At the Y, Monica and I say goodbye to the the kids from the the playroom door, but it’s pointless really.
“Bye Violet,” I say. Then I add, ” We’ll be back really soon, ok?”
But I am fearing the worst, her not even pretending to hear me.
She doesn’t even pretend to hear me.
“See ya, Henry,” I tell my son. “Catch ya soon buddy!”
The young guy who volunteers his free time to look after strangers’ kids in this room at the Y is standing with my boy and he looks down at him, but Henry growls and crawls behind a fake sink and two toddlers.
I know I am the last thing on his mind now.
Monica and I are on a mission though and so we leave the kids at the daycare and then, a couple of halls and doors late, we are that couple that comes prancing through the Cardio Room in their big winter coats while other people are up on the treadmills sweating their faces off.
We are the Gym Tour Gang.
But still. We try and play it super cool. We act like we don’t even see the drenched and the damned there in the middle of their second or third grueling mile.
Hey look at these, we say to each other/ to no one in particular. Our eyeballs do a pop and our brows rise and fall as we pretend to appreciate this or that particular style of elliptical machine, as if we know even the slightest thing about it. We get a little too giddy about these expensive treadmills/overpriced bikes when the truth is that what we really wish is that each of these damn things was an Arby’s.
We do our little tour which basically means we walk through the room and then back out without stopping. Maybe 20 seconds after we rolled in, Monica bursts back out again and I’m right behind her. We make our way back up the dank stairwell, through another clunky door, and out into a new hall.
We slither past the lap pool shimmering like a hunk of fallen sky.
We go around some corners.
I have no idea where we are. It feels nice, too.
We are free, I whisper to myself.
We are free from the kids for just a little lovely bit. It’s paradise. We are two consenting adults looking at pieces of paper announcing Summer Camps and imminent Ham Pot Pie Suppers on the hallway cork-boards of a YMCA.
Then, we’re searching for the sauna room when I happen to glance down a hall and see it go down. First there is nothing but Still Life with Construction Paper Snowflakes. But then: I see the Baby Rhino/Henry on all fours, plowing across the canvas, head down, horn pointed at some kid or some box of toys or something beyond the edge of the door’s frame.
That swiftly he is gone and in his place I watch the young man whose crazy job in this world on this sunshine-y winter afternoon is to shadow a wild rhinoceros kid across the tiled savannah. Just before he moves out of the picture in hot pursuit, he happens to look my way.
His eyeballs shoot down the hall and slam into mine. He is a big guy, a weightlifter, maybe a wrestler in the local college, I figure. I stare back at him, trying to fillet his message off the bone.
It all happens so fast. Through the crackle of Monday afternoon life static, I hear his tinny voice appear inside his look.
Help me dude.
It’s a rhinoceros.
He won’t stop moving.
I smile at the guy, a feeble smile. I send him pity on the wings of my glance.
But we aren’t due back to get the kids for six minutes yet.
And so there is nothing I can do to save him.