You pay $10 a month in membership fees. In addition to of course $30 for the first 3 months, something they call “annual fees” and a $60 up-front, joining fee that you gladly ate with an ambitious smile. To your count, this comes out to roughly $22.50 per month, which is $2 more than the gym up the road, but this one has a sauna, which is important to you, and $10 a month just sounds like more of a bargain.
The trainer at the front desk greets you with a smile and a nod because your headphones are in, turned down to their lowest setting, but in at that. She is pretty, golden-eyed and blonde. Her hair drifts below her waistline in back and around her shoulders in front. She wears a black quarter-zip, which you used to refer solely to as a “pullover” until the majority of your friends chose “quarter-zip” instead, so you melted in and conformed like a school-aged sprout, frantic to fit in. She smiles a freckly grin, one that is easy and sleek, and you assume that she must drink her coffee from a mug, under a blanket, to the tone of tranquil jazz, rather than in her car on the way to her job, fuel for the task of provoking others to change themselves by any means necessary. You consider what you might say to her given the change, but decide that you would imaginatively ask about your membership, or some function of a machine in a nervous stupor, so you rationalize your silent passing with the rallying cry “I’m just here to work out” and settle for 3, completely-not-weird checks on her during the rest of your workout to get just a glimpse of sunlight personified.
You noticed that the 2 incline benches are already taken, so you claim one of the 3 flat benches available-this is the first wrench in your attempt to maintain a consistent schedule. You follow a workout plan that insists on doing incline bench before flat bench, and you consider the author of it, a native of your home state, and how he could, perchance, wonder in to this very gym on a Monday morning at 8:23 am, recognize your workout as his own, and silently, and between sets of his own, criticize you with a disapproving head shake and a frown that doesn’t quite turn downward at the edges the way normal frowns do, but instead crinkles together as would a poorly sutured gash.
You now turn your music up to its highest setting. You listen to Nirvana, a legacy habit from your athletic days, which now suffices primarily during gym hours, and on nights where you’ve consumed enough alcohol to sedate a large dog, and feel edgy, and nonchalant, and unapproachable and smoke cigarettes on your balcony, the very things that took your grandfather-you tend to throw the rest of the pack away come morning.
To your left, on the leg press machine is a short-and-wide, early 30-something black woman with purple hair and a sort of florescent-camo, purple and green pair of leggings that seemed to be about a size too small for her, but it seemed to be that her confidence and bravado made them fit regardless. She stood, leaned rather, left arm at a 90-degree angle rested on the platform used to push the machine upwards, right arm extended vertically, holding her phone screen-wise towards herself, consumed in a broadcast of her own face on what seemed to be either Instagram Live or Facebook Live. Her gestures toward the screen indicate a pep-talk, a completely-straightened hand in half-orbit around the wrist, facial expressions tightening and loosening in expressive variance, small, supportive smiles supplementing every third or fourth exchange. You scrutinize from a distance, speculating on how ridiculous, and pompous, self-indulgent she looks, how her celebrity is contained to only herself. Presumably nobody was watching her live display, and she was almost-certainly speaking to herself. What you failed to consider is how she may very-well be (and almost surely is judging by her appearance) a considerably sad, and broken, and attention-starved individual, whose attention from the one or two souls who view her broadcast (most-likely kind and supportive friends) may be the very black balloon to the serum, the sweet nectar that deters her from plunging headlong towards eternity, from some elevated surface or high-rise structure. You feel bad now and give her the benefit of the doubt.
You move from the free-weight section, upstairs to the cardio area. You find a treadmill, one of presumably 100 treadmills in the building, furthest from the next-nearest gym-goer and begin a light warmup jog, unsure of what you’re warming up for, and unsure of how your workout-program designer would react to look up from seducing the girl at the front desk and see you on a treadmill-the very prototype of machines designed for folks too intimidated by the rest of the iron-clad wilderness that is the modern, large-building gym. From your perch above the section that formerly employed your effort, you see between 6 and 13 people, who’s variety is reminiscent of a dozen-donut box after telling the cashier at Dunkin Donuts to “mix em up” which is of course the smoothest and most aloof way to order a dozen donuts at Dunkin Donuts.
You waft back and forth between states of people-watching, and consuming Cobain’s bloody yelps for assistance-which it’s now clear were in fact just that. You study the efforts of your peers as they exert themselves through states of orgasmic struggle, with intensity found when one does something they haven’t done in a very long time, like change a tire or undo the knob of a propane tank from a gas-grill. Seemingly inaudible lyrics crash crudely into your skull, surely harmful to both your eardrum and temporal lobe turning lyrics like “rape me” and “I swear that I don’t have a gun” (which he did), into artistic manifestations of a man gone mad, a conscious on fire.
You notice a patron who is the very display of everything you find agitating about the human race. He is late-30s (presumably), bald by choice, save short stubble in the back, somewhere between 6’ and 6’3, bristled face, tight expression upon it, eyes lit-low from the presence of a form-fitting, New Era ballcap sporting an Atlanta Braves logo which in a literary and representative world was symbolic of his regard for the late-90s, the last time the Braves were relevant and presumably the last time he was as well. You assume that he’s the type of guy who still throws his empty fast food drink cups out the window after finishing, or the type of guy who asks his wife why dinner isn’t ready when he returns home from work, or the type of guy who threatens to sue after a minor fender-bender. He stares in the mirror between sets, moving his hips to-and-fro as if lacking a crucial vertebra, suggesting exhaustion from the maximum effort he wished everyone to acknowledge he’d given in his previous set of incline dumbbell bench press. He looks around to see who is watching him, and notices your judgmental gaze, and you share a near 3 second bout of animalistic, and masculine posturing during which you feel your shoulders subconsciously pull backwards and your chest forward, he returns to his endeavors, and you grin arrogantly, victorious in your primal engagement-you avert your eyes elsewhere.
You move on from the treadmill, wiping it down kindly and with-sufficient attention, and repel the stairs toward the locker room. The sauna is full, not completely but full-enough to be un-enterable by any self-respecting straight man below the age of 50. You remove your shirt and shoes, placing them in a locker that is clean on a visual level, but surely contaminated in a micro-organistic context. You step to the scale, setting it to a presumable weight and step on. It clanks upwards with the very sound of disappointment, and the bodily purist in you shutters at the beer-and-pizza fueled debauchery that was the previous weekend. You step off the scale, You sigh, You shrug, You recover your shirt and shoes, You will be back again tomorrow.