Hot Date with the Janitor
I smile back at him, nodding politely, maybe allowing my eyes to linger a bit longer than I should when dealing with guys like this.
A severe case of runner's knee has banished me from running through the streets of New York and confined me to the gym, but I'm not complaining. Much like the feeling I get when I walk into a bookstore or a properly curated boutique, walking into a gym always feels like home. There's a real perk to starting off with a membership at the age of 11 (I lied and told them I was the required minimum age of 12); no matter how hard you try to fight it, nothing feels more soothing than a gym--like a pacifier to a baby.
I rock through my workout, always excited to use different machines and strange equipment to shake things up. (Yes, these are the things I live for). I begin to notice a pattern; the same employee, who I've now realized is the gym's janitor, staring at me from different corners of the gym. He seems to be getting closer, closer...mopping near me when I swear he already went over that spot. Cleaning the mirrors next to me that are already sparkling. It begins to sink in...Shit. This isn't just some friendly guy. This is another gym creep and I've got to avoid, avoid, avoid!
I move over to the drinking fountain, careful to make sure he's nowhere around. I bend over to take a nice cool sip, soothed by the clanging of weights in the background and the mild grunts of fellow lifters. I stand up and wipe my mouth, taking a deep breath and smiling. I turn around and almost run face first into him.
"Hi," he gushes, staring at me with wide eyes and beaming. "How are you today?"
"Good, you?" I politely return, nodding like, This is as far as the conversation is going to get.
"Yeah, it's good," he nods, adopting a very cool front. "So, what are you working on?"
I groan internally. Oh, God, here we go. Another "expert" who's going to try and give me "tips" as an excuse to talk to me. Barf. "My health," I say, daring him to press.
He does, "Anything specific?"
"Are you a trainer?" I shoot back. Or are you just the janitor?
"No," he says, suddenly conscious of himself. He looks down, which causes me to do the same and notice the ridiculous tattoos running up and down his arms. They look like puffy paint art that he got done in a Port-O-Potty somewhere. "I'm trying to bulk up though. I'm pretty strong already; you missed it, I was lifting those treadmills earlier to clean under them. They're really heavy."
He pauses to stare at me. I wait a beat, and then realize this is supposed to really impress me. "Wow," I say, practically patting him on the head and giving him a dog biscuit with my words, "That's great."
"Yeah," he says cockily, leaning against the wall, ever so confident now. "You know, I like to stay fit. I'm pretty strong," he repeats. I wonder if he remembers that he already said this.
"Good for you, health is important," I say with finality, beginning to back away slowly.
"I was wondering, do you like to party?" he asks, lowering his voice a few decibels.
"What do you mean?" I say, stalling, wondering how to get away.
"Like, do you drink or smoke or anything?"
He stares at me blankly; this clearly wasn't the response he was expecting. I see him think about something and decide to press on, as if I had given him the correct answer, "Because I was thinking maybe we could go to a bar sometime, hang out."
It's my turn to stare blankly. "Sure," I say, having absolutely no intention of actually doing that. "Well, I gotta get going now; work soon!" I rush away, shoving my headphones back into my ears.
"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow!" he calls after me.
I stick up a hand and wave, well aware that I'm not coming to the gym tomorrow and even more aware that I will never admit that to him.