I used a fingernail to lift the silver circle on the key ring. When there was enough of an opening, I pushed the hole in my new YMCA fob through the circle until it closed and sealed.
That's when I felt a tap on my shoulder, soft as a feather, but familiar.
"Finally." It was the voice of Tommy making himself heard in my head at the
My response to my deceased husband was mental, rather than aloud, as I didn't want those in earshot to think me loony. "I knew you'd show up at the Y," I said, as I pictured Tommy in his tank top and shorts, his body trim with muscled biceps and calves.
At once, the small chest of drawers that stood at his side of our bed appeared in my mind's eye. Second drawer; that's where his gym clothes lived. Neat piles of tank tops and shorts, most purchased from thrift shops, for my husband of 14 years was as slim in his spending as he was in body.
I could see him choosing the outfit he appeared in during this imaginary visit. First, he'd have removed from the closet the gym bag he had used during his 40-year membership at Chicago's
. His weathered shoes would already be stowed, along with a towel. Would he find the note I had left him?
Tommy taught me that. At the beginning of our romance -- both in our 60s at the time -- he would write tender Post-its and hide them for me to find sometime during my day. Imagine, at that mature age, being reminded there was this fellow who thought I walked on water.
I hadn't learned this sentimentality previously, but I leaped in, stowing my own notes to Tommy in one of his gym shoes, or in a drawer, surprises I knew would light his morning.
Sadly, it's not all mushy stuff when I recall my guy and his beloved Y. Much of that switched to spy games when in 2009, he was diagnosed with
and lost his ability to speak. To be certain I would be contacted if anything happened to him when he was not under my watch, I bought him a medical ID bracelet. The band’s metal plate was engraved with his name, his illness, and my cell phone number.
But, my Tommy refused to wear the band. I didn't pressure him because I figured the gym was his sanctuary, free of a hovering wife. It was the place where he didn’t have to talk; where he was proud of his three times a week attendance, and routine of 33 minutes on the elliptical, then 20 minutes of weight lifting. At the Y, he was a strongman, not someone needing a medical ID bracelet.
"Hel-lo, are you still here?" It was my fictional Tommy waking me from a scene that he evidently didn't want to revisit.
"Sorry, honey," I said, miffed at myself for clouding his drop in. "Were you surprised to see me here, signing up at a Y rather than some fancy health club?"
"I knew you'd come around eventually," he said. "Sure L.A.'s sunshine is great and the glitter is fun, but I knew you'd wind up in a place that felt comfortable, familiar. And affordable."
Ah yes, there was my budget-minded buddy reminding me of my, um, tendency to fudge finances. "Have you been keeping an eye on me since I landed in California? Were you worried I'd be living on credit cards and wishful thinking?"
"Well, I can't say it hadn't entered my mind," he said. "But, it's more than the low membership fee that makes me happy to see you here. It reminds me of the days we'd go to the Y together. Remember when we first married, the time I took you on a tour and showed you how to operate each machine?"
"Of course I remember," I said, as the slideshow slipped across my vision. Before then, Tommy had been a long-time bachelor, and I felt his pride as he paused in his instructions to introduce me to all of his gym pals.
"My wife," he'd say, puffed as if he had won the state's lotto.
"He's the best," his cronies would say.
In real time, my Strength Class was about to begin, so I shook my head to tuck my spouse back to my brain. I entered the Women's Locker Room and placed my belongings in an empty space. But before closing the lock, I rummaged through my gym bag to be certain I hadn't left anything behind. My fingers probed each corner.
Could a long-ago note be hiding somewhere? Nope, all gone.