(Author's note: This story IS NOT autobiographical, like Jimmy Buffett has said this is a story with fictional facts or one with factual fictions. But never the less. like he also said this is my story and I am sticking to it.)
The exam room used by the company doctor was cold, small, and so Spartan it felt more like a prison cell especially designed for solitary confinement. The walls were window-less and painted a cheap and depressing grey/blue and as I sat on the old examination table, wearing the type of patient gown that exposed a person’s rear end I began to wonder if I was part of some physiological experiment attempting to induce stress and paranoia in unknowing test subjects.
After the second hour of waiting, my mind kept drifting to strange visions of armor wearing prison guards storming the small room with truncheons and tazers at the ready, while sporting sadistic gleams in their eyes. Making matters worse the gown I was wearing was a size too small which allowed my naked butt to get to know the cracks and tears in the vinyl pad covering the table very well.
Normally I would have done just about anything to avoid a doctor’s exam but my employer was offering a significant discount on my already high priced health insurance if I agreed to a preventive check up involving several simple and quick tests. The brochure in my annual insurance sign up package assured me it was a minor formality with the whole purpose to help me establish a healthier lifestyle and that I would be in an out of the physician’s office in short order.
Fat chance, during my long ordeal I had been poked and prodded to the extreme along with what had to be a couple of pints of blood drawn from my arms by nurses that seemed to hold a personal grudge against me. And you do not want me to even start to describe the office prostrate exam; I swear the nurse screamed out in joy as her finger went boldly where absolutely none had gone before. The small consolation that I was clinging to tenuously was the idea that the worst had to be over, there was simply nothing left for them to check or examine.
Just when I was beginning to contemplate escaping the company doctor stormed into the room carrying a file folder, grabbed the small stool next the exam table, dropped himself on the equally cracked vinyl cushion covering the seat, and began reading what I assumed was my test results. Since the good doctor had to be pushing close to four-hundred pounds, I silently winced as the small stool he was sitting on creaked and literally groaned every time he changed position.
While I feared the stool could collapse at any moment sending the rotund physician to the floor with a heavy thud it nonetheless withstood the weight as he silently reviewed my results. Enough time passed while he read that I was able to identify several of the stains on his lab coat with the most prevalent being ketchup, mustard, and ample amounts of chocolate. For someone who was suppose to help me develop a better way of life he looked the exact opposite of the stated objective, and I actually snorted in surprise as he reached inside the pocket of his lab coat pulling out a pack of cigarettes and lighter.
“Mr. Logan,” he began after placing a cigarette on the edge of his lips while working the lighter, “ you are thirty pounds overweight, have high blood pressure, and your blood sugar levels are unusually high for a man of forty-five years.” He paused for a few seconds after successfully igniting the cigarette taking several deep drags off it. “Due to company regulations,” he began again,” unless you shed the weight, you will not only lose your insurance discount but be forced to pay an extra fifty-percent penalty fee because of your risk level. The good news you have six months to reach the required weight, the nurses will make an appointment for the weigh-in and I look forward to seeing you again then.”
With that, he was up and out of the office far faster than someone his weight should be able to, but as the door closed behind him, the doctor broke into a coughing fit that sounded like his lungs were trying to abandon the man and skip town. As I put on my clothes, I realized that I could not afford my health insurance, which included my wife and son along with me, if I lost the discount much less meet the expense of the penalty. I had no choice but join a gym and lose the required weight within the six months.
Finding a gym was no problem, as multiple subdivisions full of elaborate and overpriced McMansions began to pop up in my area like rows of annoying but well organized weeds a system of supporting convenience businesses developed on the outer fringes. My locale was once a secluded and peaceful rural area but it now supported a host of upper scale rackets targeting the young and rich professionals who inhabited the subdivisions so they would not have to deal with the stress of driving back into the city for their favorite trendy activity or gourmet treat.
On my way home after leaving the fat doctor behind, I stopped by several of the new and, for me, unfortunately hip gyms looking for one I would like. Almost every time I walked through the doors, the young and nubile babe paid to greet possible new members would look at me and like a deer caught in headlights and attempt to escape. I did not mind for the most part, I realized I did not meet their target demographic. It was obvious I was a very out of shape, balding middle-aged man who looked clearly out of place among all the young beautiful people. Still though, I eventually found a gym that did not completely annoy the living shit out of me with its snobbish attitude and I began working out in earnest.
At first the very idea of being forced to work out on a regular basis annoyed me to no end, I thought myself a very busy man with commitments and demands on my time that would make it difficult but as the weeks began to fly by I found my schedule remarkably adaptable. In other words after returning home from work in the late afternoon my life revolved around dinner and watching television until I went to sleep.
