- Upgrade to Fit!
The dog getting sick at 4:00 am in Marcus’s room led to me steam vacuuming while Deandra took Marcus to her bed, where I’d just warmly been; and so when I said, “fucking dog,” under my breath as I tried to read the manifest just after 3:00 pm—we’d be late for our 3:30, meaning sighed oh wells and no slipped twenties from Mrs. Sorensen—it was exhaustion leading me to speak stupidly. My neck cricked from the couch, my heart sick at how quickly we slip back into the black hole of domesticity.
“What’s that, boss?” asked Poetry. That tired where you get dizzy and words start coming apart on the page, numbers all jumbled. Poetry and Stachio were blasting rock and strapping Mrs. Sorensen’s stuff down in the truck. The manifest said five pieces: iPhone-integrated treadmill, stationary bike, and rowing machine, plus a pair of lady-targeted strength trainers (one upper body, one lower) that had pink highlights, female silhouettes on the infographics, and were to be used for tightening triceps, inner-thigh muscles, glutes, abs. I could already picture Mrs. Sorensen asking for me to watch closely, to make sure she had the right form. There was something untoward about the way she stayed in the room while we worked, taking deep inhales. I always half expected her to squat in the corner, growl, pant.
“Just tired, Poetry. Dog tired.” I rubbed my shut eyes. The song ended, and, before the next began, Stachio started shouting, “Here we go!” and clapping.
Poetry joined the boys and I walked into my office, half closed the door, and sat down, listening to Stachio and Poetry and Double H chase around the warehouse spraying each other’s pits with the shop’s Febreze. They made a game of everything—taking bigger shits, doing chin-ups, belching—and Alexis was right: I hung out with boys. Young men—nobody was younger than nineteen—but these weren’t humans with well-developed notions of roadblocks, of I’ve-tried-as-hard-as-I-can-and-it-still-won’t-work. They were fun to be around, same as it was fun to eat too much junk or stay up late on a weeknight.
I heard Poetry take another pass through the truck, tightening. After he slammed the truck’s gate, he knocked. [End Page 527]
“All set?” This was the day’s last take; Stachio and Double H would stay back, sanitize and plastic-wrap the incoming, probably sneak off to masturbate.
I yawned and stood up, grabbing my clean Upgrade to Fit! hat, gray with red lettering and the only one that didn’t have salt stains, edges shredded to thread. I caught a whiff of myself and stopped. The week before, I’d been bored and decided to excavate what was underneath the first floor sink—expired tampons, crappy Band-Aids, and dad’s old bottle of Devin cologne. I’d had no reason or agenda: it felt like a private little nostalgia trip. I hadn’t even remembered what it smelled like: it smelled like I was a man.
I yawned again, tapping my fist against my mouth.
“Oh, man, I hear you,” said Poetry. He pulled cigarettes for us. He’d gone to school, had notions of a future other than hulking workout gear into and out of hotel-like homes. He was married, so he’d grouse about his girl and their seven-month-old to me, the guy who’d been married going on two decades. It passed for kinship.
“Just wait,” I said, mashing a button on the radio. I’d’ve paid to listen to dental drills. “It gets worse,” I said, heading out of the warehouse lot, looping onto 62, our windows down, our smoke breezing. Poetry grabbed the coax, plugged in his phone, and turned on rap. It sounded thoughtful and desperate and agonized.
“Worse than Felice waking up twice a night? Christ,” he said, that old wistful what-can-you-do grin I remembered well from the early years. “Last night Koensi and I...