Interior – Local health club – Day
The fitness instructor adjusts her bike in the center of the room, arms like pistons, with an ass as tight as a drum. Not intimidating at all. Students scattered about the studio, wearing unique combinations of trendy lycra, carrying matching water bottles, and white hand towels.
Cheryl: (Reflective) What the hell am I doing here?
[A cadence of banal chatter and friendly greetings fill the room.]
Cheryl: (Self-conscious) In a snug lavender tank and tight lycra pants. If I leave now everyone will think I was just checking out the facility, I have seconds to decide, every fiber in my body is telling me to run.
Marcia: (Magnanimous) The ridiculously fit instructor marches over to welcome Cheryl to the class, her approach is friendly, open.
Cheryl: (Intimidated) Absolutely nothing moves when this woman walks. Is she real? Just smile, she’s not going to hurt you.
Marcia: (Merciful) A newbie. “Roll your bike over here honey. Yes. Just drag it. Good.” She pushes Cheryl’s hip next to the seat and starts adjusting the settings, she has Cheryl lean across the bike as she fiddles with the handlebars. “You’re so tall.”
Cheryl: (Joking) “I’ve never been able to hide it well.” Short people always mention my height? Why is that?
Marcia: (Confused) English is not her first language. “Here is where you adjust the resistance, see, higher and lower. Good, you’re all set.”
Cheryl: (Worried) “Okay, let me just confirm this way is lower, less resistance, great, thanks.” Seems nice enough but first impressions can often be misleading.
[Participants continue arriving, roll their bikes into position, and start warming up. Marcia finishes adjusting her bike, turns up the music, and starts pedaling slowly with her back to the mirrored wall.]
Cheryl: (Cautious) Two minutes into the warm-up. I’m exhausted. This can not be good.
Cheryl: (Concerned) Four minutes – sweat is forming over her entire body and she is extremely worried if her knees are positioned incorrectly. This spin class could damage me for life? No one else is sweating. Shit. How long is this class? It can’t be more than 30 minutes? People would die? That wouldn’t be good for business.
Marcia: (Reassuring) Smiling broadly at the students. “Good, pick up the pace now. Let’s go.”
Cathy: (Laughing) “I remember my first class.”
Marcia: (Euphoric) “Okay, time to turn up the resistance, that’s right, you’re riding uphill now. Okay, good, bring it up. Standing now, push those pedals, fast as possible. Good, hold it 10, 9, 8…”
Cheryl: (Incredulous) She wants us to not only turn up the resistance but expects us to stand while peddling as if I’m a member of Cirque du Soleil. She tries to stand once but worries that she might be going into cardiac arrest.
Cathy: (Savior Complex) Smiles, keeping perfect pace with the instructor. “You’re doing great.”
Cheryl: (Softly Whimpering) Wiping the sweat from her face with a towel, “I might be dying.” I’ve heard such great things about spin classes. What the hell? By the way the clock isn’t moving? Einstein would have a heyday with this phenomena.
Marcia: (Pushing hard) “Okay, let’s bring it up again. Holding, keep it up, good, hold, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Down 4, 3, 2, 1. Okay up, hold…” This pattern continues for the next fifteen minutes.
Cheryl: (Tormented) This must be a glimpse into what it would be like to burn in agony for all eternity. I just want to leap from the bike and run straight to McDonald’s. She tries to quiet the rapid squeaking or ticking sound coming from her own lips.
Marcia: (Enthusiastic) “Alright you’re half way there people. Le’t bring is up again. Great, you got it, hold it up, shoulders back, stay loose. On the count of eight, good, let’s go, bring it up to 74. Good, keep it there.”
Cheryl: (Traumatized) Face beet red, breathing hard, sweating profusely. The positivity is absolutely nauseating. Forty-five minutes into the class. My blood is confused, it doesn’t know where to go, every muscle is in need of oxygen. Oh dear God please don’t let me faint.
Marcia: (Ecstatic) “Almost there, let’s go, five more minutes, up, hold, down, up, hold, down. Keep it going. (After five grueling minutes.) That’s it, slow it down. Good job everyone.”
Cheryl: (Badass) I stayed on this hideous instrument of torture for an entire hour and finished the class without moaning out loud. #goalAF
End of the day, dusk, a quiet and calm evening.
Interior, brick kitchen, cream tile, hardwood floors. Cheryl, in sweats, sits at the dark wood kitchen table grading papers online while Larry, in slacks and Santa Clara University t-shirt, unpacks a Blue Apron box, deciding on which ingredients to cook for dinner.
Larry: (Animated) Stops what he’s doing, exits to his office, returns flapping a flyer around the kitchen, waves it a tad to close to Cheryl’s face. “Look what came in the mail today!”
