Most evenings, I’d drive Tomás to the CrossFit “box,” a ten-minute drive. The class was an hour long, which meant I had to drive back to pick him up an hour later. Sometimes I’d grocery shop during this time; sometimes I’d take the dog to the dog park. My life became a series of car trips. Grocery shopping had to be done at least every two days. The kid ate a lot. I was making meals on the 1950s plan: a meat, a vegetable, a “starch.” My sister had given me access to some money in an account, which paid for his food. He’d eat twice as much meat as I did, or even Russell did, and would often follow dinner with a huge bowl of cereal and milk. Gallons of milk per week were also mixed with the protein powder he needed before and after workouts. He started indulging in a self-created workout at 6 am in addition to his evening WOD (CrossFit-approved Workout of the Day), doing “double-unders” (jumping rope) on the deck, swinging a 50-pound kettlebell, pumping 50-pound dumbbells. Of course, we’d hear his thumping as we lay in bed, not quite ready to get up ourselves. Tomás’s body shape was spectacularly muscular, and he was enamored of this aspect of himself. I (the contrarian) tried to ignore that aspect and pay more attention to his mind.
He was a funny guy. He and Russell had a rapport, part of which involved speaking in Maggie the dog’s voice, a rough, gangster-style persona that Russell invented before Tomás came, but to which Tomás added an incredible backstory that kept growing and growing. Maggie was more than a hundred years old, it seems, and had been everywhere and done everything, and been responsible for almost every important technological development of the last fifty years. She was a braggart and sometimes a liar; not to mention a narcissist, violent enforcer of her likes and dislikes, and a cattle baron (because she liked steak). Maggie, through Tomás, would berate me for not giving her enough steak.
Before I witnessed Tomás doing this competition, I had no idea of his capacities. I was blown away, watching him. He was a real athlete, possibly even “gifted.” The first hug he ever gave me was after completing the very first competitive workout in March.
I was as supportive as it was possible to be, and would become as nervous as he was before one of these competitive workouts, the first series of which were done in groups, with a judge for each contestant, and a big digital clock ticking away on one end of the gym. The more “reps” and rounds of activities that were completed within the allotted time, the better the score. Usually the weight to be lifted was prescribed, but there were two workouts that involved increasing the weight. The kid dead-lifted 235 pounds, if I remember correctly. Some of the other activities were pull-ups, ring-muscle-ups, “burpees,” and handstand pushups. He was impressive at all of these. I was his CrossFit mom.
What else I discovered was that it’s not possible to see into a teenager’s mind or soul; I could only surmise, suspect, project, and express caring, and laugh at his jokes (not difficult). When here, he did not have a problem with confidence; he indulged in over-confidence (it seemed to me) a lot of the time, but that is part of being a 14-year-old, good-looking male with physical energy and a future ahead.
He comes home to Seville once a month. Tomás is having a summer of leisure at the moment, except for CrossFit. I saw him on Skype the other day, wearing the gray hairband I gave him to hold back his fashionable top-of-the-head long dark hair. We miss him, but it’s not that yearning kind of missing a person. It’s more like, “Wow! A teenager lived with us for a year, and it was pretty cool!” Should it be a yearning? Did I grow to love Tomás? I already loved him by default; he is family. I acquired more intimate knowledge of him, and that is part of love, I think. I care about Gabriel, too. We chat sometimes on WhatsApp, during which short moments I try to persuade Gabriel to give up being a fan of Donald Trump. Tomás does not share Gabriel’s political taste, fortunately, and I think Gabriel adopted his attitude partly to counter his mother’s very liberal influence; to be different, to have his own identity. They are so young, these nephews.