Outside the shower at the gym I heard, “Hey, can I borrow your phone?”
The sound of the rushing water made it hard to hear. Is somebody asking another person if they can borrow their phone? Who takes their phone to the showers?
“Hey, man, can I borrow your phone?” I hear again. I turned off the water.
“Are you talking to me?” I called out beyond my shower stall.
I pulled back the curtain. A hand from the next stall was sticking out of the shower next door, cupped like they expected me to pour soap in it.
“Can I borrow some soap?”
“Oh, soap. I thought you said phone.”
Who borrows soap?
“Here, take the whole bottle.”
I left quick.
The Conversationalists are usually two women or men who sit around on the equipment like it is a grouping of living room furniture. Rarely do they lift any weights or use the machines. Most of the time, they sit and talk about everything under the sun except the task at hand. Going to the gym is more of a social occasion than a fitness goal. The gym should go ahead and put a lounge area in the workout rooms to make it easier for The Conversationalists to relax.
Now that my various hospital stays have subsided — at least for now — I decided to join a gym. My goal is to lose the weight I gained while healing, and hopefully some more.
My gym has three long rows of elliptical machines, stair-steppers, and treadmills facing a bank of TVs on the wall. As is my habit, just like in 4th grade, I take the back row and begin observing people.
One married couple is entertaining because they work out together. They are young 30s-ish, in great shape, the kind of couple that probably met at the gym, married, had 2.5 kids and still work out together. The problem is, they are rarely apart. The hit the weight machines together, run the treadmills right next to each other, smiling at each other the whole time.
And God knows they are fit. I watched as they both ran at double my lethargic speed, like gazelles on the Serengeti, moving effortlessly. I barely work up a sweat, but it pours off their body from the hard effort they put in. The treadmills spin and churn under their fast feet, while mine moans along with my tired stride.
I try to distract myself from their physical superiority by immersing myself in the Jerry Springer show on one of the TVs. There seems to be a serious fight among the guests, and two women have pulled each other’s wigs off during a round of fisticuffs. Ten minutes later, I spy the fit couple still running at high speed. Their bodies are taught, muscles driving, sweat pouring. A lot of sweat. Their treadmills and the surrounding treadmills look like they were hosed down by the fire department.
I look again at the TV bank and settle on a show featuring a couple trying to decide from among three different houses. The first house has an exceptional wine cellar, the second has a great yard but lousy basement, and the third is historic and charming, but oh, my, it will take months to renovate the kitchen. What will they decide? They make an offer on the charming one, and I know they will soon be on another show called “Renovation Projects We Regret.”
Fit couple is sweating more than ever, the sweat rivers flowing off them, creating a small pond near their machines. Seven minutes later, the pond has become a lake. I see families of geese and ducks moving across the water, occasionally diving for fish.
As the home shopping show ends, the water has risen. My ankles are covered, but I keep walking. Some gym-goers have climbed up on the rails of their machines as the water moves ever higher. I look up to see a police helicopter flying low beneath the closing gap between ceiling and water level. A rumor spreads the police are looking for a family that tried to swim to the exit for safety, only to find they couldn’t open the door from the inside.
The water is up to my chest now. I wonder if I will get electrocuted. Fit couple keeps running, sweating, and smiling. They are holding hands now, looking into each other’s eyes across the treadmill divide. A small fishing boat pulls behind me, a man standing on the bow of the boat, casting into the area near the ab machines. I see a group of teenagers speed by in a water-ski boat near the from windows, two of them skimming the water behind taught ski lines. s
Finally, fit couple wind down their workout, their ocean of sweat filling the gym. You are supposed to wipe down a machine after using it, but I don’t think they will be able. The machines are seven or eight feet below the surface now. Might as well drain the place, hose it down with rubbing alcohol and set it on fire.
Like many people at the gym, Mr. My-Headphones-Are-Bigger-Than-My-Head is into listening to music while working out. To get the best sound, he uses only the best headphones possible. And to duplicate the live concert experience, he likes to use giant headphones that spread out from his head like moons on a planet that never escaped gravity enough to go fully into their own orbit.
I’m sick. My doctor says to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Sounds good, doc, and I’m sure I could get hours of restful sleep if I wasn’t sick.
As it is, I can’t get any sleep at all because every muscle, bone, ligament and sinew in my body aches with the flu.
Sure, I lay there, reading my phone, hoping the sweet lull of sleep comes to call. But the siren song is interrupted.
Just as I am drifting off, I feel a convulsion in my chest, and begin dry coughing for five minutes.
I give it another attempt, and then feel a sharp pain in my lower back because I’ve been sleeping in the same position trying to fall asleep for the last 17 hours.
Oh, restful sleep, where art thou?
I attempt to watch some TV to induce sleep, only to suffer through migraine headaches caused by daytime TV and C-SPAN.
If you can’t fall asleep to C-SPAN, you have very little hope.
Perhaps if I flipped over onto my stomach, sleep would come easier.
I turned over onto my stomach only to realize my face was buried in the pillow and I couldn’t breathe.
I scrunched up the pillow so that my chin was propped up and there was a space below my mouth for breathing.
Shortly the base of my neck began to cry out in pain as it locked up.
I turned back around to sleep on my back, wheezing into the night, thinking of the restful sleep that I was not getting.
Maybe I just need to watch a movie on my Amazon prime account. Okay, good news, here’s “Mulholland Drive,” which I’ve been meaning to see for years.
Oops, it’s not included in my Amazon prime account, but I can rent or purchase it for a reasonable fee.
The last thing I need is being sick to cost me even more money than it has. Have you seen the cost of drugs?
And I never know the right combination of drugs to buy.
Should I get a decongestant and a cold medicine? Should I purchase a multivitamin, or load up on B 10? The debate is giving me a bigger headache.
It’s 3 AM now, the TV is on but I can barely hear it due to the swelling in my ears. I’ve propped up various pillows under different body parts in order to relieve the bedsores.
My breathing is labored, coming in gasps and spurts, as I fight through a combination of head cold, flu and irritable bowel syndrome.
I’d like to help you out doc and follow your prescription for rest.
But my body fights with everything it’s got in order to keep from sleeping. I think my body is afraid that if it goes to sleep to help me out, it may never wake again.
For now, I’ll give you a reasonable sum to knock me unconscious with a rubber mallet.
“When you eat right, kids, you vibrate at a higher level.”
I like clicking on random Facebook Live videos coming over my feed. I clicked on one featuring a diet specialist. I need help here, so I’m open to new information.
“It’s true, folks, your body vibrates at a higher level when you eat right.”
My body vibrates? At a higher level?
How does that work? What if I am at the movies, and the people behind me say, “Excuse me, sir, your body is vibrating too much, could you turn it down? We can’t see the screen.”
What if I get pulled over by a police officer and she says, “Sir, your body is vibrating. Please step out of the car.”
What if I am applying for a job, and the interviewer says, “You look like a good fit, but your vibrating will freak out our clients.”
I need to lose weight, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with my body vibrating all over town.
I run for one hour every day, going as fast as I can for the first minute. Then I walk for 58 minutes and run as fast as I can for the last minute.