My grandpa is a country queen. He pageanteers, smiles and waves, smiles and waves. He works a crowd like no other, you can tell he’s been doing it his whole life. He’s a real ladies man, a womanizer, a tigeraso. At 76 years old, he’s still prowling, smooth talkin’ everyone from my optometrist to the lady who takes your height and weight at the doctor’s office. We have a medical ritual. He’s kind of obsessed with health, which is why my sister and I gave him a $50 gift card to the Vitamin Shop last Christmas. Ever since I could remember, he’s taken me to every doctor’s appointment, every eye exam, every pharmacist in Dallas.
I’ve only been to his house once when I was eight because “we the family” (referring to my parents and I) don’t associate with his new wife ever since his messy divorce from my grandma. We don’t like to acknowledge her name so we call her the cliche. She’s twenty years younger, careerless, with fake tits and a nose job to match. Instead of couches there were massage chairs, beige-y cheap leather and the armrests had that awful marbled pattern that Warby Parker calls “Marzipan Tortoise,”which for some reason are their best selling frames. There was a blood pressure monitor that rested on the coffee table next to old magazines and newspapers. Because of its compact and portable size, my grandpa used to bring it to my house on weekday mornings. Before driving me to school, he would take my blood pressure then squeeze three spoonfuls of sweetened condensed milk into his coffee. After making sure that his granddaughter’s systolic blood pressure was a healthy 102, he made me say three Hail Mary prayers.
I’m twenty-two now and no longer a practicing Catholic, but my grandpa still takes me to the doctor because we get to skip the line after all the years of flirting with the nurses. He drives me there in a white Toyota Camry that smells like dried prunes, and even sits in the room while Dr. Lee checks my heartbeat, swaths my ears, etc. With a tongue depressor and latex powder midway down my throat, Dr. Lee asks my grandpa, “When do you want your next testosterone shot?” I almost gag.
He was cheating on my grandma the entirety of their marriage, and apparently isn’t faithful to the cliche either. Which explains the testosterone shots, the health fads, the Rogaine, the constant trips to Louis Vuitton…
It doesn’t explain the fucking I heard from the other room.
I sunk into his massage chair and dug my hand into a jar of vitamin gummies. I stuffed a handful of grape and strawberry and peach flavored ones in my mouth. I turned on the chair and felt its knuckles roll into my spine. I tried to drown out the moans with my chewing and the rumble of the massage. I thought of how much Vitamin C I had just swallowed. I thought of my grandma, the cliche, and my mom, their health is at the expense of his.