GAP, noun \’gap\ :
(1) a difference, especially an undesirable one, between two views or situations
(2) an incomplete or deficient area
(3) an assailable position
Katie Ledecky carves water into shards as the construction men shatter the street outside our house, hunting for the source of the leak. The excavator’s teeth gnash asphalt while our dirty dinner dishes languish in piles in the sink since we’re forbidden from turning on the faucets while they toy with the pipes.
With our surrounding ground rumbling, crumbling, and caving in, our family tree is temporarily replanted. We spread our warped branches across the couch. Home from grad school for the summer, my younger sister shifts her eyes up and down from her iPhone to the television screen. Mom pauses balancing her checkbook towards the end of each race to cheer for the swimmers, as if they can hear her, while Dad reclines with his laptop in his lap in the slumped corner of the cushions he has always preferred.
I’m visiting from Brooklyn, where I’ve spent the past three years since college graduation. I’ve arrived at the same time as both the Summer Olympics and the sinkhole that’s oozing yellow-green murk into the gutter. I perch on an arm of the sofa, not quite committed to sitting but not going anywhere, either.
Mom’s whole torso tilts forward as she shrieks. “Go, ladies, go!” This communal spectating is its own homecoming. My sister swam competitively throughout our shared childhood and we spent every sticky, summer Saturday hollering her name from different pool decks. She couldn’t make out our voices with her head submerged underwater but that was never the point.
We flailed and screeched at the races we could not control, sharply aware that a mere half-second shaved off a single stroke could be the difference between winner and loser.
I never understood exactly what the point was. I was too painfully unathletic and too uncomfortable with the overall concept of athletic rivalry. It seemed slightly delusional: pitting goggle-decked…