I’ve been building up to this. Been taking special trips from home to prepare, to get myself familiar with what I’ll find there. I’ve become familiar enough with it, so it should be no problem. Really, I was born ready.
I’m going to my school’s gym.
I walk in all confident, a swagger to my step as I swing open the doors like a cowboy entering his saloon. This is my town, I think as I put in my earphones and start the loudest, most inspiring song I can find. Today, nothing will stop me.
Nothing, except for that big “Out of Order” sign on the first machine.
But it’s okay, it’s okay – the elliptical next to it is all shiny and… well, it works anyway. I step on and press start. I’ve done this before. This is nothing. I aim to impress everyone in the gym with just how fast I can go, but the problem is that this elliptical rocks like a boat on the sea, and visions of the whole thing falling to pieces beneath me keep dancing in my head. I’m gonna die I’m gonna die I’m gonna die, I keep thinking, and it has nothing to do with the cardio I’m doing.
Somehow, I survive, and it’s time to move onto the next machine. I wander among the garden of equipment that couldn’t have been built after 1990, searching for something that I recognize and know how to not kill myself on. Finally, I stumble upon an old favourite – seated leg press – and with a bounce in my step, I rush toward it before anyone can steal it on me.
“Out of Order.”
It doesn’t take me long to find another ancient machine, and after dusting it off a bit, the real workout begins. It’s hard. Particularly because the weights only have two settings, and that’s “this isn’t even a workout” or “I checked with my muscles, and they said no”. Nevertheless, I finish up, and it’s all good. Time to move on.
Or, I would if I could. I’m starting to realize just how little this gym has for machines, and this wandering around is starting to get awkward. I accidentally make eye contact with a guy who’s not very subtle about checking me out, and look away immediately. My gaze falls on a girl who’s doing pull-ups no problem, as though she knows how pathetic I am at that. I look away self-consciously. I begin to worry that I actively look lost, and that someone is going to approach me soon with a kindergarten teacher-smile on their face and the words “can I help you?” written on their lips, and I don’t want them to help me. This is my town, I keep telling myself, though the words get weaker and weaker every time they come to mind.
Then, I see it.
Right there, in a distant corner I haven’t been to yet.
Could it be?
Yes, yes, it is! A machine that I can use!
I run up to it, so glad that I found it at last! So glad that I no longer have to look like I don’t know what I’m doing!
“Out of order.”
Fuck this, I’m doing free weights.