I’m in Atlanta and when I’m in Atlanta there’s always that feeling when you step out of the air-conditioning and all of the pores on your body just open, stretching out, gasping for air, and they stay that way the whole time, flapping in the breeze, a dermatological liability. I never feel them close, but back home in Seattle I like to imagine them sealed up tight. With my pores wide open I hail a cab and read the address off of the sheet of paper I printed from my email. The email also asked me “to try not to lose it this time,” but it’s already deleted.
I close my eyes for the drive in case it looks familiar. I work on trying to close my pores, becoming more aware of my skin. There’s a lot of it, more than I think I should have, but not like my father: one of those giant men you can’t imagine as having passed through a birth canal, having ever been a child. He must have sprung from the womb fully formed. I imagine that my father was already wearing his football pads and Falcons jersey, headed for the stadium.
He isn’t wearing his pads in his house, but they’re strewn around, draped over chairs and stuck in the couch. My mother is immaculate, changes the decor to match the season. Lisa Kane is not clean. Lisa Kane has made up the spare bed with sheets that still smell like my shampoo from last year.
My father says again that he thinks this is the year Lisa Kane and I will become close. He calls us his “girls.” Lisa Kane tells me that I can call her “Leez.”
“And I’ll call you Cat! Or Kitty? Cathy?”
“Catherine,” I say. “Ekaterina. Ekaterina Velikaya.”
Lisa Kane smiles, asks me if Ekaterina is a new pop singer. “Is she Brazilian, like that Shakira? Or is Shakira Peruvian?” Lisa Kane hums a few lines from “She Wolf,” winks at my father, gives a little howl. The thing about trying to close your pores is that it leaves your ears wide open.
My father takes the week off of practice, just putting in a few hours at the gym each day. He shows me his arms and proclaims himself “fit as a Falcon,” his favorite pun. Only my father’s idea of spending quality time is to take me out for donuts. We go each morning when he gets back from the gym and I’ve just woken up, my pores already gaping. We push our napkins around the tabletop, my legs sticking to the booth, the pores acting like suction cups, and we chat. My father and I share a gift for small talk, anecdotes that sound revealing, embellishments. Making his interview on ESPN-2 into a mini-epic.
Lisa Kane does not tell elegant anecdotes but she’ll talk about anything and when she’s had some wine she’ll talk about everything, especially those things I wish she wouldn’t, like how moving her into my father’s house was a breeze and was my mother doing alright, because Lisa Kane was so sad to hear that she was having another divorce.
I tell a story about Catherine the Great and her many lovers, about how the lovers got younger as Catherine got older and how they all got nice little dachi in the country to live in once they had served their time. My father tells me that my Russian history class must have been really in-depth.
The next morning my father leaves the small talk up to me and picks idly at his Boston Cream, waiting for me to run out of freshman year anecdotes that are appropriate to tell him. After I do we just sit, silent, for an entire minute, my father opening his mouth three separate times and letting it hang there. Then he tells me a story about when he met Shannon Sharpe.
Lying on top of the sheets that night I try to will my pores closed. I think about the cool of Seattle, of Russia. Catherine the Great in the Winter Palace, her skin a pore-less sheet, but all I can feel is my skin going on and on, stretching out, covering the bed. I hear the start of small noises from my father’s room and I reach up, twist my ears shut. I exhale and pull my skin back in until it’s a flawless surface, smooth, no dimples, no holes.