Thursday, August 23, 2012

Heavy metal

The muscle guy gave me a strained, bemused look as I ducked my head past the edge of the doorway. He smiled.

"Where have you been? You decide you needed to take six months off or something?"

No, I shook my head and explained about buying a house and trying to save gas and going to the Y, which was just down the road.

"But you decided to come back here?"

I grinned and told him yes, though that really wasn't the reason. It had more to do with getting someone where they needed to be. The Rec center just happened to be along the path on the way back.

He shrugged and nothing else was really said, though he watched me go through my paces. Maybe he doubted me a little and thought I might need a hand when I picked up something. It could be that he wondered if what I'd said was a bandage to cover up another story.

A fair bit of that happens at the Rec center. On an average morning, half to three-quarters of the people lifting weights or hiking mile after miserable on the treadmills are comfortably retired. Some of them haven't worked in 20 years, which is mind-boggling to a man who cannot imagine a day where his presence is not required somewhere at sometime, but the time catches up on everyone. One day, they just stop coming. The old ladies whisper to each other about it. They give it a name: cancer, a heart attack, a stroke, a bad fall.

Maybe they come back after a while. Usually, they don't.

As I took my place on one of the machines, a couple of others stopped by, asked me how I was doing. They seemed concerned, but understood as soon as I explained. We laughed about it, though I couldn't figure out what it was that we all thought was so funny.

Through the rest of the shift, familiar faces watched me. They nodded a greeting or asked me how I'd been.

What an amazing thing: to think of yourself as nobody, as just another pair of tennis shoes, but to realize that you'd been seen all along --and more --to know that while absent, you were missed.

I think we all want to belong somewhere, but we don't always recognize these places when we first see them.  

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