Yesterday I made malted milk shakes for The Missus and me. Immediately afterwards, we went to the YMCA and signed up for a family membership. At the YMCA, a man named Charles gave us a tour. “Hey, Charles. I’m Jonathan,” I said. “Hello,” he replied. I gave him the glad hand at the end of the tour. That seemed the appropriate thing to do.
Charles was tall, young, Black, well-groomed, and he wore designer tinted prescription shades. You couldn’t see his eyes, but he smiled frequently. He showed me the VIP men’s locker room and I said, “Charles, man, what do they use these tables for?” He said, “Guys just hang out on them, after a shower or whatever, watch t.v., and a lot of times they’ll sleep on them.” He gestured to the t.v. mounted to the wall. A commercial for a car dealership flickered across the screen, complete with “1-800” number.
“Yeah, you know, after a soak of whatever.”
I tried to imagine myself coming to the YMCA in the mornings, dropping Eleanor off in the Y’s daycare facility, pumping some serious fuggin’ iron, hitting the showers, and then taking a nice, long, unlikely nap on a padded table in the VIP men’s locker room. The whole story was pretty far-fetched.
Two older black men were sitting next to two older white men by the sauna. They nodded to Charles. All four looked like they had were either retired cops or Korean War vets and now lived in the basement of the Y. The older black men were shirtless and looked healthy, comfortable, and at total ease. They were speaking to one another in a quiet, familiar tone. The older white dudes, also shirtless, looked like cookie dough. Their words were unintelligible. I think I might have heard the phrase “vinyl siding” come from one of them. No one regarded my presence. It was as if I was invisible next to Charles.
“Can I check out the hot tub?”
Charles showed me the hot tub, which looked like what you would expect. “VIP membership also includes a towel service, toiletries, and hot packs.” He used a pair of tongs to lift a steaming gel pack out of a hydrocolator, located on a wheeled cart by the doorway.
Charles concluded our tour and left The Missus, Eleanor, and me to our own devices, inviting us to explore the facilities on our own. We did. After about ten minutes of aimless wandering, we exited out a back door that looked like no one had ever used it in the entire history of the Y.
"You think we can go out here? It says 'Leave Door Closed'," Janelle pointed to a handwritten sign on the door.
"I think it means that we can use it, we just need to close it behind us. Besides, it's closest," I argued for that door like it had a pile of gold behind it.
Once outside, we immediately discovered that we were trapped inside a small yard, surrounded by a barbed wire fence. We went back to the exit door, but it had locked behind us. “Goddamn you,” I whispered to the door. We were totally trapped. Meanwhile, somewhere inside the Y, a man slept on a table, oblivious to all the trappings of the awake wide world.