared. White children did not.
Sarah. My sister’s daughter. Like a sister to my daughter. June.
Visiting, from the Inland Empire, with her father. On their way to Thailand where he will give a workshop. Sarah says, After Poppa teaches his class I get to ride an Elephant.
Among my sister’s last wishes, Sarah should see the world, of which quite a bit is displayed here on the C train.
Sarah and June cling to the pole in the center of the car.
Why do I hear so many languages? Sarah asks.
New York, June answers, shrugging in the way our town has taught her.
Grandparents are different from parents. Grandparents never get mad, but they are very worried if you go a few feet into the ocean with, like, even a tiny wave coming.
I have a Yiayia and Papou and a Halmoni and Haroboji, because I am half Korean and half New York.
Daddy says some of me came from him and is Greek. Crazy right? There wasn’t Greek in mommy’s belly.
Parents make you say sorry when they get frustrated. And sometimes they are sad.
Mommy cried a lot when Imo (Aunt Sue) died. Halmi and Harbi never even say her name.
In fourth grade he published the weekly-ish Mike’s Magazine. Thrilling recaps of intramural floor hockey at Edwards Elementary and the obituary of a decent goldfish.
“Sure is Mike’s Magazine,” his parents observed. “All about you.”
Stung, McCormick considered covering Barbara’s stripping and staining of antique furniture, or Bill’s controversial decision to plant watermelon that far north. But those stories never ran.
Who knew—in the 70s, in Montana—that the ego motivating Mike’s Mag would become uber modal? Who foresaw this culture of tweeting presidents and the Instagram Famous, of which McCormick’s hundred little words is such a faint echo?
According to his grandmother, people named Grivas died with their own hair and teeth.
And McCormick always believed going gray at thirty meant he wouldn’t suffer baldness. If he didn’t wear hats he probably wouldn’t recede at all.
As for teeth, he’s replaced what God gave him with titanium more than once.
He texts a photo from the chair to Julie (Jung-hye), who’s at lunch with her brother-in-law, niece, and June. They lost their sister, wife, mom, aunt (Sun-hi) in April.
He hates kimchi, but still feels left out. He taps another text:
Dr. Lotus says I have complicated roots.