Welcome to the Gym
Here we go, you think to yourself. After stuffing your face all summer you are set to become the man you see in the billboards, with the airbrushed abs, the remarkably beautiful woman by your side, selling some form of deodorant. Or bug spray. Whatever the case, you would have been paid a wage to stand around and gaze down a lense with an expression that is only reserved for when you are trying to complete a maths problem. Any maths problem. Or when you’re on the bog and you’ve opened the floodgates only to find that there are two sheets of toilet paper left on the role. One-ply.
The door stands there, waiting for you to touch it. You wish it were your girlfriend, because your girlfriend is angry at you for leaving the knife in the sink, for not putting it in the dishwasher. You tried to make her understand that you were unsure whether you wanted to make another sardine sandwich. If you had, and the knife had already been slipped into the cutlery basket in the dishwasher, then that would require a totally new knife, wouldn’t it? Logically, you know you’re right, but you slept on the couch anyway.
You touch the door by grasping the handle. The handle is cold. You wonder whether you should have used your towel to grasp the door. You resolve to wipe it down later.
You open the door, and the sounds, sights and smells of the gym was over you. The sounds are intimidating — all the grunts and the groans and the clinking of plates. The sights are intimidating and slightly arousing — all the men with big muscles and small singlets, and brightly coloured thin women. The smell is not pleasant — a healthy mix of body odour and disinfectant — but it is manageable.
You gaze across the room, trying not to stare at anyone for too long, lest the target of the gaze gets offended and comes to beat the piss and snot out of you, and wipe you down with their towel afterwards. You flex your biceps to ward them off, and notice in the mirror how woefully small they are compared to the ones the human specimens have on the lightly springy gym floor.
You approach the desk. Two hot twenty-somethings are tapping away at their computers. They barely glance up as you sign a form telling them about any previous injuries you might have had, and clearing them of any and all responsibility for the silly shit you might get up to with anything of their property.
They ask you how you would like to pay. You say cash, flush with it as you are after an earlier win on the horses. They frown, and their EFTPOS machine goes begging. You didn’t see a cash drawer.
You turn and walk to The Line. The Line is the meeting place of tiles and gym padding. Of unhealthy with healthy. Of chocolate and kale. Of three minutes of stamina in bed instead of two. Of fluctuating self-esteem with persistent ego. Of failure and success.
You breath in.
You breath out.
You step onto the floor.
Everyone drops their weights and stares at you.
You stop, and you feel yourself shrink in size. You would flex your biceps but you’re sure they’re no bigger than sultanas now.
“You,” says the heavy-set man closest to you on the rowing machine. “What do you think you’re doing?”
You gulp. Your Adam’s apple bobs noticeably.
“Um,” you say. “Going to work out.”
You think you should have attached something to the end of that answer, like “Are you an idiot?” but when the stringlet-wearing man lumbers over you’re glad you didn’t. The sweat runs in rivers from his bald head over his tattooed shoulders and arms. His chest heaves as it reels in oxygen and casts back carbon dioxide. He towers above you. He smells.
“I don’t think so,” he says.
You tremble. “Why?” you manage to squeak.
Slowly he glances down. Your eyes follow. They arrive at your New Balance shoes.
“Nike only,” he says.
“What?” you say.
He glares at you and repeats what he clearly said, “Nike. Only.”
You try to say something else, but it escapes you as a feeble croak. Suddenly, you feel a hand on your shoulder. You spin around, even just to escape the glare of the muscular man with the piercing, judgemental gaze. Yet they land on another muscular man with an equally piercing gaze. And he has a polo shirt on — the muscles it hides warping the fabric in a satisfying way. An employee. A personal trainer. A man who probably eats seventeen eggs for breakfast, and doesn’t need a halftime break for oranges during sex.
“You heard the man,” he says to you. He jerks his head in the direction of the door, and beckons you to follow him with his sinewy hands — a junkie’s dream.
“But…why?” you ask, as you feel helplessly swept out of the gym. He has his hand on your back now — it reminds you of how strong your father’s hand felt, and how powerless you were to push against it when he lead you from the playground. When you were three.
He opens the door and leads me out of the gym. The smells, sounds and sights desert you and the grey concrete realm of the carpark meets you with a mildly perturbed look of, “Back so soon?”
“Only those that wear Nike are allowed to achieve bodily perfection,” he answers. “If I ever see you in that New Balance gear again, I will sacrifice you in the cardio room.”
“So…I can come back to train if I wear Nike branded clothing?” you ask to confirm.
He nods. “Just do it,” he says.
Matt Querzoli wrote this after recently purchasing a gym membership. This post was not sponsored by Nike. Follow his writing blog, his letters to strangers blog or his blog blog if you liked the post, or even the bloke himself if this tickled your proverbial pickle.