Don stares down at the scale. "Hrmph," he grunts, with a dissatisfactory furl in his aging brow. He is 42 years old. He steps off the scale and removes his boxer shorts, convinced that the airy blend of elastic and cotton was somehow akin to adorning oneself with a regulation-weight bowling ball. He's back on the scale. No change. He sucks in his gut. Somehow this makes him heavier. He's off the scale.
Is it too hot? Should he eat first? What's the rule about eating first? Should he drink a protein shake first? What's the rule about protein shakes first? He drops to his knees and lowers his head to the floor, examining the rotating mechanism that resets this particular bargain-bin scale to absolute zero. All seems to be in order. Don is displeased. But wait! Don feels that unmistakable tingling in his loins. He has to pee. He hopes it's a lot. Gallons, even. That would be great. It's not gallons. It's a trickle. A sad, anemic trickle that spots the rim of the toilet bowl and barely reaches the surface of the water. For good measure, he's back on the scale. He's lost an ounce. He's on his way.
Don slides the closet doors open. He pushes the endless supply of coats, dresses, oxford-cut shirts, and pants to the side. Like some pendulum of doom, they spring back as though some coiled contraption is eager to return them to their proper place. He tries to hold them to the side with one hand while rifling through the dusty boxes below, many of which have become semi-permanently affixed to the floor from years of inactivity. He can hear his wife's voice, nearly a decade and a half prior, lamenting their new home's distinct lack of walk-in closets. He begins to understand.
Ah, the good ‘ol days.Finally, he's found what he's looking for. Like Arthur spectacularly removing the sword from its stone, his heave-ho produces a musty, wrinkled, sweat-stained Sonoma State Baseball shirt. He'd only played for a year, and even then he'd only played in two games and went one for eight. The one was later erased from the stats book and re-recorded as a fielder's choice. It didn't matter. He'd loved that shirt.
He looks at the tag. L. He looks at the tags of his updated wardrobe. XL. XXL. "Hmm." He remembers that shirts, especially those freshly laundered, tend to contract and affix themselves in a taut manner to their bearers. All he needs to do is put the shirt on and wear it around a bit, and naturally it will loosen and complement the contours of his body as it had done all those years before.
The shirt is over his head. He's come this far, no turning back. He raises his arm, sliding it through the armhole more suited to a man two-thirds his size, and feels the cotton stretch and sigh as it caresses his gelatinous bicep. It's uncomfortable. He just needs to give it time to loosen up. He's halfway there, sort of. His other arm is up. He contorts his upper torso in such a way that his second naked arm can angle itself, however cruelly, up and through the second narrow opening. The cotton groans as it begins its torturous journey across his back and upper shoulders, threatening to split Hulkamania-style at every crossroads. He hears the seams strain and split at the armpits, not quite creating a hole but warning him that he treads on dangerous ground. He is advised to turn back. He's gone too far.
He slides the remaining portion of the shirt down and around his mid-section. It cradles the spare tire, delightfully accentuating every grotesque fold of skin he's worked so hard to conceal. It comes to rest somewhere between his pelvis and the underside of his stomach, that bizarre nether-region of Jupiter that is perhaps the only place on his body that does not require SPF 50 sunscreen. The shirt is on. He slides on a pair of worn shorts, the kind he wears during his bimonthly thirty minutes of yardwork. He has no shoes suitable for exercise, so he chooses a pair of brown slip-on loafers. They're a little loose.
Don is back in the bathroom. He looks in the mirror. Head on it's not so bad. He looks a little pear-shaped (he'd read in one of his wife's women's magazines, during a particularly lengthy constitutional, that his was a good shape to have, though he paused to inquire whether or not this also applied to men) but generally the shirt is on and in order. From the side, it's a different story. He appears ripe with child, pregnant from years of Coors Light and southwestern nachos. He tries to suck in his gut, but this gives him the appearance of enormous, bountiful, bouncy breasts. He leaves the bathroom. He's going on a jog.
He's in the dining room, rifling through a door overstuffed with takeout menus some phantom nuisance continually places, five at a time, in their screen door. His wife can never bring herself to throw them out. Don braves the drawer every few months and dispatches the under-utilized menus, only to find it magically replenished a week later. He clears the drawer of its contents and reveals a silver-toned iPod Mini. He'd received it years ago as a Christmas present and couldn't remember if he'd ever gotten around to using it. It hums and whirs as it struggles to wake. He scrolls through its contents. He'd never gotten around to using it, but his wife had. Four Lawrence Welk albums and "Love Ballads of the Early 1970s." The iPod Mini is returned to the drawer.
