For the past few months, every time I've gone to the gym, I've noticed this green Coach coat hanging on the coat rack. The first few times I just thought that some nice lady had inadvertently synced up with my own workouts. Then, I changed my schedule a little bit, and started going in the evenings, instead of the mornings. Every single time, I saw that the nice lady had already beaten me to the gym, and had hung up her coat there again. I thought, "well, that's nice! I have myself a little shadow." I began looking around the gym as I worked out, wondering who the lady was. Was she that angry lady who I once had a confrontation with over a weight machine? Or was she the elderly Pilates teacher, who sometimes gives me "the eye," and whose gaze I have learned not to meet?
As time went by, I began to grow increasingly concerned for the lady. I mean, I go to the gym every day, and have been known to go more than once a day on weekends. Why was this lady subjecting herself to the same punishing routine that I do? I've known for many years that whatever I do won't be good enough, either at work or at the gym, but the fun for me is the trying. I've tried so hard, in fact, that I became an exercise bulimic, and now must walk uphill on the treadmill rather than run, as my knee is in pretty bad shape. Was this what was going on with the nice lady? Was she stomping through endless workouts, miserly balancing her post-workout meals in a 33-33-34 fat-carbs-protein ratio, doing countless kicks backward, into infinity? I felt such empathy for her that I wanted to find her in some corner of the gym, probably in total muscle failure, sobbing, and tell her all the lessons I've learned in my life, so as to save her some time and heartache. I would tell her, "It's okay, you'll never be as thin as you want. And no one will ever love you. Guys may say they like us, but they will always like the next person even more. Take the energy you're expending on the elliptical, and turn it inwards, and fully experience your own heart, your own soul. The blood, the meat, the guts of it. If you survive, I will be with you, and together, we can visit the ice cream bar and eat a kind of joy that will turn us cold inside. There is no other kind of joy."
In the spirit of wanting to share this dark, comforting wisdom, I approached a manager at the gym and asked him if he knew whose jacket this was. He looked at me, like, you dolt. "This coat, sir," he said, "has been here for many months. Someone left it there." Embarrassed, I walked off and lifted a dumbbell over my head.