While I skipped the cost of a personal trainer to assist me, I did have a routine setup by one that had me spending forty-five minutes on the various machines working my arms, legs, and torso then doing forty minutes of a cardio workout on a treadmill. Every day I entered the gym I strictly adhered the same exercise machines in hopes that ingrained habit would help me succeed where no other technique had done before. Before long, I was actually enjoying the thought of going to the gym.
During my time working out I would put on my headphones and listen to old 1980’s music on my shiny new MP3 player that my son thought no better than the stuff my own parents listened to when I was his age. Not wanting to embarrass myself too much around people I might know I had chosen a gym on the opposite end of the suburban sprawl I lived. It was for the best and it allowed me to concentrate on my exercise rather than trying to socialize with people more often than not I did not like. That is how I first saw Annette.
She was a regular like me usually appearing ten to twenty minutes after I arrived. In simple terms Annette was the type of woman that had every man sucking his stomach in and trying to stand a little taller as she walked by. It was clear Annette noticed the disruption her entrances caused but she was nice enough to greet any guy who said hello to her.
Without being too drawn out, Annette could best be described in mythological terms. She had the body of an Ancient Greek goddess that men clearly would have worshipped. Her red hair was long, wild, and curly like a barbarian or Celtic princess, which was paired with a beautiful but mischievous face. Topping it all off, the skin-tight exercise leotards she wore to the gym gave her the look of a superhero. All she had to add was a golden lasso and bullet-deflecting bracelets and she would have looked like Wonder Woman’s sexier and more scandalous sister.
Annette looked to be in her early to mid-forties but she had clearly aged like fine wine where as the small collection of other middle-aged people like me using the gym were not as lucky. We had more in common with a spoiled, cheap malt liquor. For many of us Annette did carry an air of mystery around her; she wore no wedding ring, something that supplied ample fodder for discussions and fantasies. During my early months at the gym that is about as far as my interests in her went, nothing more than a heavy dose of ogling along with many third-rate fantasies.
But a funny thing often happens to your average guy when he sticks to a regular exercise routine. The increased activity doses the brain with plenty of hormones that over time alleviates stress and increases the metabolism rate but it also begins to build self-confidence. Within four months I had dropped all the required weight and was feeling like a young twenty-something again, the down side was that I had begun to think Annette was following me around.
It started simply enough, I would be working my usual, tried and true exercise circuit when I noticed Annette using one of the machines nearby. Occasionally we would make eye contact and she would flash a pleasant smile my way, which would induce my heart rate to explode. Figuring she was just being nice I did not think too much of it. However, since people are always looking for meaning, even in the most trivial things over time I began to believe she had some romantic interest in me. My delusion was only enhanced as I looked into any mirror I passed and saw the weight I had lost along with the increased muscle tone.
As I cultivated my distortion of reality I began to wonder how I could break the ice with Annette and begin what I figured would be a passionate affair. Being a dedicated family man I had never even considered the idea of cheating on my wife in all my years of marriage. But with enough exercise-induced endorphins floating around my head along with an exaggerated ego supporting a corrupted premise I began to convince myself life was just too short to pass an opportunity to be with a beautiful and sexy woman.
The only way that came to mind was to slow my workout routine to the point she caught up with me allowing us to talk. It was lame beyond all comprehension but in my mind the idea was suave and sophisticated. Sure enough as I slowed my workout we began to make eye contact more often, which only enhanced my delusion.
The day finally came when I had slowed down enough that she was using the machine right beside me making feel like a teenager about to receive his first kiss. Deep down I knew this was going to be the day when my life changed for the better with a universe of possibilities opening up I could have never considered a few months before.
Still though, when Annette finally touched my arm it was as if electricity was running through my entire body. Locking eyes with her I removed my earphones eager to hear the first words spoken directly to me.
“Please sir,” she said with clear intent that she was addressing me like she would a much older man like her grandfather, “ I need to get home and fix dinner for my family, could you let me use this machine so I can finish my work out and get out of here.”
If her words, all cold and impersonal, were not enough to destroy my elaborate but loosely built fantasies, there was absolutely no warmth in her beautiful green eyes. As far as she was concerned I was just another stranger she had to navigate around as she went through her day.
Curiously feeling like both an insignificant bacteria and the biggest fool on the planet I smiled back and silently surrender the exercise machine. Afterwards I quickly left the gym myself but not before stopping somewhere and buying my wife some roses. It took days for me to work up the nerve to return to the gym but when I did I quickly realized that the entire embarrassing episode was confined to my head, Annette still came to the gym oblivious to my stupidity.
The day of the weigh-in I passed with flying colors, my achievement was so good that I actually broke through fat doctor’s practiced indifference.
“Damn, Mr. Logan,” he said with a cigarette dangling from his lips while reading my updated file, “this is outstanding. What did you do, join a gym and fine yourself a hot girlfriend?”
“Please,” I said acting disgusted, which was not hard to do since his lab coat seemed to be sporting more food stains. “I’m a middle aged, married man; I have no time for such foolish ideas.”