The gym houses ten rows of ellipticals that stretch back from the water fountain to a carpet of fake green turf. It’s where people self-sort in front of monitors broadcasting three types of shows: CNN for the news junkies, ESPN for the sports fans, and one of those maniac cooking shows where guests laugh nonstop from one commercial to the next. The monitors stretch across the floor.
I’m coming from zumba class. Jan stands near the sanitizer and pulls out a few towels from the dispenser. She scans the floor. Could be looking for anyone—a girlfriend, trainer, maybe trying to decide which monitor to stand in front of—but I think she’s looking for me.
Jan and I began zumba at the same time, jostling to get a spot not too close to the front of the mirror, but not too far in the back either. The instructor was a big woman who wore her hair piled on top of her head with a flower climbing up the side. We were always afraid that the whole thing would come toppling down. She hardly spoke, mostly just waved her hand left or right and expected everyone to follow. Even if the instructor did say a word, the music was too loud for anyone to hear. So getting a good spot was important, especially if you wanted to keep up with the class.
One day we showed up wearing identical black and white-patterned leggings and red sports bras, which was the first time we talked.
“We could be twins,” Jan said, except I was older and thirty pounds heavier, which is why I had signed up for zumba in the first place. High blood pressure. Cholesterol. She’s this little thing, a ponytail pulled so tight, I think her eyes are going to pop out of her head. Secretly, I thought if this girl sweats too much, she might disappear altogether.
“Twins,” I said, looking once again at our matching outfits. “Easier to be one than to raise two of your own.” I should know.
She started to tell me a story about her aunt who’d raised three sets of twins before the instructor put on her music. I wasn’t sure I believed a word. She said I was her best friend. Every week before class she had another fantastic story like the one about a guy from work who’d sailed in a balloon to Mexico because he was writing a book about hot-air balloon vacations, or some other relative with two tiny uteruses squeezed right next to each other who was going to sell her story to People magazine. Sometimes she’d come in with a bruise on her face covered with make-up. I didn’t feel right asking her about it, especially before class.
“Is that the aunt who had three sets of twins?” I figured with all those kids, she probably needed money. Old Woman in a Shoe.
It wasn’t worth it. I was having a hard enough time keeping up with my health. The doctor said that he’d heard a heart murmur, a sound repeating itself. I stopped standing next to her. She stopped coming. But when she’s out there on the floor, I get a queasy feeling she’s looking for me and I keep wondering what it is I need to tell her.