Gym

“Oh no, man, that’s awful. That’s shit fuck-face.”

My situation was bad but only Enrico really knows how to express the male emotion.

“What should I do?” I say.

“I don’t know, man. I don’t know.”

Enrico and I were seated at a table at our favourite bar. I was sipping my beer slowly; that’s the way I like it. Enrico’s was almost finished. I’m more open with him that anyone, my good friend; he can look into my soul only because I bare it to him.

The ‘situation’ was what happened just the other day at the gym. I probably made the biggest mistake of my life and I won’t listen to Enrico who likes to say that “there are no mistakes.”

To make a long story short, I took my new girlfriend to the gym I’m a member of. My plan was that we’d work out separately for an hour or so and then go out for dinner. Let me tell you about Jade. She is almost in a different league from me. Just that close. Five foot nine – and I’ve always liked tall women. Long dark brown hair, although she showed me a photograph when she had cut it short and I was like, wow. You know the character in the cartoons whose eyes pop out of his head. Course I tried to keep cool, and said, “Nice. You look nice.” But I kind of lost all sensation between my head and my feet; that’s one of my problems: I’m too hormonal.

In the beginning. Meaning, how we got started. Simple: Internet dating. I got to looking, even before my divorce, and noticed all kinds of very good looking single women. When the divorce finally went through, and having given it as long a time as any red-blooded male can give, meaning three weeks, I went to work, writing a very detailed and honest account of myself, choosing the best photograph I could find (the one with me holding that loaf of bread that I baked, smiling cause it’s so large) and waited, mind you, not that long. Soon I had at least twenty profiles to look at, twenty women of all ages, backgrounds and education, sizes and sex appeal, if you know what I mean. Some of the profiles had absolutely terrible photos. I mean, what do you want, someone to answer you or what?

Jade’s photo was cute. She was standing in what is probably her apartment, twisting a braid of hair, leaning against a wall, smiling. In her profile she mentioned ‘working out’ but also reading and going to movies (like me) and sports (yeah!). But I would be lying if I didn’t also say that she was quite the looker. Tall for a Filipina. Long hair, but I already told you that.

Anyway, I answered a few of the women, went on a couple of dates for coffee. But when I met Jade, I mean, like, that was it. For the time being. No other dates, no answering emails – only Jade, if she would have me.  The gym idea might have been good – for later. Like a few months later. But like a klutz I brought it up on our second date. We had gone to a movie; she wanted to see Les Miserables and I thought, sure why not? Then afterwards we crossed Atwater Street and went into the McDonalds for a coffee and I said something like, “I’m going to the gym tomorrow after work. I could take you as a guest.” She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Sure”.

I should tell you that I’m new to the gym, a member only since October. I didn’t need to lose weight or anything like that but just, like, grow muscles. I had a coach for a couple of classes and he showed me which machines to use, etc. etc. and I thought that I’d be OK, especially if Jade was going to work out separately.

I should also mention that I was seriously beginning to fall for this girl. I say ‘girl’ but, you know, she’s about 40. But for a guy who’s 58, I can be forgiven, no? In case you don’t know about Filipino women, they’re very easy-going, lots of fun but I think that deep down they’re very conservative. I decided to take my time with Jade, not push it and I was glad that I did.

Anyway, at the gym things were going OK. I noticed her a couple of times, running on the treadmill, doing a few sit-ups, and I was, like, wow, ‘She’s with me.’ She was wearing shorts and with those long legs… I mean, at the gym that I go to – I don’t know about the other ones in town – they pretty much leave the girls alone. The guys don’t stare; they’re, like, polite. But I did notice a few heads turn when Jade walked by, but I like working out and focussed on what I had to do: build them muscles.

Then, near the end, I was at the pec machine. I can’t do too many pounds there; maybe pushing a bit at 40. I never look at myself in the mirror. I think I look old, like my father, the way I breathe heavily every time I exert. I looked up and there she is right beside me.

“Hi,” I say, “How’s it going?”

“Good,” she says, “You?”

“Good,” I say, but I don’t feel too comfortable because she might see that I’m only at 40 lbs. although I am more impressive at other stations.

(When I say ‘impressive’ don’t get to thinking I’m anywhere close to the other guys here. They may or may not show their muscles but that doesn’t mean they’re not strong. What is striking is how many pounds or kilos these fellas can lift. Many more than me. I’m not competitive; I know that with time I’ll get there, too. I just enjoy the ‘lift’, the strain, the weakness becoming strength, the feeling of ‘flow’.)

I pretend that I have finished my set although I really just started.

“Finished?” I ask.

“I was thinking of doing this one. Do you mind?”

“No, course not,” I say and stand up and let her sit down.

“Wait,” she says and gets up and puts the pin in at 60!

It all happens too fast for me for anything to register. Any emotion. Only, “What’s this? 60 lbs?”

And she starts swinging her arms towards her chest. One, two. One, two. At 60. Oh, she’s a pro at the gym. I didn’t know.

When she’s done her three sets of 12, there are little beads of sweat on her forehead which, under better circumstances I would have loved to kiss off. However, I’m super shocked at how strong little ole Jade is.

“I see that you’re quite the pro at the gym,” I say as she stands up and I hand her her towel.

Like many Filipina girls when they’re shy or excited or embarrassed, she laughs a little, her voice a soft tinkle like a little Buddhist bell, but I notice a serious gleam in her eye. “Oh, I don’t know about that,” she says, but before I could say anything she’s already in the women’s changing room.

All this I told to Enrico at the bar.

“Oh, man,” he says again, “You’re totally fucked.”

“I don’t think it’s as bad as all that,” I say, but I agree with him entirely.

“Can you please stop shaking your head?” I ask and he does, only because he’s got up to order another beer.

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