How Are You Brave? A Short-Short Story
The gym is packed, as it is every first of the year.
But I’m not one of those New Year’s resolutioners. I’ve been here as long as he has.
The man in the orange shorts.
He comes every morning at 5AM sharp and always picks the treadmill furthest from the door.
I’ve been working up the courage to talk to him, and the elliptical next to him has just opened up.
He’s already deep into mile two of his run. The rhythmic thud of his feet hitting the conveyer belt is intoxicating. I let it set the pace for my workout, but he’s much faster than I am. My arms and legs swing uncontrollably, pulled by an invisible force. My hair clings to the sweat on my forehead.
I’m gasping for air when he eventually slows, and I curse myself for futilely trying to keep up. This is not going how I envisioned. My arms feel like noodles and my legs have gone limp. I gingerly climb off the elliptical, hoping to sneak away quietly so he won’t notice how much I’ve just made a fool of myself, but something inside me compels me to look up, and he’s staring at me intensely.
“Hello, workout body.”
“Oh, no,” I breathe. “I could never keep up with you.”
“You’re better than half the people here.”
So he has noticed me. Now my heart is racing for a different reason, and my cheeks burn with embarrassment. He jumps off the treadmill right in front of me, his pecs jiggling under his shirt, and I nearly choke on my tongue.
“Well, see you tomorrow then?” he says after squirting half his water bottle into the back of his mouth.
I nod, suddenly having lost my voice, and watch his cheeks swish in his shorts as he walks to the locker room.
© 2023 Nortina Simmons