Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


Illustration Friday: Strength

Filed under: Fiction — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Elizabeth counted the reps in her head, “Six, five… four… three… two…” She hesitated and blew out a large puff of air as she lifted the weight the last time. She wished that she had a lifting partner to count the reps for her. She would willing count the reps for a partner in exchange, but she had never found anyone willing to exercise as consistently as she was.

She moved to the next machine and adjusted the height of the seat and the weight. She started counting to herself again. “Someday I will be strong.” The thought flitted in her mind between the numbers and she nodded to herself. She ignored the fact that she was so much stronger now than she had been when she started.

She didn’t have a measure for strength. Sure, she could lift more weight than she used to, but she still hurt after every workout. She had no idea what strong would look like if she achieved it, so she continued lifting alone in the gym. She finished the set and moved to the next machine in the circuit. A woman was resting on the machine. She wasn’t lifting and she wasn’t getting up. She just sat there and rested.

Elizabeth waited for the woman to move, but she just sat on the machine, staring into space. Elizabeth moved on to the next machine, hoping to pick the other one up when it was free. She watched the machine carefully and when the woman left it, Elizabeth snatched it up. It was sweaty from its previous inhabitant. Elizabeth wiped it down with disgust and adjusted the seat and weight. She counted down in her head and the words, “Someday I will be strong,” darted between the numbers.

Elizabeth watched the other woman on the leg extension machine, trying to send her psychic etiquette lessons. “Don’t you dare sit on that machine if you need to rest between sets. Don’t forget to wipe off your sweat.” She was amazed at how many plates the woman lifted with each repetition. The woman didn’t look muscular or “cut.” She didn’t look like those testosterone-induced women who are on the cover of Muscle & Fitness. Her skin was pale and stretched taut, but there wasn’t the strange definition of muscle underneath like Elizabeth saw in those magazines.

“Is that what strength looks like? She can’t even wipe off a machine when she’s finished with it.” Elizabeth finished her workout and walked back to the locker room. It had been getting increasingly colder outside, so she had been locking up her coat and car keys. During the summer, she would slip in the gym, exercise and rush out without ever seeing the locker room. She didn’t want to be near the den of feminine aggression.

She opened her locker, grabbed her coat and rushed out of the locker room, nearly running into a young mother picking up her two children from the daycare area. The mother was thin and her hoodie hung around her like a drapery. It looked like it was her husband’s coat, thrown on in the last minute before rushing to the gym with children in tow. Elizabeth watched in amazement as the woman bent down and picked up both children, one in each arm. She turned away when she heard the mother exclaim, “Someday I’ll be strong enough to carry both of you.”


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