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As soon as I walk into the gym I spy the only open elliptical, the only open elliptical next to you. Oh, God, I think as I walk up to it, feigning total confidence and disinterest. You think I’m such a stalker, don’t you? You’re eyes flicker to me, watching me even though your head is forward. I swing onto the seat with the ease of a seasoned hurdler, an athlete. I bend over the buttons in a no-shananagins attitude that says, I’m here for a workout not you.
“Hey, Emmie.” You say.
“Hey!” I chirp. What? You said hello. You just said ‘hi’ to me! I almost fall off the elliptical. You’ve never said ‘hi’, not ever. Progress, my friend, I think fiendishly, progress. No, not important, I tell myself. Focus on the workout. I click at the buttons madly and you look over at me through the corners of your eyes. Go on! Say more! But you don’t and just continue to pedal on. I begin the work out and try to distract myself with everything but you. Oh, I never knew that button was there! Such a convenient button! But who’s really kidding themselves here? The imaginary tension I’m feeling between the two of us is cuttable.
I would talk to you, I think at you, but I’m just on this gym flow and also, I don’t want to be a bother to you. Yeah, you look like you’re working hard too, I think as I strain to bring the pedals up and down, clenching my teeth. I would just be pushing my luck if I even tried talking to you.
It was a stupid mistake, setting the elliptical on level twenty, but I don’t want to back it down and seem weak, so I bear with it. I keep my attention finely attuned to the outside view the window offers and then I see it reflected in that blessed glass: you looking right at me, your head totally tilted my way, sneaking a glance. I force a stoic expression of unawareness despite the overwhelming urge to grin and then tilt my head to look at you, but you dart back and are staring straight ahead again.
Yes! Stare! Please stare at me! Look! Look at me! I want to yell but there’s another simulated hill and I gasp with the effort and am forced to stare at the ground as I huff and puff.
Oh, my God. I look at the bottom of the elliptical and realize there are sweat droplets, more like little sweat puddles! I am streaming sweat! Pooling sweat, bathing in it.
Don’t look at me! I think, moving my pony-tail to hide my face. I don’t usually look this bad! I look over at you and see you reach up and grab a sweat rag to dab yourself with it. Why didn’t I think of that? Oh, no, you probably think I’m an inexperienced wanna-be gym-rat, don’t you? Or even worse, you think I’m just plain disgusting. You look so nice working out like that, not gross at all. Toned, toned, toned, I think at you. Shame, shame, shame! I scream at myself. Why do I look bad when I workout? It’s a curse
No, I think. It doesn’t matter. This is a gym, not the runway, one part of me thinks. But he still sees me like this! the other screams indignantly. Okay, good. I’m a little over halfway finished. More huffing and puffing ‘til this all blows over.
I sneak another glance at you, through my hair, of course. Wow, I’d bike the Tour de France any ol’ day with you next to me, looking that way. I’m almost finished, I look despairingly at the little clock that counts down the remaining time.
Why? Why is it that we can’t find the words when they are most needed, most wanted? I could have- but I didn’t. The little clock chimes and I stop peddling, sitting on the elliptical for a while longer before swinging off. You watch as I walk off, I’m sure, your gaze is featherlight on my shoulder-blades, but at least it’s there. Still, you don’t say anything.
It’s okay, I’ll find the words tomorrow.