Running for It: A Short Story

{Short story written from a guy’s perspective.}

I don’t go to the gym to check out hot girls. I don’t go to the gym so hot girls will think I’m hot. I just go because I like to. Twenty bucks a month with a one-year commitment wasn’t a bad deal, so I signed up for a membership.

Working out is like therapy. Women watch chick flicks to relax; men lift weights. For the first month of my gym membership, I only did free weights and some of the weight machines. The burning in my muscles made me secure somehow. Men should be strong, and I am. Some time in my second month at the gym, I got a little bored with weights. I still liked lifting, just wanted to branch out some. So I started running on the treadmill. I always competed against myself and set goals. The goals alternated: faster, longer, farther. Running gets you into a great rhythm. It seems to follow you out of the gym and into the rest of your life. I would run in the morning and keep feeling the rhythm and flow all day. So weights were great and running was great. But I never went near an elliptical. Elliptical machines are for women. No self-respecting man would be seen on one of those things.

I don’t go to the gym to check out hot girls. But I’m a guy. When a girl is pretty, I notice. There were usually some pretty girls at the gym. Plenty of not-so-pretty ones, too. That’s why they were at they gym. So I don’t size up girls like some guys do, I just notice. Three months at the gym and I saw her for the first time.

This girl was no supermodel. She was way better. She was like Jennifer Aniston only 20 years younger and not Photoshopped. I had already done my lifting for the day. She got on the stationary bike in front of my treadmill. I don’t know what it was, I just knew I wanted to talk to this girl. But what kind of creep goes up to women at the gym? I’m sure the last thing she wanted that day was a lame pick-up line from a sweaty guy. So I just kept running, suddenly self-conscious and glad she was in front of me. My rhythm was kinda off that day.

Two weeks later, I saw her again. I had forgotten, ’cause she was just some girl at the gym. This time she was with a friend. Her friend was hotter than her, but not nearly as cute. She looked fake. Girls who have to curl their hair to work out aren’t my type. I was doing bench presses when they walked in the door. Her friend was joking around. She laughed. I noticed. She looked even better when she smiled. I realized that I was craning my neck to see where they were headed. How awkward. Absorbed in the conversation with her friend, she didn’t seem to notice.

I finished my bench presses 5 repetitions early and skipped the rest of the day’s weights. Time to run. The girls were on ellipticals. Darn. All the treadmills are in front of the cardio theater and the elliptical machines are farther back. I’m not a creeper, just too shy to make a direct move. I chose a stair-stepper in the same row as the elliptical machines. Time to try something new. There were only two empty machines between her and me. I hoped I’d hear some conversation. At least figure out  what this girl was like and what she was into. But they’d both popped in earbuds and didn’t talk. Stair-steppers are a lot of work. I got sweaty right away and probably smelled rank. Great.

I didn’t have to wait another two weeks. The next day she was at the gym when I got there. Her friend wasn’t there. She was leaning against the counter, chatting it up with the guy who was working. He was majorly hitting on her. Damn. Gym employees are always arrogant. They go for the girls and get them. She wasn’t eating it up, but she wasn’t walking away either. Pissed off, I went straight to the free weights. She tried to catch my eye as I walked by. I didn’t notice. I ran like hell that day. I had skipped my run the day before to get near her. Stupid. Now I pushed myself for speed and distance.

When’s the last time I had a date? I thought. I already knew the answer. I hadn’t been on a date since Kim and I broke up. Crap, it’s been almost a year. Kim was something else. We met when she was a senior in high school and I was a freshman in college. Her brother and I played soccer together and she came to some games. She was gorgeous, hilarious and single. I could tell she liked me, but I didn’t wanna mess with a high school girl. I started calling her that summer after she graduated. The next year she was at the same college as me. We started dating. It just kept getting better. Man, she was awesome. We dated the next four years. I thought I might marry her. I mean I thought it so much I was checking out rings. Everything was great. I thought. I graduated college and landed a job at an ad agency. Kim still had a year, but I wasn’t worried. My job only put me two hours away from her.

I drove to see Kim almost every weekend at first. Then work got busier and I came a little less often. She was real stressed with her senior classes, so I figured we both needed some down time on weekends. It sucked, but it was temporary. I had plans for us. Kim didn’t always answer when I called her, but I figured she was busy. She had lots of friends and I gave her space. She got mad sometimes, but I knew she was just stressed. Then one Tuesday I came home to Kim sitting in my apartment. I acted excited to see her, but I felt sick. She wouldn’t make the drive in the middle of the week for nothing.

