June hears them first and pulls us into the square.
“Welcome to New York, Welcome to New York!” Two dozen big gay voices.
This is exactly why I moved to the Castro at twenty, and bought in the West Village at fifty. Freedom, like singing, comes from the drawing of breath.
Michael arrives for Empire State of Mind. We played it at our wedding.
He whoops for the top-knotted soloist, but I catch him eyeballing a hard-looking white-boy taking pictures outside the fence. He’s worried about an alt-right assault, I know it.
Dance with your daughter, McCormick. Fill your lungs.
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.
McCormick returns from the morning run with a glad heart. In two days they fly west.
Oh, sweet reprieve!
Then he watches the English bulldog from 3-J (Cromwell) pissing on the planter out front. That will smell good later.
A predictable blip, but he’s irritated. Why must we pack so early? Julie makes several lists as June drags everything she can reach from her closet.
“That many dresses?”
“In case I eat cake and pie and tarts all at once again.”
She spreads her arms, New Yorker born and bred. “What? I throw up at weddings. That’s my thing.”
Posting only pictures of garbage did not attract a slew of Instagram followers.
Maybe that’s not all McCormick was after.
He told Julie, who claimed not to notice unless they were pointed out things like melting snowbanks that shed chicken bones and soiled underwear, that he wanted to see art when he looked at trash. So life would be more beautiful and she would hear fewer complaints about the city.
Just one of the ways he deployed Dr. Bruce Blend’s mindfulness therapy. Decatastrophize, Blend urged. Slicks of shit and cigarette butt are disgusting, yes, but not signs of the apocalypse.
McCormick, peeking around the lockers to see who’s creating the ruckus, finds not a skin-tight, crew-cut, but long hair and eighteenth-century beard with a draped tank and mod Nike booties.
Whoa, what’s in the blender bottle? Gym Hipster, chugging, declares:
“This dick’s on my Instagram every day saying, you shouldn’t eat that after weights. I said, hey dick, I am 20 pounds lighter than you, I can outrun, outlift, and certainly outpunch you. Your arms are broomsticks compared to mine. Look at me and look at you, then tell me again what I need to learn about nutrition and definition!”
He’s even with Black Speedo Guy most of the lap, but in the final yards McCormick’s breathing falters. He takes a ragged gulp, a short stroke, hits the wall late.
The victor hoists himself out of the water, making a show of stripping off cap and goggles and pounding his ears.
The principle of this guy is his gut. It’s a big-pumpkin gut, a pregnant-lady gut, hanging way over his distressed Lycra waistline.
“Thanks for the push,” Black Speedo says, winking.
McCormick, who feels kinship with the manatee at even two pounds over his wedding day weight, says, “my pleasure.”
(McCormick and Julie adjust to Dr. Serlek’s opinion that they have less than a 5% chance of conceiving on their own.)
In the days after the appointment, they Googled. McCormick read In Vitro Health Outcomes, fearing the karmic cost of science’s assistance. Julie bookmarked adoption sites and made calendars showing where their careers and income would be in two years, or seven. They touched their laptops more than each other. Not what McCormick had intended when he’d suggested leaving this up to nature.
Had they kept a chart of basal body temperature and cervical mucus, he would have known, that morning Julie cased herself in lycra and tied back her hair, to be ready when she returned, sweaty from the gym.
(the tedium of a summer day is suddenly dispelled…)
In Jackson Square his butt cheek buzzes. A distraction! Opiodic relief. He sets down the groceries, thumbs open the phone.
Julie’s agitation is evolving like a Pokémon into panic. “Help…I have to call London in, like, five minutes.”
Her Mansfield monograph won their year’s dissertation prize. She’s led her group to Platinum Plumes in Product Positioning three years running. Just yesterday she coaxed an HVAC man into replacing the dripping toilet’s ball-cock assembly. But sweet-talking a superior? Not her strength.
“First, thank her for noticing the discrepancy.”
His wife exhales. “I knew you’d have the language…”
Finally, a victory.
(Whiling away the hours of a free day, he sets out on his errands…)
Perched on his front steps, a beefy tour group hears from their guide, who wears a wool beanie in July: “The neighborhood was actually pretty rough a few years back.”
The tourists scuttle on, leaving only regulars. Like bucket-hat-guy, who chugs past unzipping knee-length denim shorts and splattering the sidewalk while holding a beer and a cane in his free hand.
The nice moms from Neighborhood Relations at June’s (private) school recommend carrying granola bars if giving money “isn’t your practice.”
At the market McCormick visualizes a fountain of pee and tosses nut-free cookies and dried mango into his basket.