The Odor Of Sanctity (Or Something)

Arnoldo seized my Ace bandage when I was about twelve minutes into my bike warmup. He is as dire as ever, though he is probably closer to fifty than forty now: hair still glossy black (there’s a little Jheri Curl or similar involved, I think), shoulders and pecs like polished gourds, grin like a candy skull. People who speak several antipodal dialects of Spanish inform me gravely that they have no feckin’ idea what he is saying half the time, either.

I think he was talking about Christmas and families. I could make out that he has a new pad and his seven brothers and sisters were coming to visit. I explained, more or less, that the Engineer (he always asks after my “friend”) was out of state seeing his family and that I have no family to see.

After I got out on the gym floor he played a cute game of body-blocking my path to the patch of mat where I lay a towel over the germs du jour and do some wrestler’s stretches and Yoga poses before grabbing any serious weights. He wanted to give me a Merry Christmas hug before leaving. I managed to pronounce Feliz Navidad more or less okay. Somehow this all got mixed up with him asking if my hair was really as long as someone had told him (he gestured at his hipbones) and saying it would be beautiful, beautiful if I let it down. I think. I can never really tell with Arnoldo. On any given day he could really be asking if I am up for white slavery or gladatorial combat.

His Merry Christmas seemed heartfelt, so I was not cheap with the return hug. I am pretty sure he killed a few people before getting Jesus, so people tell me, in a Salvadoran jail — there is a picture taken in the jungle, with machetes — and it is the least I can do for any child soldier who can still have the heart of a child, in Godzilla’s body, thirty-some years later.

That slightly asphyxiating perfume that Spanish guys like perplexed my senses at several intervals over the next hour, until I peeled for the shower and whiffed smudges of it all over my gym togs. I guess no one cares to tell him he smells like a cathouse. Would you?


Spanish Guys (1)

Maybe I should introduce Arnoldo to Ollie. They bracketed my Sunday, like bookends.

Arnoldo is a big Salvadoran guy who works out at my gym. We are not talking muscular; we are talking mutant. Word has it he is considering the wrestling circuit. I don’t think anyone but a seasoned cage fighter would take him on. He has upper arms the size of bollards, sprouting black hair tied in a bandana, crude tattoos randomly scattered over his person and a piratical silver tooth. He works out in boots and black twill jeans, benching 225 the way some of us tap our fingers, his pecan-colored skin always glazed with a light sweat.

He is the biggest pussycat you ever met. All his sentences have an almost feminine uptick at the end, spoken in a high pitched voice and with a bright-eyed eager manner that works despite his rudimentary English.

He rides a burly motorcycle encrusted with gleaming silver skull adornments, the license-plate on the front incongruously reading “Robin,” which he parks just outside the gym door. Yesterday morning as I left he was dismounting. As he asked me genially “Finito?” I noted his T-shirt bore the legend “Powder Puff Football.”

I don’t know if this is his girlfriend’s sport, or if it’s something that no one has the nerve to explain to him.