“I’m pregnant. It’s Jake’s.”

And that was the last I saw of Kim.

It was like a kick in the crotch. I had to take two sick days. So much for being a man. I fell apart. I’d met Jake before. He and Kim met when she was a sophomore and I was a junior. She hung out with him a lot and we all hung out together sometimes. Apparently he’d wanted her all along, and things really heated up once I was gone. I lost four years of my life to her. My ego took a thrashing. After that, I worked like life depended on it. I wanted to be successful so she’d have something to regret. Idiotic. Kim was never materialistic. Being successful wouldn’t make her miss me. But it’s all I knew to do.

Eventually, I blocked Kim out. I unfriended her on Facebook when baby pictures showed up on my newsfeed. Forget that. I kept working hard, but I did it for myself. And joining the gym was great. I burned off anger. Now the memory was raging and I was burning anger like crazy on that treadmill. Sweat was pouring off me, hair plastered to my forehead. How did I get on this? Oh yeah, the cute girl. Flirting with the gym worker. I don’t even know her. Forget her, I told myself.

I didn’t want to stop running. Ever. But my legs were rubber. I really pushed it. I finally had to quit. Almost staggering, eyes stinging, I knocked into her on my way to the locker room. What are the odds? My arm rammed into her shoulder. The cord of her ipod hooked on my hand. Earbuds yanked out and I almost stepped on it when it hit the floor. Great first meeting.

“Sorry,” I said and picked up her ipod.

“Oh, sorry,” she said. “I wasn’t paying attention.” I handed her the ipod. Her hair was pulled back but some of it came out and she brushed it out of her eyes. Up close, I noticed her green eyes. She noticed the red in mine. “Are you OK?”

“Um, yeah. Just a terrible day already.”

She laughed sympathetically. “And it’s only 7. Hopefully the endorphins will kick in soon. Running always makes me feel better.”

“Yeah, me too. That’s why I come here.” It was going surprisingly well. I just looked at her for a minute. The quiet seemed weird and I didn’t want her to walk away. “So what were you listening to before I ripped the music out of your ears?”

She laughed again. “Billy Joel.” She pulled her ipod out of the case to show me. “I know it’s old, but I love it.”

“Older music is always better. Who would listen to Lady Gaga when we’ve got The Beatles?” I said.

“You’re so right! I love The Beatles. They’re actually my favorite band.”

“OK. What’s the best Beatles song ever?”

“Ooo, can’t answer that. There’s way too many great ones. Depends on what mood I’m in.”

She smiled at me. I almost asked her out. Almost. But I couldn’t. I told her I’d better get going and headed for the locker room. I kicked myself all day at work. I didn’t even ask her name. She would definitely think I wasn’t interested.

I went to the gym that night, just in case. She wasn’t there. My legs were starting to burn from my morning run, so I just messed around with some weights, gave up and went home. I was late to work three times that week. I just kept hanging around the gym in the morning, waiting for her. She wasn’t coming back.

The weekend came. I was supposed to hang out with my buddies, but I didn’t feel like drinking. I blew them off and sulked around at home. Saturday I slept in. I finally drug my butt out of bed at 10:30 and headed to the gym.

She was there. I actually forgot to look; I was in such a bad mood. I was entering my weight and age into the treadmill computer when she came up.

“Hey stranger.”

“Oh, hi!”

“You really are a stranger,” she said. “I know you like the Beatles and you like to run. Got a name? I’m Alyssa.”

“Nice to actually meet you, Alyssa. I’m Kevin.”

“So, Kevin, what do you do when you’re not at the gym?”

I felt goofy standing still on the treadmill and somewhat emasculated by her making the moves.

“Well, Alyssa, this afternoon I’m planning on taking a pretty girl out to lunch. When will you be hungry?”

She grinned. “I’ll be hungry after I work out. But I’ll want to shower and change. You know where Brookshire Apartments are?”

“Sure.”

“Great. 16A. Pick me up at 12:30.” She shot me one more smile and headed back to the ellipticals.

I don’t go to the gym to check out hot girls. I don’t go to the gym so hot girls will think I’m hot. I just go because I like to. And because Alyssa goes.

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About Nicole

Daughter of God, wife, mother, volunteer youth leader, substitute teacher, aspiring writer, rabbit owner, nature lover. These are some of my titles.
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