Archive for May, 2017

Only recently have we acknowledged one another.  There’s been no need to in the past and there is no need to now – though  we’ve reached the point where I suppose it’s considered a courtesy.

I don’t recall when I first saw him at the gym.  He’s there every night that I am there and has been for the past two years.  I do recall however, that the first time I took notice of him.  I suspected that he was one of the Russian guys that tend to socialize with the other Russian guys there.

Russian.  Croatian.  At the very least, Slavic.  Because he has that way of carrying himself and moving about like that of a recent arrival who wants to reclaim his former social position in a new city without being questioned about how he got here.  Shoulders back.  Head up.

He’s solid. Well built.  But not over done which might expected from someone who is at the gym every day.  And unlike others who spend their nights at the gym, he is not there to overtly show off yet he is only slightly devoid of this trait.

He is well groomed and tidy but not coiffed.  His shirts are never sleeveless and he seldom wears shorts but instead opts for the new style of sweat pants that cuff mid calf.  Never grey like what might be of a typical gym-goer, but of more modern fabrics and colors.  Unlike many, his shoes are not a priority.  The style, though he’d never use the term himself, is unique and there is a slight bit of determination on his part to maintain this.

I tend to arrive at the gym earlier on weeknights than he does because when I am on the elliptical he passes me on his way to the locker room.  Most often he arrives with a friend, though it is almost always with someone different which seems nearly impossible because at this small neighborhood gym, there is a standard group of men that are the regulars.

When he arrives with a friend there is a casualness about the way the two interact that indicates a familiarity outside of this limited social environment.  One would guess that they’d been texting one another earlier in the day about meeting up later.   On the rare occasion when he doesn’t arrive with a friend in tow, he’s no less convivial and he scans the room looking for a familiar face, which he inevitably finds.

It’s for this reason that the gym may be his preferred social outlet and also why he is not overtly built considering the time spent.  It is a social engagement that brings him and the physical results are secondary.  While a brief chat is common he does not converse at length.  When he is using the weights or on a machine there is a stone cold look of ambivalent determination.  Not forced.  Not exhibitionism.  But concentrated.

During the winter months when I take time to sauna after a work out he’s been in there with me on occasion. Most men wear a towel in the sauna.  He wears his sweat pants and a t-shirt.  Unlike other men, he doesn’t avoid eye contact nor does he seek it.  He’s simply observant.

Once I sat with him in the sauna when he was shirtless and his chest was less developed than I had expected.  He shaves his chest hair but it is not groomed.  Rather it is likely a monthly once-over with the electric clippers.  It would be plentiful otherwise.

His time in the sauna is always solitary in that those with whom he socializes do not join him.  He’s relaxed and quiet, as though he knows how the sauna is meant to be experienced.  As though he grew up with this idea – like a Baltic man might.   Respectful.  Yet another nuance about him that I find so curious.

The first time I heard his voice was the first time that he greeted me as someone he now knows as familiar.  I was making my way to the showers and we both approached the glass door at the same time though from opposite sides.  He stepped aside as I made my way through and smiled slightly.

“Hey man, how’s it going?” he said.

That phase, an inevitable utterance in a locker room that is the neighborhood gym, was said with only the least accent.  Subtle if any.  The words are significant though because he looked me in the eyes when he said this.  Perhaps he startled himself by the familiarity we now have with one another.  It was sincere none the less.


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