Self Conscious, the J Eric Miller blog

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Failure of Exercise

Weaker running today than I was when I re-begin. Why is that?
(What does J Eric Miller write about? exercise; girls; and so on).

Maybe it’s the cold air.

It occurs to me halfway through that I might not make it.

I’ve never not made it, this or any run.

What will I think of myself if I have to walk the last of it?

…I remember a failure in exercise. This was years ago, a decade, a little more.

I live in an unfinished basement.

This girl and I, that first girl I thought I loved but only wanted, the burnmyfingertipwithcaramelgirl, she and I have parted, and what sticks in my minds, it is what she’s said to me some time before: You’re skinny, but I love your body.

(That viscous little paradox).

I find myself that summer buying a bench, buying weights. Plates and bars.
This is new for me. As a wrestler, I eschewed all but the stamina exercises.
The kids I wrestled, most of them, they were bulky.
Me, I was smart and tricky.
I wrestled like a thief, and that’s why I won.

But now I want to bulk up.

(and jesusgod, yes, i see that, the possibility that it all begins there, with this girl, this branch of my particular quest for acceptance)

Concrete floor with little rugs.

And what happens, a few months into it, I watch the Rocky series. The first three or four. Up until the Russian. Draco.

I’m working out. The bench, it’s tilted. This is called the incline press. It develops your upper pectorals, and, of course, to a lesser degree, your tris and your shoulders.

I know my limits. I know at this particular weight, I should be able to lift it six times. I’ve no spotter. After six, I must replace the bar, let the bench take the weight for me.

But I’ve watched all these fucking Rockies. I’ve got the eye of the tiger. And I know, I am absolutely sure, that you can make your body do what you tell it.

(You never have to stop running. You never have to lift your head out of the bathtub water.)

So after six, I say, One more.
Maybe it was like this, One more, mother fucker.
(I’m not polite to myself in the gym. Or the basement.)

So I do it, I bring it down and I push it up.
And now I am Rocky. Or the Russian, that cold looking son of a bitch, that Hitlerdream of height and weight and Anglo. Or Clubber Lang, that savage.
(These are not my stereotypes. They belong to the films.)

Go, I say, again.
And it comes down, that bar, the weight.
(You tear muscle, and muscle regrows. That’s what lifting weights is. You make yourself stronger by destroying yourself. Like any love affair. The way at the end our bodies will be destroyed, or chiseled, our hearts torn to pieces or hard).

And halfway up, my arms start to shake. And I’m not going to make it.

They’ll never go up again. No matter how much I believe.

(What do you do when your faith surrenders to reality?)

So they quiver, my arms.

This is the moment before the car accident.
The moment on the end of the rope.
That frozen second when you see the bad thing that is about to happen.
That shock.

My left gives out first. Once it gives a little, it gives all the way. The elbow drops.
That side of the bar goes slamming down across my face, my eyes socket. The plates on that side, they tumble off. Now there is an imbalance. No weight on the left, lots on the right. That arms gives out too. That elbow drops too. The bar crashes across the bridge of my nose, across the other eye socket. The weights slide off.

I’m there, holding the bar, trembling. Blood and sweat. I’d like to believe that I thought to laugh right then. Probably I didn’t because I thought I was dead.

(If you see some malformation in my face, this is where it happened. Fucking Sylvester Stallone. I got a lawyer, but nothing ever came of it.)

…All of this occurs to me as I run.
You cannot make yourself finish.
Just like you cannot make yourself a genius. Some things are not acts of will.

What will I think if I have to stop and walk?

And then, I come up the parking lot, it’s a bit of a hill in places, and I see at the top, there’s a girl, one of those vultures we all become, waiting in our cars to find some walking somebody to follow to his or her parking spot.

She’s waiting. And I’m dragging. I’m not running up this hill. I’m jogging up it.

But it’s a girl. She doesn’t have to be pretty. I don’t look long enough to notice. She might even be a boy who looks like a girl.

The bottom line is that in the presence of what I believe to be the female species, I have to speed up. I can’t appear to drag in front of her. I run up the hill. I run right by her.

And out of her sight, I’m not so far from home, but how will I make it?

(And it occurs to me as I run, I have more in common with a male baboon than I do with a female human).

(It’s good that things occur to you running. The more you think about, the longer you think, the more steps you’ve taken, the closer you are too the end. If you don’t look at your arms when they are shaking, maybe they don’t have to break. If you don’t think about drowning beneath the surface of your tub, maybe you don’t have to drown.)

(It is fortune that gets me home not crawling.)

(It is not will alone.)

(It is not faith alone.)

Faith nor will can save you. But they help.