One Of His Special Talents
He lies freshly awake. It is early, 4.11 by the digital clock on the bedside table. He woke without the alarm. Has never needed it, one of his special talents he liked to think.
The sheets were somehow cool and warm at the same time. He liked the room too. Dark with the curtains drawn, bright and airy when opened. It seemed like opposites could always be here together at the same time. This is what pleased him.
He gets up and goes to the ensuite; a space of such bland utility that he thinks it would be entirely possible to die there from boredom and sensory deprivation.
He urinates quickly feeling the drain from his bladder like a loosening of grip, splashes tap water on his face, takes off the old white t-shirt he sleeps in and sprays deodorant onto his armpits. He checks his watch. Five minutes have elapsed. Correct.
He goes back through the doorway to the bedroom. Suddenly a wave of sorrow knocks him over and sends him sprawling on the bed. He bursts into tears; they run down his still damp face mixing with the tap water in his lashes and slide off his cheeks down on to the sheets. He sobs softly for a long time, so long [by the bedside clock 38 minutes, in his mind 39. He is such a drama queen] that when he stands again there is a half circle of teardrops around where he laid his head and stared up at the ceiling.
He can picture her lying on the other side of the bed, her black hair fanning out over the pillow, sleep breaths low and hissing. Suddenly desperate and wildly irrational he lifts the pillows and searches the sheets for a strand of that hair. He doesn’t know why he does this. The sheets have been washed and changed a dozen times since she last lay in the bed. He knows this and yet he returns again and again like anybody would when searching for something precious lost. Always returning to where it should be, where you last had it before it vanished.
When he stands again, he, the clock and his watch agree that 52 minutes have passed and now he is late.
He feels manic, bursting with a wild energy being tapped from who knows where. Dressing quickly in the dark in exercise gear, nylon running shorts, a black, breathable fabric t-shirt and clean new ankle socks he searches for his runners under the bead and finds then eventually under the chair in the corner amongst his other shoes. Seven minutes have passed. Correct.
The drive through the dark from home to the 24-hour gym is below average at 6 minutes and five seconds. In fact that is the second fastest time this year with the current record at 5 minutes and 47 seconds. In his mind the journey felt shorter and he is disappointed that he estimated under six minutes and possible new record.
Once in the gym he loads a bar with 20kg plates after placing it in its stand at a bench press station. There is no one else in the gym. Its chilly fluoro lit interior is filled only with a low machine hums, mirrored reflections and idling LED screens.
He had lifted weights for years. Even in high school long before he met her. He loved Bench Press. Benchpressing was one of his special talents. His build helped of course, stocky and barrel chested with broad shoulders and strong well developed triceps. He was made to be a bench presser. The feeling of accepting the weight, of taking it down upon him and the having to push it away to be successful made it different from other lifts like deadlift or squat or the clean and jerk. And now with her gone the act provided solace by passing time and burning energy, exhausting him to make sleep easier, to concentrate on simple movements and rituals to clear the head of thoughts unwanted.
He trained hard but he worked at bench press the hardest. He liked to train doing 5 sets with 5 repetitions or movements in a set. He would start the bar at 120 kg and add 5kg per set each set, sometimes pausing for a two second count with the barbell resting across his chest. He always trained alone so he had no spotter to watch him especially now when it was still just after 5.00 in the morning.
He powered through the first set with no trouble the weight going up and own smoothly between the midpoint of his chest and the full extension of the arms. The curve of the steel barbell was powdered with chalk and had a textured panel for grip for the hands because to slip would be very unpleasant.
He added a small plate to each end of the barbell. It looked silly with this tiny bit extra beside the round 20kg plates full 45 centimetres in diameter.
Quickly he positioned himself on his back on the bench, braced and lifted the bar off the racks and with some more strain pumped out another 5 reps. He added another small plate to each end and filled with adrenaline and confidence quickly produced his third set.
Now he added another 2.5 kg plate to each end and locking the weights on safely with the collars took his position under the barbell again. He took a deep breath and pushed the bar up and out of its support. He could feel the difference this time and he was straining but proud as he noticed the steel cylindrical barbell a full 2 metres long was slightly bowed down at each end with the weight that he was lifting. It was hard but he completed the five reps of the set. Gratefully he lowered the barbell back into the stand with a groan and a clanking of plates.
He checked his watch to have a full two minutes rest before the last set. He put another 5 kg on to the bar, 2.5kg at each end tightened and checked the collars sat down and then slid and lowered himself under the barbell. A full 130kg on the barbell.
Maths in his head, just another one of his special talents.
Repetition two was very hard but he got the barbell up and for a second he thought of putting the barbell in the rack and accepting defeat, but he had felt defeated for a long time and he was filled with exultation right here right now and he was going to ride that wave home.
Which is why when on the third repetition the bar stalled on its ascent and crashed back onto his chest he was at first more surprised than anything else. He was so sure that this would work and he would feel like his old self again.
But he was pinned and the weight on his chest was constricting his breathing. He started to feel scared then, not a rare feeling lately and so he started to kick his feet, tried to lift his butt and slide off the bench. Anything to release the pressure as each breath in seemed to bring in a lower volume of air than the one previous.
It was then with his biggest most violent jerk that he made things worse. The bar slid off the mid point of his chest to his throat where he had even less leverage and very soon he was dying as his windpipe was slowly crushed.
The music kept playing, the lights stayed cold and bright, the LEDs kept rolling across the consoles and the dawn slowly lit the sky. Soon he was dead. He had held out as long as he could, persistence being one of his special talents.