THE DUSTY Roman apartment was on the fifth floor, up dozens of marble steps, but I could still hear the people and traffic churn below. My mom and dad pored over maps of the city, while my brother and I were standing together with our pant legs rolled up. The horns and hollering punctuated my brother’s words in the cramped living room.
“Yeah, calves,” he said. “You either have them or you don’t.”
We inspected our legs side by side. Brian’s calves were slim, sort of like our maternal relatives. Unlike that part of the family; however, his chest, shoulders, and back were broad. Our dad was from good Italian peasant stock.
A woman belligerently yelled in Italian down the street, something I hadn’t quite gotten used to, and I almost missed what my brother was saying as he scrutinized my legs.
“You have good calves.” He gestured. “Get up on your toes.”
I pulled my pants up higher and stood on my toes.
Brian bent down and poked one. “Yeah, that’s like one solid muscle. You can’t even really pick out the definition between the two muscle groups. It’s like a slab.”
I beamed as we both glanced over to our parents.
Even though the outside was a bustle of noise, the apartment became quiet. Mom peered over her reading glasses as her voice sliced through the silence. “Beth has Grandma’s legs.”
She meant my maternal grandmother, the one I resemble. She also meant Ben, not Beth, but I hadn’t told them about that yet. I didn’t want to be accused of spoiling the trip for everyone.
We both turned to Dad. He was already pulling up his pant leg and waddling over to us, displaying his calf.
“Yeah,” Brian said. “Look at that. Slab of muscle, just like yours.”
Dad and I flexed side by side.
Horns blared down on the street, and a truck rolled by, or at least an automobile as big as a truck. They didn’t really have trucks here like they did in the US.
We were contend to compare them, but Mom shook her head. “Beth gets her calves from her grandmother.”
Brian frowned at my dad’s calves, and then at mine.
“Both grandmas have very big calves,” Mom said.
The only thing that kept me from wilting on the spot, was how Brian lifted a brow at me. At least he could see it too. Minus Dad’s thick black hair, we had the same calves. The exact same. I wasn’t certain if Mom was going on like this because she was trying to convince us my calves looked feminine. I wasn’t certain why that was important to her.
The heat of the Roman apartment finally caught up with me. I broke out into a sweat and trained my gaze to the floor. My calves didn’t look feminine. They were big and bulky, and they were just like Dad’s. I liked them looking like Dad’s.
But what if he didn’t like my legs looking like his?
With a dry mouth and heart skipping a beat, I couldn’t look at him. I didn’t want to see his face. I decided I didn’t want to know his opinion of our calves. I didn’t want to know his opinion of me. But more than anything, I didn’t want to look up and see rejection. What if I was a bastard in his eyes?