The Reckoning

It is Sunday Funday and I have snuck away from the house for an hour to lift weights and it feels incredible, naughty even. I love getting in a weight-lifting session at this point, hard to come by as they are, and it helps my mischievous soul that Baby Mama acted annoyed about it. I was leaving her alone with The Boy for an hour right before she had to go to work. Whatever. I have no guilt: she can go to the gym at her leisure in the mornings, but I can only sneak in here and there. Still, I get it: today she’s going in early to her second job before hitting the overnight shift at the factory. She works hard for us while we try to get caught up and scrape by. I respect it, I appreciate it. But I’ve got a He-Man ‘Sup Ladies tank top I need to fit into in just over a week and I’ve got work to do.

It is Sunday Funday at the gym, late morning, most of the rest of the small town at mass, but we’re in here chugging away. That’s when I see her. I try not to stare: I know how impossible it is just to exist as a woman, anywhere, at any point, and how it’s even worse being a woman in a place where you’re skimpily dressed and just trying to do your own thing. But I cannot help it: she is incredible. A true athlete. I’ve never seen anything like it in our dopey gym. I mean, I’ve been making this journey at a Planet Fitness in a strip mall next to the Golden Corral. We don’t get many elite athletes.

But she is elite. Or, at least she appears that way to me. She is moving non-stop, doing a wild array of cardio exercises in front of the mirrors in the weight section. We move like icebergs around her, a dozen reps and a minute rest, while she just keeps going, never lets up on the gas. Burpees, squats, Supermans on the bench, then back up and doing leg lifts without taking a break. No break. No stopping. Constant motion. She gets up off the floor and begins lifting her kettle bell. SHE BROUGHT HER OWN KETTLE BELL. That’s what we’re dealing with here: she brought her own goddamned kettle bell.

I’m in awe of her. I walked in exhausted, hoping to make the most of my time, but she gets me pumped and, without knowing it, she becomes my workout buddy. Even if I’m not looking at her, even if I’m doing tricep dips and staring at the opposite wall, she is there in the periphery: this purple blur, moving to her own beat. She is a machine, a marvel of engineering. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

I carry her with me all the way home, where I walk in and just begin cleaning like a monster. I scrub the bathroom from floor to ceiling and pick up the living room. I fold two bags of laundry and sweep the floor. There is dust and cobwebs and death everywhere in this house, and I’m trying to clear myself out from under it. The music is loud, the doors and windows are open. Nothing can stop us now.

*****

I open the email and my heart fucking drops.

*****

Saturday afternoon. We are at a birthday party for Jhonen’s best friend. The kids are sliding down hills on makeshift cardboard sleds while the adults catch up. My good buddy Erick is holding himself awkwardly on the couch and I recognize it, and we talk about back pain for ten minutes. This is how we party at the edge of 40.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a few of the people at this party and their response is just what you want when you’re maintaining a fitness blog for silly reasons. “Wow, you look great!” “Dude, you look ‘Sup Ladies ready!” “Almost, almost. Just need a little tuning up and I’m there.”

The food is for the kids, of course, and I steer away from it as much as I can. I indulge in a little cake snacker but not a full piece and just a spoon of ice cream. I fill up on the carrots and broccoli no one else is touching. The kids all dash to the artificial lake in the middle of the subdivision, fishing poles in hand, and I charge up the hill with a Kylo Ren kite. It is nice. It is a break from the action.

By some miracle I have a date lined up with someone I met online. I call her while my son is jumping on the outdoor trampoline. We set the logistics and my son calls me out for blushing. I let myself feel nice about it, in spite of all the panic directly underneath.

We’re going to be fine, I keep telling myself. We’re going to be fine. We always are.

****

Saturday morning. My son is “helping” me while I work my way through the latest Yoga With Adriene video. I don’t quite have the flexibility to do the full camel pose, but it does wonders for my back to try.

I back up a few weeks and let Adriene lead me through Yoga for Confidence. It gets me in all the right places, even as I still struggle with balance poses. She hears my concerns through the internet and tells me it’s OK to use the wall or a chair for balance because sometimes we need that. She helpfully lets us know this flow is great for if you need a boost of confidence in life. For a date, maybe. Or for a job interview.

****

Monday afternoon. I come out of my office, as I often do, with a head full of steam. Four or five different projects racing circles around my head. Need more seltzer water. Need a breather before I tackle the next thing.

I’m surprised to find my co-workers all gathered in the office next to mine. I haven’t really talked to anybody since we all got the email. I’d wondered how everyone was taking it. For the moment, it looks like nobody feels like working. I pull up a chair.

We laugh and freely curse. We shake our heads. We take it in stride. Everybody knew we were losing our jobs – we’ve known for months. I was brought on, in fact, with the express understanding that this was a temporary job with no hope of extending after the buyout was complete. But we all thought we had through the end of the year at least, maybe into January. We don’t. We have about three weeks, maybe a few more. For the second straight year I will be laid off and unemployed at Christmas.

All we can do is laugh.

After about a half hour of grousing I get back up. I’ve got things to do. “There he goes. At least SOMEBODY’S working!” Laughter. Shoulder shrugging. I told them when they hired me: “I’ll be the last one in the building. I’ll turn the light off on my way out.” I just thought I had more time.

The hits keep on coming. That’s OK. Keep ‘em coming. I can take it.

****

I am on the floor groaning, trying to work out all the kinks from Sunday’s weightlifting session. No yoga yesterday because of worried hangover. No excuse today. All the stretches, all the poses. The gentle voice of Angel Olsen floating through the room, so that people I care about are in the room with me. I try the new poses, braced against a chair. I keep shoving a million thoughts out of my head to try to find peace. “It’s going to be fine,” I tell myself as I lean forward into the stretch, Adriene’s voice in my head telling me to open my heart up and breathe into it. “We’re going to be fine.”

I finish my workout and wipe the sweat from my face. My son is asleep in my bed, not stirring, comforted by the gentle music and hard yoga breathing before the sunrise. He doesn’t know what’s coming. He is at peace.

I flip on the lights to get our day started. I say good morning to the pictures of Our Dead on my mantle, as I do every morning. I greet the day, and keep fucking moving, because what else is there to do. I’m a machine, a marvel of engineering. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

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