***A work in progress.***
There’s multiple calculations made in the gym. For example, how much weight and how many reps? A lot of the calculations are subjective and intuitive, based on how you think you feel on any given day.
But I’m more of a cardio than a weights guy so my calculations have more to do with distance and speed and incline on the treadmill where it’s not always just a matter of how you feel, it’s also a matter of how much time you’ve got.
It was Friday, usually a slow afternoon in the corporate gym. I’m a pleb that works a few exits down the freeway at the hospital but their gym sucks so I interlope over at the business center among the business formal and casuals and a noted absence of scrubs and maintenance guys in grey uniforms and weirdos cackling about the coming summer’s Iron Maiden concert.
I was 30 minutes or so into running when the slouchy fat guy came in. It was just us. He’s short with a pot belly and ill-fitting slacks and polos and the constant expression of an overworked mule, which is kinda odd since there doesn’t seem to be much physical labor going on in the Corporate Center.
Thankfully, he grabbed the treadmill on the opposite end of the treadmill queue. Before turning on a tired pace, he took a remote for one of the 2 TVs per 6 machines. He’s been in there enough times that I know he prefers FoxNews. But today he’s 5 treadmills removed and even though I have in earbuds, it still sparks in me a reaction sorta like the reaction to AIDS back in the 80’s. I never even want to be in the presence of that shit. For some stupid reason, I resent it.
But his shit isn’t that much different than anybody else’s shit. Like the old women who’d be in any minute to turn the TV in front of us to some Michael Strahan daytime pablum. Some entertainment shit more bland than unflavored yogurt. Or their other favorite, some nostalgia channel that seems to broadcast nothing but reruns of 40-year-old game show idiocy. Idiocy that’s not even ironic, just musty and stale and idiotic. Some might say it’s nostalgia for a simpler or better time but the cynic in me says it’s nostalgia for a stupid time in which, obviously, they’ve not outgrown.
Still, I wondered if that fella down there fancies himself some sorta symbol of stoic and understated eminence. That’s the way they usually fancy themselves, at least in my experience. And it’s not just them, it’s the other ones too, digesting who they are along with their lunch on the treadmill at noontime. If it’s not FoxNews then it’s The Daily Beast or some other bullshit that feeds to them the junk food version of who they are. But maybe it’s not a version of who they are, maybe it’s what they are: Swanson Hungry Man friend chicken, not Gus’s World Famous or grandma’s homemade. Nothing close to authentic.
Fuck it. I dunno. And I shouldn’t care. I shouldn’t care about anybody’s politics any more than I care about those women who watch reruns of Tick Tack Dough or whatever the fuck it is I try blocking out with Judas Priest and heart beats per minute. I can’t assume their inherent stupidity any more than I can assume his arrogance or certitude or a presumed superiority of his beliefs about Israel or the President or the latest celebrity political flub or gun control or feminism.
He points the remote, then turns on the treadmill and lumbers along like he’s been used and abused by the world – a world weary warrior with a runt of a beard, a loose fitting, untucked crinkled green polo that’s all made up for by the prowess of his belly – a belly that drags him on an apathetic, plodding midday march to nowhere – literally. Maybe that’s his game – the wearisome, pitiable soul.
I was already about two miles in on a 11 minute mile pace at 0.5 incline. The goal was 3 full miles, then another two on the elliptical. I had about 40 minutes before 1:50 p.m. I could make it.
Then she walked by from behind. I got just a second to process it before she turned the corner to the locker rooms.
I noticed the hair and shape. A good deal can be assessed, even in a split second snapshot from just the reverse view. Definitely female. A smidgen of marshmallowy waist pudge. Hair of natural color or a really good (expensive) dye-job. And I detected the shoes. I got a thing for shoes. Not a fetish, by any means, but something I always notice, as if they necessarily make a statement. They do for me and to me, at least – a statement of style and character and cultural awareness. Like everybody knows (or should know) how Sketchers are for geeks and chumps and that no real athlete wears Reebok anymore. Reeboks aren’t really even for show anymore. They’re just tacky. They are the wannabe Buick to Lexus, Lincoln, Cadillac or Acura.
This one was wearing Converse All-Stars. Classic, low-cut and black and cool. No slip-on Chucks. No 8-inch soles or high tops that go up to the knees. Not camo or pink. Just classic, black Chuck Taylors with white strings. I assumed, because I wanted to, I guess, they were real Chucks, not the Levi’s abominations masquerading as the real thing (And for fuck’s sake, how pathetic!!!! Just stick to jeans if all you can do with shoes is rip off something else). It was Friday. It had to be Casual Friday at the Corporate Center. Those shoes were unconventional for the office. They were unconventional for the gym. I was instantly intrigued by this curvy enigma in her classic canvas sneakers.
