On Monday night I go to the gym, where I’m supposed to work out my shoulders and back, but mainly my shoulders, because they have been a weak point for a very long time and it’s getting really embarrassing. I’m doing a set of new exercises that I’ve never done before and this really stressing me out, making me walk around the gym looking lost, holding an iPhone up that’s playing fitness YouTube videos, trying to make sense of it all.
For my first exercise, which somebody somewhere named standing barbell military press, I need a barbell. There’s one barbell on an incline bench nearby, so I walk over to it and start picking it up. Then some guy comes back and tells me that he’s still using it. Then I stand there again more lost, but now also disappointed. Then I notice that my straight gym crush who’s using a different barbell on a different incline bench right next to me is trying to make cautious eye contact and catch my attention, but in a very tentative way, plus I’m wearing headphones and he can’t really talk to me.
This seems like it goes on for an eternity if the feeling in my lower abdomen is anything to go by, but in human time and space terms it’s probably only 2-3 seconds before he actually opens his mouth, I remove my left headphone and he asks me to spot him for one last set, and then I can have the barbell if that’s what I’m looking for. This is exactly what I’m looking for and a little bit more, so I mumble “sure” and I go stand behind him as he's doing one last set of incline chest press while I breathe in each time he exhales in agony in the general direction of my face.
My straight gym crush is about 6’3” tall, has very short, light brown hair and an outdoor tan, the face of a G.I. Joe action figure but with hesitant eyes, and a tight, muscular, yet lean upper body. He also has really big, strong legs, perhaps more muscular than his upper body, which is pretty much my favourite thing anyone can have, and I assign this to him playing some particular, highly imaginary sport that mainly utilises lower body strength, even though my friend TN says that I’m just making this up because I want this guy to be a masc jock who kills it at sports, but it’s just probably the way he’s built.
For this exercise he was going for six reps, he said, but he only manages five, with my assistance only needed for the last one. We quickly recover from this highly sexual activity (in my head only, but still) by removing the weights from the barbell together.
“How many do you want on?” he asks.
“None of them”, I say.
He takes one side and I take the other, and he really doesn’t have to do that, so I stutter “thank you” and “thank you so much” an inordinate amount of times, as he goes between the barbell and the weight rack.
Then we’re done and I’m about to remove the barbell and take it away and he walks up to me one last time with a face that hasn’t shown any expression throughout our interaction apart from physical strain as he was doing his exercise, offers his hand for a fist bump, which I incompetently return, and says:
I die a few deaths inside, and continue with my workout, both ecstatic and also devastated, in the way that you would feel if you knew you had just been touched by the hand of God…via a fist bump…while he called you “boss”, but having no way to tell if the experience will ever be repeated, or if that right there was your life peaking and you’re now faced with slow, excruciating drudgery until you finally expire thirty or forty years from now.
Later in the evening, I’m home alone and trying to pull myself away from refreshing Facebook and go to bed. It’s minutes before midnight.
I hear a knock on the door, and of course I know it’s my next-door neighbour (more about whom can be foundhere) and I seriously consider not answering, but she knocks again, more fervently this time, and I know this is just not going to go away.
I open the door and she storms in holding a candlestick. I am not making any of this up. She’s sorry she had to bother me, she says, unclear whether she’s more or less sorry compared to the other five times she did in the last couple of weeks with an urgent story of low-stake apartment building warfare somehow connected to her self-assigned role as neighbourhood watch official, but something really disturbing is happening and she needs my help.
I almost say, “what is it”, but in reality this is not a discussion where my input is needed, she can continue the dialogue for both of us just taking minor cues from my facial expressions or stance: half a raised eyebrow here, a minor shift of my eyeballs there, blinking, shifting the weight between my legs as I stand there otherwise inanimate, it all counts as my part of the conversation.
This time she tells me that she’s heard some noises and wants me to go investigate the apartment downstairs from hers, because she thinks someone is getting murdered very quietly, or having violent sex very quietly, both of which she thinks she can help with. I say no. She says, fine, if she goes downstairs and someone is getting murdered and she gets caught up herself I will have it on my conscience, and my silence must indicate that I’m fine with that, because she leaves, candlestick in hand and heads down the corridor.