Oldest daughter comes downstairs and says, "You are going to the gym?" in the same tone that I would expect her to use if I were say announcing that I was headed to the center of town to purchase crack, or that I was headed out on an interview to become a stripper (a vocation, by the way, that I have considered as of late, because primarily I think I could do it).
"Yes", I say defensively, as if I am talking to my mother after returning home past curfew.
"You know Katie told me that she saw you at the gym running topless."
This is supposed to embarrass me, I know this. I know that I have never run topless at the gym because I am pretty sure that this is against the rules and my membership would have been revoked had I done so. Also, I probably would have a couple more phone numbers and a lot more dates...as it stands the closest thing I have ever done was to run in my sports bra, which really I think is like a bikini top, and I have seen plenty of runners on the road wearing them.
But I am a Catholic (not by practice but by birth) and so I feel a certain sense of guilt. I was raised in a family where we did not talk of sex or body parts. Our family motto was "what will the neighbors think". Since my divorce, however, and since I live in a small town where, according to my mother, every one thinks that I am crazy and a slut, and among other things generally a bad, bad person, I have had to learn to let go of what any one thinks of me, and this is NOT easy when you have lived your whole life trying to keep up appearances.
So to stop caring about what other people think, I start thinking about what I think and I get my mind in the gutter and I reminisce on the ride to the gym with Courtney about my old cleaning guy and friend, Hans.
Hans was openly gay, though not flamboyant. He probably had more money than I did, and he definitely had a nicer house. He had a partner named Dave who was particular about things like how high the heat was turned up, and how much money Hans spent at stores like BED, BATH AND BEYOND.
I am not particularly neat, nor do I pretend to be so, but I have a strategy for cleaning , on the rare occasion that I do, which is to move all of the shit in my house around. For this reason, Hans used to say my house was like T.J. Maxx, nothing was ever, ever the same place twice.
Talking to Hans was liking talking to a girlfriend, but I had to admit to Courtney that when he would bend over to say pick up a bucket or tuck the sheet into a bed, I couldn't help but wonder, "is his ass sore?" Did he have sex last night ? And then because I had been to his house and seen his bedroom, a visual would begin to appear in my mind, one that I couldn't immediately block out, like a computer pop up.
And then, my mind being the run away train that it is, I would wonder if Hans was the giver of sex or the receiver? I wondered, and I don't know if any other heterosexual people out there wonder this or not, but I wondered do they take turns? Is there a rotation, or is it a battle of wills, is there a flow chart by the bed, is there a system of justice or is this a source of argument and contention in the relationship?
Courtney looked at me like there was something seriously wrong with me, and I mean more seriously wrong with me than when she drove me to the nut house in December, but oddly enough having my head in the gutter made me feel better about the whole topless running comment. I mean it made me remember that we can think strange things about one another and still like each other. None of us is perfect and we all do odd, in some cases, taboo things. But isn't this really just a description of human nature? And maybe the observation that I ran topless in the gym was just that an observation. A thought. A curiosity. Like my wondering if Hans's ass was sore or if after a while, you just get used to that sort of thing. It didn't make me like him any less, it just made me wonder cause I didn't know.
Or maybe that girl was being a vicious little bitch and she is jealous that at thirty six, after having five kids, I have nearly a six pack abs and I weigh only a little over a hundred pounds and probably a good forty pounds less than she does. If that is the case, oh well. It taught me a new survival strategy: get my head in the gutter, because really when you think about sex, it's awfully hard to be serious.