söndag, april 02, 2006

Tennis, Anyone?

"You're gonna hate that guy," Elle whispers, as I sign up for six weeks of personal training. "He's tough. . . . He won't let you whine."

"I need someone like that," I whisper back. "Before I die, I'm gonna make one last ditch effort to get my ass off my thighs."

"I'm not kidding. I know you're serious, but still, he is so . . . so . . . marines."

I think for a minute about how much I actually despise calisthenics and being told what to do. I look at the fifty year-old fireplug and say to him, "I'm only going to commit for six weeks right now. I have a couple of injured body parts I have to make sure can take this."

He hesitates for a second, then reaches behind him, grabs a medical information sheet, and hands it to me. These guys must be so sick of failure, I figure, dealing on a daily basis with people wanting a body in sixty days that doesn't look like thirty or forty years of fat, salt, dehydration, disappointment, sun, and sectional couches. Still, even the most hard core, cynical, or masochistic of the breed can't be anxious to watch a client crack, cripple, and sue. My daughter takes note of how I worked an escape clause, how I wrote my own excuse for gym class.

This all comes from basketball. One day, there I was, shooting hoops at the local gym. There's a heavy half-court game going on. I am at the opposite end, hanging with the eight year old boys and their fathers. It's ok. I'm feeling good and I get my workout chasing missed shots. Then a guy who had been stretching on the mats came up to me. A big bead of sweat hangs from his nose and won't let go. The man behind the droplet looked like Christopher Lloyd on heroin. "The trouble is," he says, "you're doing it all wrong. Hold the ball like this." I try it a couple of times and now nothing hits. "Thanks. I'll work on it," I say.

An hour passes. I'm still there. The trainer comes in. "You shoot bricks," he tells me, putting my hands back to the way they had been. "The ball should float over the lip and in. Bricks are heavy. They make a lot of sound." I promise to work on it.

I stayed out of the gym for the next three weeks.

Yesterday was my first day back. A sixty year old guy and I share a basket for awhile. Then the guys' locker room door opens and a bunch of mouths come out and start to shoot around me. I don't back off. I can do this. I'll leave soon, but not quite yet.

Then somebody's shot bounces off my head. That never happens. I see two guys in the group smiling about it. Then my balance gets all twisted and I somehow put my own ball into my face. That really never happens. My blood pressure spikes and, with the subtlety of an embarassed second grader, run down to the basket with the dad and his son missing foul shots with their purple kickball. I give it thirty more seconds before completely giving up.

This morning, as we tie up laces for the gym, I flash back to yesterday and utter under my breath, "Stupid jerks."

"Don't worry. They won't be there this early," Elle says.

"What?" I ask.

"You kept saying that last night. About the guys. Don't worry."

I'm not worried. I am now in training to kill those who dared to laugh at me. I am going to grow taller, develop massive biceps, and learn how to kick their sorry asses all over the court. The trainer's got six weeks to do it. All I need is for all the body parts to hold out.