I go to this seasonal/holiday event at a small auditorium. It ends and the crowd begins to disperse.
I see this couple there, vague acquaintances, and I cringe. I have to flee the scene. I’m desperate to avoid a conversation with them.
I rush towards the exit…but then I’m distracted by a table full of food; appetizer odds and ends. The new plan: make a plate, then rush out.
(Food is happy. Food is happy.)
I make the plate, turn around…the couple is right behind me. I’m caught.
These are Shiny People; high-end normal. They’re definitely teeth-whiteners…I strongly suspect they whiten their personalities as well.
They walk up and both say, “Hi!” at the same time. I say hi and stare longingly at the exit.
She looks at my plate and says, “I’d love to eat, but I just haven’t felt well today.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I tell her.
The guy shakes his head and says, “Go on, ask her why she doesn’t feel well.”
I ask, “So…why aren’t you feeling well?”
She playfully punches him in the arm and says, “Well, I’ve just been hitting the gym so hard this week; maybe I overdid it or something. Today, especially; I must have been on that treadmill for hours. He, of course, teases me about it. Keeps telling me to get more protein before I work out, but I just can’t; I’m sticking to my diet.”
He says, “She doesn’t get it. I keep telling her, without the protein in your system, you’re just burning muscle. I offer to make her a protein shake, she turns it down. Then, of course, she works out and feels terrible. Gotta hit those shakes, you know?”
I contemplate jabbing a fork into my eye. Desperate…just desperate for an excuse to leave. But instead I mumble, “Protein. It’s a thing.”
She smiles her teeth-whitener smile and says, “I’m gonna mingle, you boys behave.” She walks off. The guy stands there. I eat cookies and mentally caress the exit sign. It’s precious.
He says, “She’s one of those people, keeps switching her exercise routine. I tell her, won’t work unless you stick with something consistently. But she’s on the treadmill one week…bike the next week…a class the week after that.”
He shakes his head sadly. I stick bread into my face.
He continues. “It’s like they say, if you wanna exercise efficiently, you gotta do what you love. Pick something that works for you, stay with it. I started weights in college and man, that’s been a life saver. I tried running…I have this friend who’s a fanatic about it…and I don’t get it. He kept telling me, ‘Gotta go for that runners high,’ and I finally told him, ‘I just get runner’s boredom’. Lifting, though, that makes sense to me. It feels right.”
I nod, eat tiny muffins.
He asks, “What are you into?”
I don’t understand the question. “With exercise,” he adds.
“Oh! Tread…mill? Walks?”
He doesn’t respond, so I say, “I’m an inside cat.”
He nods his head, bored, says, “Right, right.”
It’s quiet for a bit. I drink punch and eat crackers with cheese. (I do this, in social settings, stress-eat like a deranged bobcat.)
His wife walks back over and asks, “Are you two still talking about me?” We shakes our heads no. She fake laughs and says, “I’m on to you two.”
I fantasize that a tornado hits the building, spares me the rest of the conversation.
The wife asks, “Are you in a league?”
I don’t know what this means. I stare at her.
“Fantasy?” she prompts.
I say, “No. I should be. In one. I’m just not at the moment.”
She pats her husband’s arm, says, “You should see his crew when they’re watching a game. I mean, it’s like mass regression.”
He says a few things about his league’s set up. It sounds like a sports thing. Mentally, I file “league” under Sports Thing and stop listening. They keep talking. I nod my head, try to seem life-like.
This seems to work. Eventually they stop saying things and walk away.
I pull my hair, breathe out. I’m mentally exhausted. I go home…seriously consider nailing boards over the doors and windows. Instead I just crash out, sleep heavily. I dream about events without exits, talking protein shakes and leagues…inscrutable leagues where nothing ever happens.