Maybe I should have worn different pants; these ones are too tight, but the other ones show my ankles. Or maybe the lout behind me is noticing the holes in my blue “Big Bear Lake” shirt. I tug it down.
I imagine throwing daggers at my roommate Libby, jogging on the treadmill next to mine. I blame her. She’s the one who made me get my membership to 24 Hour Fitness.
I hate her. I hate the gym. I hate my life.
I can hear Libby’s voice saying, “Just imagine how much better you will feel after we’re done working out.”
Oh, I can imagine. I’ve been imagining being here—sweating on the treadmill, smelling the people around me, hearing grunts from the man on my right—since the drive over.
I turn up my iPod and mouth the words to “I Want to be Sedated” by the Ramones.
I breathe, in and out, and look down at my magazine. I’m determined to finish the article, even though I can’t see the micro font and I’ve forgotten what it’s about.
I have twelve more minutes of torture before I can get off. I scan the gym. The free weights station is packed with roid users. The Neanderthal brows and acne-pocked faces give it away.
A group of trainers is lurking around two women, who are wearing more spandex than Richard Simmons. Not that I begrudge the attention they are getting. I would rather die than have one of those skivvy men stretch me out.
Libby nudges me. We’re done. “Thank you, Jesus,” escapes audibly through my lips.
The elliptical is next—Hurray!
After a couple of minutes, my iPod emits a loud beep and goes dead. I keep the ear buds in.
The empty machine next to mine is taken by a guy wearing a lovely cut-away t-shirt. I wonder what
would possess a man to cut the sleeves off and slice a gaping hole down each side.
I see nipple when he bends down to pick up a pen in between our machines. “Is this yours?” he asks.
I jerk my head from side to side, shrug, and grunt simultaneously. He smiles and puts the pen on the ledge in front of us.
I can feel my face burning; burning red with indignation.
I hop off the machine and walk towards the locker room. I can hear Libby screaming her protests behind me, but thanks to the ear buds, I can pretend like I don’t.
As I walk across the gym, the thirty sets of eyes bore into me. The urge to take a shower overpowers me until I remember where I am. I cross my arms in an attempt to close myself off from this place, and think happy, non-gym thoughts.
A bulky man in tiny shorts and a spaghetti-strap top blocks the entrance to the locker room. How convenient. Before I can protest, his female doppelganger—tiny shorts, spaghetti straps, and all—walks over and says, “For a second, I thought you were going in there.” He laughs and grabs a 50 pound dumbbell. “Yeah, I was just going to pop my head in there and check things out.” I utter an obscenity and pass over the threshold.
No, not again. I should have been prepared, but I wasn’t. Three feet from the entrance a woman in her late sixties is squatting—stark naked. The rolls and crevices and stretch-marks are like a car wreck: I want so badly to look away, but I can’t. She turns her back towards me, drops the towel in her hands, and bends down to pick it up. I dry heave. I totter forward and steady myself on my locker.
Libby strides in and halts. She shakes her head disapprovingly at the exhibitionist and opens our locker. She breaks the silence by asking why I left. I put my head in the locker and extract my bag. “I’m just tired,” I manage.
I am left to my own devices while she uses the bathroom. I focus on the opposite direction of the nudist, who by the noises emitting from her general direction is putting on clothes. I look at the sink area and see a woman curling her hair. Nice. She puts down the curling iron and picks up a roll of saran wrap. I’m intrigued. What could she possibly be doing with clear saran wrap? Why, wrapping it around her stomach and hips, of course!
I decide my best bet is to look at the floor. Libby comes out momentarily and I see her eye the plastic woman with rueful curiosity. We exchange smiles, and I bite my knuckle to keep from laughing.
We walk back through the gym, the same eyes staring. Libby looks back and makes eye contact with a ruddy man in basketball shorts. “Hey there, cutie,” he says and waves. “Oh my gosh.” Libby exclaims. She grabs my arm and drags me to the front door.
I push it open with unnecessary force and we start to run. We’re laughing as we reach the car and get in.
“Seriously, Libby. Did we have to go at night when everyone’s there?” I ask. She starts the car and pulls out. “Well, what time do you want to go tomorrow.”
I don’t want to go. I hate the gym. Why doesn’t she get that?
I sigh. “How about noon?”