Today I had on my invisibility cloak.
I didn’t plan on wearing it to my child’s evening swim class at the Y, but it inched its way over my shoulders while I watched her smooth strokes. Unobtrusively I plugged in and zoned out with my perfect cocktail of a good book and equally good music (one little iphone packed with so much joy). Those 40 minutes are ones I treasure.
Alright, I confess that I turn up the music a bit louder than I might normally, if only to drown out the nasal monotone of the preppy blonde woman who always sits to the left of me on the bleachers, perkily dominating the chit-chat-chitty-chat she shares with the polo-shirted man next to her, he mostly silent, nodding now and then with agreement.
In between songs I catch a word here and there, which I usually ignore or swat away like an errant fly. Tonight, though, I admit that I went so far as to click that secret little spot on the earphones which pauses the song. I had to listen.
Oh no, it wasn’t the woman, not her, but the two men who sat to my right, acquaintances of one another recently reunited via the synchronicity of their progeny’s swim times.
These men were a different sort than those to my left. They were, I found out during one song’s pause, working men, working men who take their kids to swim class, which makes them particularly interesting. One is a printer, the other a drummer (“I never had any other job, drumming’s all I know,” he said, describing his financial difficulties during a particularly slow time).
During the first pause I caught their conversation about passion.
One of the men, the one with a Latino look and last name (he reintroduced himself to the other, so I heard it), looked over his shoulder as if to make sure his wife wasn’t there. (While not his wife, I am of that tribe, but he didn’t turn his neck around far enough to see me, or maybe the cloak really did work that well.)
“The wife, she gets a little cranky when I go off…” he said.
“Oh yea, my wife is that way about my drumming,” the other agreed with a knowing smile and chuckle. I felt like I was hidden in a corner of the men’s locker room.
El Señor was talking about biking. He didn’t call it that, something instead with the word “road” which sounded much cooler. He’s not the first suburban father I’ve known who finds freedom on two wheels while wearing very tight pants. He told the drummer how he rides all over, skipping over town boundaries and meeting up with fellow bikers to explore new routes. Modern-day explorer. Such passion! For a moment I was caught up in his enthusiasm and could actually feel the wind in my hair. (It was the fan, oh well.)
Drummer dude was worried he wouldn’t be able to keep up, but nonetheless they made plans to meet and bike together, soon, which I suppose is sort of a man date for men with children who swim. Actually for men who take their kids to swimming whose wives are….
Yes. That was the big unifier. The conversation during the next pause—which I made a semi-permanent one because I just had to hear this part—was about their wives. How funny it is, they observed, that so many of their friends ended up marrying women from the Philippines.
(At this point they tried to bring a third man into the fold/conversation. He, it turns out was not Filipino but Indonesian. “Ah well you’re all the same, really, aren’t you?” the drummer said to the man who, like me, always has his head in a book, “I mean Filipino, Indonesian, you put the two of you together and you look exactly the same.” Lucky for drummer dude the Indonesian didn’t slam him on the head with his hardcover.)
Anyway, by now drummer dude and printer guy were so entranced with one another and their conversation that they were not only oblivious to the fact that I was right next to them (albeit with earplugs) but that others too could hear them extolling the virtues of not their wives in particular, but their race and gender.
“Like they’re so simple,” they must have said ten or more times, nodding in enthusiastic agreement. “Especially compared to those Irish and Italian girls I dated before I got married!” drummer dude added with emphasis. The other grunted, “Oh yea, man, I know, so simple.” There it was again.
Simple, simple, simple. I wanted so to ask them to elaborate on what exactly they meant by that. I wondered if men who are printers and drummers in soul bands who play at casinos (that was, apparently, his next gig) have different desires than those like the man on my left, who most likely works on Wall Street or a law firm and hurries home to put on his khakis on Tuesdays to take junior to swim class.
My invisibility and my reverie were ended by the clock. Time to bundle up our little swimmers and take them home. Drummer dude and printer guy exchanged numbers and pats on the back and hurried home to their <most certainly not as simple as they think> wives.