She was in the middle of her chest press, lifting lighter today. Her heart wasn’t in it. She had spent the last few hours back at home finishing up an article for a client and flipping through one of the many dating apps on her phone. Well, nothing stood out, or rather no body. She was eager to get back into the game, it had been almost 2 years now.
She dropped the weight by mistake and it rolled out in front. Thankfully it hurt nobody.
That tall guy who sometimes checks her out at the gym walked up to her.
“Lifting light today, are we?”
She smiled. He had never spoken to her before. “Yeah. Sort of. Don’t think I am feeling my best today.”
“Need a hand?“
It wasn’t unusual for people to help each other out at the gym, especially when they were lifting heavy. But she wasn’t lifting heavy today. Ergo. No help.
“Thank you! But no. I am kind of done for today. Bye!“
She had been doing 40 on the cross trainer for about an hour now, listening to Malcolm Gladwell going on about snap judgements. Gladwell did get her thinking.
Suddenly she found herself face to face with the tall guy who had offered to help with the weights.
“Hey! You seem lost. What are you listening to?“
“Hi! I almost didn’t see you. (She became acutely aware of how tiny she was. Up on the cross trainer, she was still almost a foot and a half shorter than this guy!) I am listening to Blink. “
“Malcom Gladwell? “
“Yeah. The same. “
“Which snap judgement were you thinking of when listening to it? “
Ok now she’s taken aback. Tall muscular guy at the gym. Trying to start a conversation about books. The “muscular” had figured in the first time into all these mental descriptions.
“Well, the last time I started chatting up with a guy at the gym, he ended up back with his ex. I worked like a charm for him. But that decision to talk to him wasn’t too great for me.“
He laughed. Easily. Had a warm laugh, great sound.
She smiled. He got on to the cross trainer next to her and went to work.
He had been observing her for a few weeks now. She worked out really well with her trainer. No shortcuts, no skimping. She took pride in the weights that she beat and those that she couldn’t.
It was great watching her. He kept wondering if she’d be as great if they spoke to each other.
Malcolm Gladwell! That was a start. He was more Adam Grant, but you never know, probably even Gladwell could surprise you!
He liked seeing her go on the cross trainer; with sweat pooling at the base and her being zoned out on whatever she was listening.
She had removed those airpods now. Probably expecting conversation.
“So do you want to workout together some day?“, he asked.
“I have a trainer actually. I workout with him 4 to 5 days a week.” She seemed almost apologetic.
“Well on the days that you don’t train with him then, or maybe in a different time slot. “
“Yeah. Ok. Will do if we chance upon it. “
Now all I had to do was to create that chance. That was easy. Just had to figure out the trainer’s schedule and then her’s and then probably he could engineer an “accidental” gym date.
The next day she was at the gym but the trainer was not! He walked up to her.
“Nope. He’s on leave today, but I have to get my workout in.”
“Great! I mean good. That’s good. Do you need help with the weights?”
“Actually I do. I am doing biceps today and I need a little support with the hammer curl”.
“Ok. Let’s do this.”
She was good. Diligent. Religiously counting each rep. Resting for exactly 15 seconds between sets and then doing it again. And that didn’t leave any time to chat during the exercise. He didn’t want to disturb that concentration.
She asked, “Do you need any help?”
He didn’t. But-
“I do actually. I have to do leg stretches with a partner today. Do you have time?”
“Sure I do. Can I come back to you after I am done with the weights?”
She found him on Facebook from the Gym Members page. Raghav. That name sounded nice. She sent him a friend request. He accepted almost instantly.
A few days later, he pinged her on Messenger.
“Hey is that you at Starbucks?”
She looked up from her phone, to see him standing outside the store. She waved at him and stood up.
He came in. They shook hands.
“Hi! How are you? I have never seen you outside of the gym, was making sure it was you.”
“ Hey! That’s alright. I am good. How’s you? I haven’t seen you at the gym in a while”.
“Yeah. I wasn’t keeping well. I would have come though if I knew you were missing me”.
She blushed easily. Quickly averting her eyes, she laughed and said, “well, it’s good then that you’ve recovered.”
“You have company?”
“No I don’t. I just come by sometimes to finish a book or just look out the glass pane of a coffeeshop. Nothing very productive. You are welcome to join. I still have my coffee to finish”.
“Let me get a cup too.”
They met almost every few days after that. Getting to know each other. They were becoming increasingly comfortable in each other’s company.
She didn’t call one day. And that made him feel something that he hadn’t felt in a long time. Like his day wasn’t going well. He was snappy all day. Well the easy thing would be to call her and chat up, but maybe she was busy. What’s worse, she hadn’t even replied to his messages all day.
She pinged. Very late at night. He was toying with his phone, thinking if he should call in spite of the late hour.
Are you awake?
Are you ok?
Are you mad at me?
I am sorry. I forgot my phone at home today and I didn’t remember your number so I couldn’t call you to let you know. Don’t be mad at me. I just got back home a few minutes earlier. It was a crazy day. Lots of submissions.
Can we meet tomorrow?
Yes. Cyberhub for lunch?
He was waiting outside IHOP for her. By now he knew that she would always be a few minutes late or early. He was always on time.
He saw her from afar. That feeling that he had been having since yesterday, that suddenly vanished. For some reason, he was flushed with relief. He went up halfway to meet her. She smiled and put out her hand. He pulled her in for a hug. She was tiny. Really. It was the first time that they’d hugged and she felt tiny against him.
She returned the hug. It only a few seconds, but he was feeling much better.
“I missed you yesterday.”
“9707123789- I have memorized your number. It won’t happen again”.
He pulled her in again. This time the hug lasted.