The door is open. He is peering out at the day before him. Is it too hot? Should he eat first? What's the rule about eating first? Should he drink a protein shake first? What's the rule about protein shakes first? He remembers the time his wife bought some chocolate protein powder. It tasted like a fudgesicle. He liked to scoop ice cream into it. He wants a protein shake.
No. He must jog. He's out the door. His first steps are light and brisk. He is blissfully unaware of how ridiculous he looks, in his stained far-too-small athletic tee, gardening shorts and dress-casual brown loafers. He can do this jogging thing. This jogging thing is great.
He's in front of the neighbor's house. His lungs begin to tighten. His calves burn. He begins to think about the end of the jog and how amazing it will feel when he eventually stops jogging. He wants to stop jogging. No. He must jog. He's nearly a third of the way down the street. Only two more thirds to go.
Running is really all about the proper equipment, right?He's thirsty. God, he's thirsty. He wishes he'd brought a water bottle. He always sees joggers with their water bottles, holding those water bottles an inch or two from their open mouths and squirting that cool, refreshing beverage into waiting reservoirs. They look so cool when they do that. Sometimes they wear Under Armour. He should get some Under Armour.
He'd like to stop. He really wants to stop. Maybe he should try again tomorrow, only this time he'll have some Under Armour and a water bottle. Maybe he'll buy some running shoes, too. Running shoes, that's what he's missing. Maybe he should stop.
A couple rounds the corner. They are jogging. He can't stop now. He'll look like a fool. He wants to impress them. He can be a part of their club. They are joggers, and like Harley Davidson riders or Saab owners or whatever other exclusive niche a person can affix themselves to, he wants to play the part.
A screeching sound. A car. Don places his hand on its hood to steady himself. He looks into the face of the driver. He would like to be angry.Maybe he can stop. Maybe, since they know not from where he came, they will think he's been jogging for miles. They will admire him and celebrate the end of his marathon, envious and hopeful that some day, at 42 years old, they too will have his endurance and stamina.
No. He must go on. He must at least round the corner or wait for them to disappear from sight before he can stop. He at least owes himself, at least owes them that much. Then he can stop. He promises he'll go today, go today to buy some running shoes and Under Armour and a water bottle. He'll pull the stopper with his teeth and squirt water into his mouth and wipe his brow with his Under Armour and he will look like a real jogger. A real pro.
The couple is upon him. They greet him. He tries to greet them. No words escape. He might have spit, he might have wheezed, but certainly he did not speak. He is ashamed. Perhaps they didn't know he wasn't very good at this. Of course they knew. They think he is a loser. Maybe not. Did they see his shoes? If they saw his shoes, they definitely think he is a loser. Tomorrow he'll have the proper foot attire. And a water bottle. He wants a water bottle that contains the word "running." Like the kind of thing you'd get at a run. The kind where people pay you money to run. Nobody pays you to run down the street.
Don reaches the end of the street. He has defied the odds. He will cross the street and begin the slow journey around the block. He will walk. His heart rate is up anyway. How long had he been gone? He had no way of knowing. A half an hour, 45 minutes? Would his wife worry about him? He hoped she might. He is lost in thought. He's exhausted.
He begins to cross the street. A screeching sound. A car. It does not hit him. He places his hand on its hood to steady himself. He looks into the face of the driver. The driver raises his hands, a gesture of apology and fear. Don feels sweat stinging his eyes. He would like to be angry. He is too tired to be angry.
Don turns and slowly walks out of the path of the car. He will not continue around the block. He walks slowly down his own street, his feet beginning to blister due to improper foot attire. One eye is half closed. He is unable to stay the sweat that seems to seep from every pore. He arrives home. He walks into the kitchen, where the decorative clock ticks and announces the passing daylight. He has been gone eight minutes.
He kicks off the loafers. He hates those loafers. He takes off the Sonoma State Baseball shirt. It is soaked. It has not loosened. He balls it and tosses it towards the dirty clothes hamper. He misses. He allows the gardening shorts to find a new perch around his ankles and his sweaty, bulbous form collapses onto the bed. He is asleep.
This is why Don doesn't jog. He was almost hit by a car.