Friday, August 20, 2010

The Magnet and the Church Mouse

My friend Amanda is a magnet.
The last time she visited Fern Forest, H and I took her to a
neighborhood Fourth of July party. I’ve never been so popular as when I was standing close to Amanda. Sitting by the pond, we were surrounded by men who wanted to hear about her travels to Asia and India and her work with the Peace Corps. Women got her talking about her stays at Kripalu and about growing up on the Jersey shore. She practices yoga and meditates. Sometimes she eats tofu and raw veggies. Sometimes she pigs out on ribs and bacon. Always she’s vivacious and beautiful.

She was getting off the subway at the East Broadway station, walking up the stairs on her way back from yoga class. Abner was coming back from a class, walking unusually slow.

"Are you okay?" Amanda said.

"Yes," he said. "Just trying to get in touch with my muscles."

Who was this compassionate woman? Who was this man so tuned in to his body?

They talked. Then he asked her to go swimming. He grew up on the Lower East Side and knows of an Olympic size pool that’s free, and he took her there. He’s a strong swimmer and I imagine he looks pretty good in a suit. He’s fit and his Dominican bronze skin and long curly black hair charmed her.

What a couple
they make. Blonde, cherubic Amanda is bubbly and funny with an underlying Jersey acerbic. Abner is pensive and exudes strength and wisdom. When I first met him, I checked his wrists for gang tattoos—he looked that dangerous.

“Are you in a gang?” I asked.

“No,” he s
aid, “I’m a church mouse.”

His father emigrated from the Dominican Republic and became a Pentecostal preacher on the Lower East Side, and Abner went with him to church every Sunday. When he was fourteen, Abner was riding on a flatbed trailer—a hayride with friends—and his foot got caugh
t in a wheel. He was pulled off the trailer and his body wrapped around the tire as the truck rolled over him. His bones were broken, but he told his mother, I’m going to recover from this.

Through faith and will, Abner fought back. He majored in philosophy in college and enrolled in seminary but decided he’d be better at teaching physical education. H
e knows how the body can respond to dedicated work, and he wants to pass on to young people what he has learned.

Amanda has a generous heart and is driven to do good in the world. Yesterday she got on a plane for Trieste, where she’ll teach in an international school for a year. Abner went to see her at Jersey shore. They said goodbye on the dock, where he boarded the ferry back to Manhattan. Did she see tears streaming down his cheeks? Maybe. He speaks a little Italian, and perhaps he’ll visit her. Amanda’s a magnet, and I know she’s going to attract new adventures. And maybe some old ones, too.

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