Brighter. That’s what I think I promised at the end of this morning’s post. Something a bit brighter. Perhaps less dark might work better. Forget the end of the world, just wipe it from your mind. Might never happen. I’m moving on with my life and by that I mean I’ve just come back from the gym. It was my first time back because I figured that the reopening weekend would be stuffed with gym bunnies and muscle fuckers, all stood around comparing glutes and swapping lockdown stories, aware but not concerned that they’re getting in the way just like they used to. Give it a few days, I reasoned, and pick the right time and it should be safe and quiet enough and, in one of those rare comet like events, I was right.
Such is my antipathy towards the social culture of the gym that mindless chit chat was never going to be the thing I’d miss. In fact antipathy is far too even handed a word; it suggests I am disinterested when in fact I am actively interested – interested in avoiding any kind of meaningful contact, because that gets in the way of the real purpose of the gym – getting and keeping in shape. The truth of lockdown is that you only had a few options and the main two were fit or fat. Outwardly I’ve managed to maintain more of the former but I am a man of habit and so the thought of sweating it out in some gym form or other never drifted too far away. Besides, it’s not cheap.
When I arrived I was greeted by a young lady wearing a visor who cheerily asked how I was. I cheerily responded that I was OK and rather pointlessly pointed out that we at least were both still alive, which if anything served the unintended purpose of cutting the conversation before round one had even got going. I probably went cross eyed as she pointed a plastic gun at me and took my perfectly fine temperature, and then I was in. No hassle. Lured by a silent and invisible siren I strode purposefully over to the only stair climber available and mounted it, whilst doing so realising I had forgotten to bring my own towel and would therefore have to wipe myself down with industrial toilet paper. In my head it didn’t matter because I was there to break myself in gently. It is a fool who goes back to the gym and thinks they can just pick up where they left off.
And I am that fool. Within minutes I was jacking up the pace and setting new targets and before long those targets weren’t far off the targets I was setting way back in the middle of March when I did this three times a week, and then not much longer after that I was coated in a layer of sweat (calm yourself) and had kicked stair climber arse in emphatic fashion. It was hard but it wasn’t that hard, or no harder than it used to be, and that was quite an uplifting feeling; knowing that I had kept up a workable level of fitness (liver, lungs and kidneys not included) all this time. I’m not particularly proud, just pleased, and as I glanced with a mild shiver of triumph around the place I began to appreciate what real antipathy looks like.
Being back in the gym also reminded me how much I like to people watch. I’m definitely not proud about that but it is something I do. Anyone will do. I was pleased in my own insular way to see people that I hadn’t seen in months. Familiar strangers and the benign, tepid comfort they can bring. There was the jovial woman with a vest that said ‘MORE CARDIO’ but still needed to work on the suggestion, and then the large, bearded chap whose t-shirt barked ‘Don’t Stop!’ but who clearly didn’t appreciate that you can’t stop if you haven’t started yet. As expected large areas were cornered off and it was quite comforting (to me, at least) that the cafe area was closed because you shouldn’t go to the gym for a chai fucking latte. Good to crack the ice though, but once I had moved to other machines I quickly got fed up of wiping down everything I touched so I just gave up and went home. And let’s be bright minded about this, as promised – there could be worse things to have missed the comfort of: bestiality, genocide, a chronic crack habit, Hollyoaks. I’ll just have to see how I feel in the morning. And maybe lay off the crack for a few more days.
G B Hewitt. 28.07.2020