I recently realized the day might come when I need to defend myself from some youths in my neighbourhood. They have, I think, begun to sense my fear and have taken to following me at a distance on their Razor scooters. The problem is that, physically, I am built like a ribbon. When Teddy Roosevelt said, “I could carve a better man out of a banana,” he was referring to me (I am 150 years old).
So I have had to start working out.
The thick-necked guy working the front desk at my local gym examined my form. He read portions of it back to me, “hang on, under the ‘reasons for joining’ section you’ve written, to fight adolescents. Really?”
“Well, if you want to be technical, they aren’t adolescents yet.”
He flicked to the second page, “and beneath ‘preexisting conditions’ you’ve written, I dislike lifting, pulling or pushing.”
“That’s correct,” I said.
He looked me up and down with a raised eyebrow, “Mariana!” He hollered.
The office door burst open and out strode, or perhaps waddled better describes it, Mariana. She was about 5ft tall and was so heavily pregnant that I thought she was going to pop out a Volkswagen. This was very problematic, as I don’t like being around pregnant women. It’s nothing against pregnant women, I just worry that I will somehow induce an premature birth and then, for some reason, I’ll need to help with the delivery. As I attended an all-boy Catholic high school this would involve muttering in Latin then seeing if the baby floats to ensure that it isn’t a Protestant’s child.
Mariana came around the desk, with a heavy Portuguese accent she introduced herself, “Halo, I’m Mariana.” I shook her hand, not wanting to cause any births I gave her a handshake that was limp even by my standards.
“Oh wow, you are weaker than you look,” she laughed.
She led me into the weights room, Nicky Minaj was blaring over the speakers talking about “dicks in her eyes”, or something. Mariana went to get some weights for me, while I did my best to avoid eye contact with all of the jacked teenagers, who were whispering to each other and snickering at me.
I noticed a woman on the squat machine giving me a disapproving look through the mirror as she lowered and raised herself.
“What?” I mouthed silently through the reflection.
“Go and help her,” she mouthed back, dipping and rising.
“But it’s her job.”
“She’s pregnant, go and help her,” she insisted.
“Fine,” I said aloud. I turned to Mariana, who was still working out which weight would be best for me. Lowering my voice I said, “allow me little lady.” I attempted to lift the weights from their brackets, but I couldn’t, it was like trying to uproot a tree.
“Maybe, you no use the 12kg ones,” Mariana said and shuffled along the rack past the ‘little girl’ section, to the ‘pathetic’ section. She picked up two 6kg twigs. The woman on the squat machine continued glaring at me.
“At least let me help Mariana,” I said, and tried to hold onto the weights too but this just drew me uncomfortably close to her.
“Let go the weights,” she said, elbowing me in the stomach, “get on the bench.” I obliged.
Mariana placed a dumbbell in each hand, had me lift my legs at 90degree angles, and held my arms just below the elbow. Her pregnant belly was pressing into the top of my head. I tried to shift, but couldn’t get away.
“Okay push!” she called, pressing my arms up doing most of the lifting herself, “come on, push, push, push.”
I let out a loud groan, “ooooaaaaahh!”
“Remember to breath!” she yelled, making a sucking and blowing noise with her mouth. I inhaled and exhaled vigorously.
‘C’mon! Push!” she demanded, “you’re almost there!’
“Ahhhooho,” what were these noises I was making? “Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod,” I panted.
“Almost there, keep your legs raised. Okay here we go! One last push.”
I gurgled, then groaned, then screamed, then, as I lowered the weights, gurgled again. “You made it,” Mariana said peering down at me over her gravid tummy, “you did five repetitions.”
Dripping with sweat and feeling delirious from the straining I looked up at her and asked, “can I hold it?”