Cheryl: (Irritated) “Pour me some wine sweetheart, I need reinforcement, I have twenty papers to go. Did you get another coupon for a free car wash?”
Larry: (Enthusiastic) “They’re offering reduced rates for teachers and senior citizens and they cutting the initiation fees. It’s a great deal!”
Larry: (Flippant) “Oh yes, let us not forget The Blog.”
Cheryl: (Insulted) “I’m sure there’s a catch like you have to be between the ages of 45 and 46 with a Phd., minimal body fat, and memorize a secret creed.”
Cheryl: (Humored) He sounds like an advertisement for the YMCA. “Honey, let’s not completely ignore the budget. It’s irresponsible.”
Larry: (Decisive) As if a lawyer breaking a case he pounds his fist on the table. “You have never considered the budget in your entire life and you’ve been whining about getting more exercise for two years. Here’s your chance.”
Cheryl: I joined a gym. Whatever.
Interior. Gym – day. It is the end of spin class, in studio, Cheyl makes a sloppy attempt to get off the bike.
Cheryl: (Horrified) With little stability she drags herself off the seat and struggles to bring her opposing leg across the bike. It going to take an act of God to stand erect. I’m not kidding. I may never speak to Larry again.
Marcia: The instructor begins walking students through a series of stretches. “That’s good, take it slow, let’s stretch out our calfs.”
Cheryl: (Alarmed) It is difficult to see past the sweat stinging her eyes but she notices people are actually stretching and smiling, as if we just came from a lecture on the benefits of recycling. She tries to bend but her body refuses to cooperate. I sort of want to cry but it seems inappropriate.
Marcia: (Docent) “That’s right, grab your right foot, pull it back with your right hand, balance, hold, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Good other foot. Balance is so important especially as we age.” She innocently glances in Cheryl’s direction.
Cheryl: Is she looking at me?
Marcia: “If you have trouble balancing hold onto the bike.”
Cheryl: What am I a stork? Cheryl is having trouble standing on two feet so she hangs onto the bike with both hands. Safety first.
Marcia: “Good job everyone, remember to return your bikes, next class needs the floor.”
Cheryl: (Confused) Is she comparing me to Barn Owls? (Trying to appear polite) “Owls, how interesting.”
[Barn Owls make a wide variety of sounds, alarm shrieks, chatty calls, and a rapid squeaking or ticking sound.] #me
Cheryl: Did she say next time? She is totally unaware how insane that sounds. I can actually feel the muscles in my legs stiffening up as we speak. “Can’t wait.”
Cathy: (Optimist) “I’ll bring you a picture of the Barn Owls next time, (attempt at humor) they’re a hoot.”
Marcia: “Don’t forget to wipe the bikes down with an antibacterial sheet available by the back door.”
Cheryl: (Overwhelmed) It’s just too much.
[Before throwing herself down on the ground in a total tantrum…]
Cathy: The owl lady grabs a few extra antibacterial sheets on her way back. “Here you go.”
Joann: (Adept) Coming out of the same spin class, but from the other side of the room, dressed in an adorable navy sweat outfit, barely sweating at all. “Is that Cheryl Oreglia?”
Cheryl: (Totally lies) “It was awesome but grueling.” I can’t believe I used the word awesome.
Joann: (Laughs) “It gets easier each time, just take it at your own pace.”
Cheryl: (Acquiesces) “I might try yoga next.”
Joann: (Boosterish) “That would be good. I do yoga on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, let’s exchange numbers, maybe we can do a class together.”
Cheryl: (Torpor) Feeling faint, but still able to recall her phone number, “408… ” And just like that I found a gym buddy!
After parting ways with Joann, Cheryl continues limping on to the lady’s locker room, with a stroke of genius finds her purse, buys a cold water at the front desk, and makes her way slowly to the car. She sits quietly, attempting to identify which body parts are still functioning. My right foot and left hand. This will have to do.
Cheryl: (Elated) I really should have Ubered.
“It is always hard to believe that the courageous step is so close to us, that it is closer than we ever could imagine, that in fact, we already know what it is, and that the step is simpler, more radical than we had thought: which is why we so often prefer the story to be more elaborate, our identities clouded by fear, the horizon safely in the distance,the essay longer than it need to be and the answer safely in the realm of impossibility.” David Whyte
Topics For Discussion:
- What do you fear most – trying something new or never trying?
- Where are you inflexible?
- What stretches you?
- How do you approach new situations?
- Who supports you?
- Who discourages you?
- What is your greatest strength?
- In need of improvement?
- If you were an animal, what would you be, and why?
- What do you hope to accomplish with this one precious life?
I’m Living in the Gap, in the tub, sulking, I mean soaking.