Wednesday, September 26, 2012
“Are you a swimmer?”
Penelope had been watching him from her hospital bed, her post anesthesia drug haze providing a questioning filter. Yet, she was almost certain. It was he. The Black Adonis. From Mills College pool.
He would sit under a big tarp, in his black Speedo (yes, he could pull it off; most guys, esp. at Mills where Pasty Academics reigned, were better off in the floppy Hawaiian print shorts)
But the Black Adonis, for this is what he was, well.... much swooning took place at the pool for all the non-Lesbians.
Under his tarp, in his black Speedo, he’d be reading. Penelope was never sure what. She imagined it must be Homer or Melville or......something Big and Bold and Manly.
For he was a Manly Man.
He’s a nurse?
What kinda of Manly Man is a nurse?
A real Manly Man, that’s who.
When she’d come back from recovery, he’d been there, donned in his green nurse fatigues, helping to lift her from the recovery bed to her hospital one, his hands strong and gentle, his voice soothing and calming. “That’s right. Easy does it. You’re okay....”
And Penelope had allowed herself to be lifted, the pain dulled from the meds, thinking, Is this the Swimmer from Mills that she knew?
Yet at this point, she’d been too out of it to ask. So when he came back in to take her blood pressure (it was so low! perhaps the only benefit from surgery), she’d asked him, “Do you swim?”
He’d smiled, shyly, “I swim at the Berkeley Y.”
Penelope thought about this for a moment, “Yeah, maybe I’ve seen you there. (She sometimes braved this Y when all else failed. It was way too cold and cranky for her though.) “But did you used to swim at Mills?”
He removed the cuff from her arm, “Yeah, I used to.”
“Me too,” Penelope had laughed softly. “If you can believe it now!”
He grinned, “Sure, sure, I remember,” he chuckled. “We all look a little different out of our swimwear.”
You can say that again! Penelope thought, imagining him in the Speedo under the tarp reading Homer.
She’d never really spoken to him during all the time she swam at Mills. She did remember one time when he’d come over to join the pow-wow at the Hot Tub. Penelope didn’t recall what he’d said. In fact she doubted that she’d remember anything he said.
It was a work of art. Tall, muscular, strong. Many swimmers, even those in ‘shape’ had imperfections.
But not the Black Adonis.
He was a God and that day at the Hot Tub, Penelope probably just stared.
She was prone to that when presented with a fine specimen.
So, today after her surgery, when the Black Adonis had lifted her out of her bed, she’d thought, Hell, maybe my stay in the hospital isn’t gonna be so bad after all.
And it hadn’t. Thanks to The Black Adonis.
And her sister, Laura, whom Penelope never will ever be able to repay.
They’d gone for one last swim the day before her surgery, like a ‘Last Meal’ before the execution was how it had felt. But her sister had been happy for a swim. So this day after, the day when the surgery was over and they were still in limbo over the results, (not to worry now--the Path Report came in a few days later--all was benign--whew!)Penelope lying in bed, a haze of drugs swirling around her consciousness, the previous day's swim seemed like a dream.
Later that evening, sis had gone home, exhausted from the day of waiting and reading. Dashingly Handsome BF had stayed late; they were watching Animal Planet’s show about the Tortoises of Australia. TBA had come in for the last BP check and had stayed for a moment to watch a giant tortoise, swimming in the blue green waters off the Great Barrier Reef.
“Swimming!” Penelope had pointed, giggling, the lasted batch of pain meds working oh so well.
He had nodded, serious and thoughtful, taking a moment from what must a horrendous job, going around to all of the post surgery patients and taking their vitals every 15 minutes.
“They are beautiful,” he murmured, watching the tortoises swim effortlessly through the murky greenish blue.
“Yes, they are,” Penelope had agreed, thinking how lucky she had been to survive her surgery. To have DHBF here at her side and her sister with her and, yes, The Black Adonis, sharing an Animal Planet Moment.