I wondered if she was going in the locker room to change. Maybe she’d come out in some tight and sexy florescent gear to join us on the treadmills. Then I’d try to check her out good without being too creepy or obvious. Not that I had a shot at her or wanted to fuck or even beat off to her later. It was far more innocent. See, the best policy is to try to keep things real. For what am I? Let’s be honest. I got saddlebags under the eyes and mid-life man-titties that would be the envy of any budding 12-year-old. To an educated twenty-something, I’ve got less appeal than an old Ford Taurus. And nowadays I couldn’t beat off to just a thought anyway, even if my life depended on it. There was a time with the vigor of youth when just the thought of sex was enough. But nowadays I gotta see it to feel anything at all. It’s a pity. It’s a crying-shame in any number of ways.
The prurient interest is one more of nostalgia than lust – something more than indifference, for sure, but, knowing it’s out of reach – no malice toward its loss. It’s sorta like a TV show you loved as a kid, characters that have since been turned into brands that have been used and abused. There’s reason for hating what it’s become but the sanctity of what it was still remains in spite of its evolved perversion. It still exists in its pure, original form to be appreciated or not – by you, in passing, or someone else. There’s no anger when it still exists as it was meant to so long as you’ve moved on to appreciate new things as they were meant to be appreciated as they were then or are now.
So I told myself I just wanna know what a girl at the business center wearing Chuck Taylors really looks like. I’m a near 50 crypto-hipster, after all, and I needed to give life to this enigma through her detail, not the details of my imagining.
I figured if she just came through to use the looker room as a restroom (as many do, leaving a heavy hanging shit stank that’s always a pleasant gift when you go in there short of breath and gulping air), she’ll be out within 7 minutes max. I figured 3-4 minutes to piss; 5-7 minutes to shit. Of course, there’s always anomalies. My last girlfriend took a minimum 10 minutes just to piss anywhere, usually closer to 15 minutes. She was a germophobe. I think I asked her once why she didn’t just hover but it was probably one of those things not worth pushing. Some things you just accept, like her non-hovering, which, thankfully, I don’t recall her trying to justify on any sort of moral ground. Thank God for that, which is probably why I let the whole “practicality of hovering” thing go.
Anyway, I figured if Ms. Chuck Taylors wasn’t out by 7 minutes, she’d probably be out to join us in working out. But before the song she entered on ended, she was back out. Probably 2-3 minutes. Same clothes. Must have just been in there pissing. In the second of her passing, she gave a pleasant smile. Nothing to read anything into. Just common courtesy, which seemed more of a regular practice there than in the hospital. The gentry, on the whole, are almost always better groomed and more well-mannered. She wasn’t beautiful for her age, but she was beautiful for my age. So, for me, that made her beautiful.
I finished that 3rd mile but was, by then, too consumed with thinking about her and those shoes and all the other gym calculations to finish the final two miles. Even those old Flaming Lips tunes, dismissed years ago but re-embracing me like an old lover to carry me through that last mile, weren’t enough to expel it all. Self-conception and weights and distance and time and game show stupidity and how long it oughta take for a lady to shit were simply too much. I’d lost focus on the workout. I was outta that zone and those fucking shoes had dropped me into another.
I resigned myself to just the 3 miles. A major miscalculation.
“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…….”.
But fuck that pretentious horseshit. This isn’t Robert Burns or Steinbeck or anything close. It’s a middle-aged hipster ogling twenty-something girls and hoping that if one gets on the treadmill beside him, the aromatic tinge of ass and feces from the sweat lubricating his taint don’t waft too far in her direction. It’s a signal of the friction of vigorously rubbing ass, not unlike the faint scent of smoke from vigorously rubbing sticks. It’s the stupid analogy of ideology to frozen TV dinner fried chicken. That’s what and all this is.
But I didn’t wanna forget about this stuff so I left the gym early so I could get down the freeway to plug in and make notes in a corner of the hospital’s cafeteria where the maintenance guys and the Slow Joe who watches Popeye cartoons on his phone all hang too. I was definitely wrong about 3 miles on the treadmill and another 2 on the elliptical. That turned out to be a bad calculation, just like I’ve probably been wrong about those women and the fat dude and anybody else in the gym too, including me and my idiotic moral indignation at Levi’s sneakers.
And I’m probably wrong about her. Maybe she was just in there fixing her hair or blowing her nose instead of taking a piss. And somewhere deep down I know those shoes don’t really say much of anything about her either, though I don’t want to admit it.