At 7 pm I was at the gym today and had to open at least three lockers before I found one empty. Goddamn it, why do people not use locks, for God’s sake? I wondered. Aren’t they afraid their stuff will get stolen? It’s certainly not out of consideration for others, since a locker without a lock usually means, in the Normal World, that the locker is empty. But in Gym World, you open it, find it full and have to open another and another before finding an empty one. How rude, I thought. I should steal stuff from these people just to teach them a good lesson.
Normally a small annoyance for me, today it was magnified. I was still reeling from last night’s dream, from the lovely words spoken by my ex, his touch and then having to wake up and say good-bye.
So swim was important. As I stripped to my underwear, then started to put on my Speedo I watched the woman around me parading around naked. There was a woman drying her hair at the mirror who was in her jeans and shoes but topless. I couldn’t help but notice the heart tattoo on her left shoulder. There was another, entirely nude, having a conversation about her son’s language skills with another woman who was fully dressed.
In Gym World, women are not as concerned with nudity.
I pulled the Speedo’s straps over my shoulders and noticed another Gym World characteristic: people were slobs. The place was a mess. A mat class had just ended, so there was clothing on the floor, benches were covered, and there was nowhere for a woman to sit. There was a girl, midtwenties, certainly old enough to know better, who had left her stuff everywhere while she went to dry her hair, as if it was okay to throw shit wherever she wanted. Her bag was on the floor, opened, with a shirt halfway out, her socks on the floor next to it, her pink hair band on the bench with her shampoo and her Cosmopolitan magazine. She was even using the rest of the bench for towels, totally oblivious to the people around her.
I watched her for a moment at the mirror, blowing her hair. She was wearing tight, low jeans that revealed the top of lavender underwear, and a matching lacy bra. Her hair was long and curly and she was taking great pains to bring it under control, to smooth it, straighten it, pulling a little hair at a time with her brush, wrapping it down and under and around her brush, placing the dryer just so in this painstaking way, taking longer for each wrap and roll than I took with my whole head of hair.
Finally, to the pool. Luckily, the pool was not overcrowded. The water was cold today, or perhaps the chill in my heart cooled the water. I pulled my hair back in a tight ponytail and put on my cap, one of those snug, head binding ones in blue, tucking my hair in.
Every time I swim, regardless of what is on my mind, I cry. My tears always come, help to relax just a little, releasing all the hurt and sadness and disappointment that welled inside me.
My life with men sucks, plain and simple. There seems to be one kind that haunts me: those, successful, older men, who come and go, love not enough to make them stay. Of course, there is the other kind of males in my life, whose love for me, already at 100 percent, I am unable to return.
I swam and got my rhythm and then rose out of the water, my arms turning to wings, busting loose, out through the ceiling and directly into the sky, leaving the gym and the rude people in the dressing room, leaving work; the dreams about “him”, of his touch, him deciding to break up.
When I returned to the dressing room forty-five minutes later, I was shocked to find the same young woman still at the mirror. She was applying her makeup-another task that took me two, maybe five minutes. A dab of moisturizer, some under-eye concealer, a tiny bit of blush, lip gloss and mascara is all it takes for me.
Part of me left very superior to the stupid woman at the mirror: she’d been there for almost an hour. Life is short. There is so little time to go to a new movie with friends, much less if spend this much time every day doing your hair and makeup.
I got dressed, took a look at the mirror and put my hair in a pony-tail. As I was leaving the room I turned and looked at the woman still working on her beauty one last time, smiled and walked out.
There I was - out on the streets again, going home; free and independent.