Maybe getting your gallbladder out wasn’t so bad after all.
Esp. if you find yourself, oh so thankfully, in the hands of an experienced swimmer.
Monday, September 03, 2012
“LN, this is DL. DL this is LN. Fellow Sicilian Poets.”
It was love at first sight. Or would the Italians call it Amore Instantaniosa? In any case, Penelope watched in rapt wonderment. How could two total strangers be simpatico upon first meeting?
The two Sicilians beamed at each other. One gracious and soft. The other shy and warm. “LN wrote that book that I loaned you,” Penelope continued to DL, who barely nodded as she continued to gaze at LN. (The Public Gardens, Linda Norton, Pressed Wafer Press)
“I loved your book,” DL’s eyes shone behind her wire-rimmed glasses, beginning to steam from the hot tub’s warm bubbles?
Or for another reason?
An Italian reason?
“Oh,” LN murmured, genuinely touched, “You don’t know how much that means to me. You made my day.”
The two women gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes. Penelope expects Tony Bennett or Maria Callas to start blasting through the intercom system of the Downtown Oakland Y. (And okay, Penelope just googled Maria and found out she's Greek, not Italian, but you get the idea)
“Where are your people from?” LN asks.
“They’re from....” DL sings a beautiful Italian Town name that Penelope has never heard of. But of course, LN knows it and nods.
“Where are your people from?” DL asks LN, who answers with a similarly indecipherable town in Sicily.
Penelope wants to participate and tell how her people are from the suburbs of LA, but knows this isn’t the time or place.
The two women continue to talk about their people, their mothers and grandmothers. The land and the food and the music and the shoes.
Okay Penelope just made that last part up, but you know what she means. Italians. There’s something about Italians that makes Penelope swoon. She doesn’t know exactly why.
But it could be the shoes.
“I want to include you in our conversation,” LN nods toward the Interloper who’s been standing too close in the tub to their situation.
Penelope has been pointedly ignoring her for the 10 minutes that the Sicilian Poets have been sharing.
Because she had been the blob of Penelope’s lap swim this night. A Big Fat Square Blob floating down the middle of the lane, completely blocking Penelope and Graceful Powerful Swimmer.
They’d both just gone around Square Blob. She was so completely clueless from the moment she entered the water. “Can you circle swim?” she’d asked at 9:10 with only 20 minutes left.
Penelope could tell from the get go that she was trouble. Big Trouble. Big Square Trouble. 5 feet tall. 5 feet wide.
Before either Penelope or GPS had a chance to say anything, Big Square Trouble had jumped in, and started floating down the middle of the lane. Penelope would not call it swimming. She was like a lump of molasses in Jell-O. It was unbearable. And with only 20 minutes left.
It was impossible!
So, now, when Big Square Trouble had intruded upon the Sicilian Poet Love fest, well, Penelope was cranky. She oozed her hostility at BST, but to no avail.
She was already telling her story of being a goddamn Russian Immigrant and sharing a similar experience to the Italians except that the Russians thought the Italians were fascists and in fact they were for a time there weren’t they what with Mussolini and all.
Penelope did not want to hear about Mussolini.
She wanted to hear about grandmothers on the shores of Sicily baking bread and crying songs.
But LN and DL didn’t seem to mind. They just continued to beam at each other; once in awhile, LN would nod an encouragement to Square Woman till finally she announced that “We could all stay in the hot tub all night and exchange these marvelous stories, and I’m all for that, but it’s time I said good night.”
And so she did, giving DL one last loving gaze and inviting her to contact her.
“She’s on the Facebook,” Penelope had offered.
“Yes,” LN had laughed softly, “It’s all so easy now.”
And this is exactly what it was all about when in the presence of Italians, isn’t it?
That ease of being. That way of welcoming.
And the shoes. Penelope still thinks those spike heels covered in expensive black leather have a lot to do with it.
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