Every day I hop on the crosstown bus and ride through Central Park to the Y on the Upper East Side.My latest release has been found pounding away the hours on an elliptical and stairmaster to keep away the circling thoughts in my overactive mind. I received the free membership by volunteering to be a poster child for their new brochures- a WASP representing a Jewish institution has been found offensive to some, but I’m quite amused. Earlier this week, I was racing up the gym’s stairwell and slowed behind an older Jewish man with a rather sly smile on his face. He allowed me to pass and I thanked him. Ten minutes later, in the midst of my workout, I noticed the same 70-something man circling the nearly vacant gym with his eyes frozen on me. Three times around the gym before he leaned against the unattended elliptical to my right.
“Are you the pretty young lady that passed me in the stairs?” he asked. Headphones in my ears, I looked at him and nodded. I was out of breath, at the highest level of the machine and not in the mood to chat. “You’re a pretty girl and I bet all these creepy guys try to talk to ya ‘ but I bet a lot of guys are too scared to chat. Well I’m not scared.”
My face broke into a smile, and I couldn’t help but laugh. “See! I made a pretty girl laugh today. Not every man can do that. You look like you’re tired. Why are you on this machine? Is it good?” he asked. I removed my headphones in defeat and smiled at him. Our dialogue followed:
Me: It exhausts me.
Him: Isn’t there something in between?
Me: I want to be exhausted. It releases my stress.
Him: Okay. Mind if I try? It looks easy to me.
So the older man, who I soon learned was named Lou, got on the elliptical and took to it quickly. We moved at the same pace, but I was breaking a sweat and panting.
Lou: You’re a faker. This is easy. I don’t know why you’re so tired.
Me: It’s because I’m on level 55 and you’re on level 15.
Lou: Is that so? I’ll show you!
He stepped it up to 35 and within the first few seconds, I truly thought poor Lou was going to pass out or have a heart attack. Gasping for his breath, he continued his interview session with me.
Lou: When did you first notice that men were staring at you? You had to notice when.
Me: I have no idea.
Lou: Why do you think men like to look at you? I guess it’s nice to look at something pleasant.
Me: I guess. You have some interesting questions, Lou.
Lou: You got a boyfriend?
Lou: You got a lot of boyfriends don’t you?
Me: No. Men like to chase after me and when they finally get what they want, well, they move on or sabotage things.
Lou was silent for a moment and my mind began reeling. This is the reason I was pushing myself so hard. I didn’t want to think about the circuitous dating in my life as follows: Guy meets Girl. Guy obsesses over Girl and calls her. A lot. Guy does anything for a chance to spend time with Girl. Guy makes promises that this is real. Girl takes things slowly. Guy fantasizes about Girl. Guy gets the real Girl and freaks out.
Lou: I’d imagine a lot of guys are jerks and a lot of the nice guys are scared.
Me: Well, the last one would rather have a blow-up doll of me than to be with me.
Lou: A what?! That’s just silly. But these fellows are young, they’ll learn. How old are they?
Me: In their thirties.
Lou: They should know better. What guy wouldn’t want to be with you?
Me: It gives me more material for songs.
Lou: Oh yeah? What’s the name of one of your records?
Me: I wrote a song last night called “Revolving Door.”
Lou: Ha ha ha! (he was half-laughing, half-puffing) That’s a good one. You wanna sing it?
Me: Not under these conditions.
I finished my workout and poor Lou was still trying to finish his ten minutes at a higher rate than he should’ve been. I told him I was going to the bikes now and he said he might see me over there. I went across the gym and while on the bike, I turned and watched Lou peering around a pillar. Everytime he saw me turn, he would duck behind so I didn’t notice. A few minutes later, he snuck behind me and leaned the unoccupied bike to my left.
“I hope this bike business is easier than that was,” Lou said and I jumped, unaware he was breathing over my shoulder.
I watched him struggle to lower the seat, which went crashing to the floor. Once adjusted, he got on and couldn’t move the pedals. “This is just too high a level. I need to take it easy.” Poor Lou, pushing his body to its limits just to continue our conversation.
“I think you’re a beautiful girl and you need to just be happy. Don’t worry about the revolving door stuff. The right people will stick around,” he said. It was what I know is the truth and really needed to hear. He told me of his own life and kids and friends at the gym. I listened… glad that he was so persistant. Being a determined person, I’m a strong fan of persistance with people. It was one of the reasons I found myself feeling sad on this day, with my recent “revolving door” episode. I’d like to think that Lou lived his life for its reality, and not in a fantasy bubble. I’d like to think that I’m making the choices to stay in reality… I don’t want my dreams to just be a fantasy. I want to live them. I don’t want my relationships to be virtual and based on someone’s fantasy. I don’t want to be on some pedastal, where the only place to go is down. Why is it that fear can be so deeply intertwined with dreams and fantasies? I always thought if people want something, and receive it, that they’ll be happy and celebrate it. I sure as hell am, even though I then strive for the next thing. There’s a reason so many people win the lottery and end up broke a year later. It’s such an important thing to remember on this journey…