On Being the Youngest Person at the Gym

You walk into the community gym. Since you live in a gated community mostly filled with well-off, old retirees, you don’t really expect the fitness center to be overflowing with testosterone and protein shakes. But then again, you weren’t expecting a small, windowless room with three treadmills, several well-worn weight machines and a cacophony of dry wheezes. On the exercise bike, there’s a woman who looks like she had lived through the war. The Revolutionary War. A man slowly pushing at a leg press machine looks like a fusion of Clint Eastwood, Christopher Plummer, and (strangely) Paula Deen. Two other retirees seems to have given up on exercising and were just chatting on the only workout bench in the room.

Suddenly, you feel great and powerful. At a strapping 23 years old, it doesn’t really matter that you eat ramen on a disturbingly regular basis and prefer to take the elevator down than walk two flights of stairs. You run a mile in 15 minutes, beaming the whole time because that’s faster than anybody else in the room. You pick up 20 pound weights and swagger over to the mirror to do curls, admiring the youthful strength that’s in those spaghetti string arms of yours. You don’t even bother to do squats because you know your plaster-wall ass is still marginally better than the plaster-wall-with-peeling-paint asses that fill the room.

Then you feel a presence. Something that’s been in the peripheral of your mind since you walked into the gym. You scan the room and instantly spot him. The man at one of the treadmills, who has been running at a steady pace the entire time you’ve been marveling at your youthful vigor. You glance over at the screen of his treadmill and your eyebrows rise as if they had taken Viagra. You look more closely at the 70-year-old man and realize that under his wrinkly exterior, he is jacked. Think Fight Club-era Brad Pitt with crumpled parchment plastered onto every inch of his skin. Or just Brad Pitt as a teenage old man in Benjamin Button. Or something like that.

He finally stops the treadmill and moves over to the weights. He picks up 50 pound dumbbells in each hand and walks to the vacated workout bench and begins to do chest pumps. You look down at the 20 pound dumbbell in your hand and then back up at the weird Brad-Pitt-comparison. Then you turn your head and look at the only other person left in the gym, the leg-press guy who seems to have fallen asleep on the machine, his bald head drooping, either drool or sweat on his pudgy stomach. You realize you’ll probably look more like him in 50 years than the wrinkly terminator still pumping away behind you. You sigh and put the weights away.

You go home and lay in bed with a bag of chips and some cold pizza. You watch Fight Club.

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