When I first got to the gym, what I simply told the instructor was, “Hey, I just want to get fit, you know? Lose some of this stomach.” Now that I think about it, there must have been a gap in the communication somehow and what he actually heard was, “Train me like you would the Avengers.”
If I wasn’t sweating oceans, out of breath and about to lose consciousness, then Mike wasn’t having it. It wasn’t like he hated me (which I hope he didn’t), he just had this silly, impossible, preposterous idea that I could somehow do all of it.
The gym at Ikoyi Club is moderately sized and from time to time, an elderly woman or man that looked like they were about to fall off would walk in and I would sigh in relief. At least now I wouldn’t be the least fit person around.
“Fifty more,” Mr Mike would say as I did the bench presses.
“But I just did fifty,” I’d say, looking at his eyes, pleading with mine.
“Fifty more,” he’d repeat as he put on the TV and watched Channels.
Those remaining fifty would be done in sweat and blood. Okay, not blood exactly but sweat, a lot of it. After I was done, I left the weights to drink some water and an old woman shuffled to the press, tried the weights and cursed that they were too small. She added some more weights and smiled, lifting twenty in the amount of time it took me to gulp.
Fuck, I thought. You know you’re doing badly when people who get pensions lift more than you.
Facing endless mortification in the gym, I decided to try swimming.
I — and I don’t mean to brag here — am an amazing swimmer. And that’s just it. Given time and space, I would probably have even gone pro, but I took one look at Michael Phelps and his cute innocent face and his big big dreams and I decided that, na, I’d let him have it. It didn’t seem fair having me compete with mere mortals and so, I quit while I was ahead. I was just too good.
I was in the pool doing laps and some nine-year-old girl was doing hers beside me, fully kitted in state-of-the-art Speedo gear. I had lost my goggles years ago but that didn’t matter, really. I was born of the water, practically a mammal-reptile hybrid; I could see without silly artificial help.
She looked at me and said, out of the blue, “Race you?”
I laughed good-heartedly — it was a good, long chuckle. The poor child, she didn’t know what she was getting into.
I shrugged easily and agreed and then, the race was on. And I smiled before starting. This would be a piece of cake. Like stealing candy from a nine-year-old.
We had raced three times before I decided that some witchcraft was definitely involved.
“I’m tired,” she groaned. “I want to go to the playground.”
“Again,” I said, readying myself with the goal in front of me. Yes, technically she had won the first three times but those were just warmups. This — this, was the final one. The one to determine who, really, was the better of the two.
In a second, we were off and I swear to all the gods that the girl wasn’t normal. She passed through the water like it was nothing, and all I could do was think, You little bitch.
By the time I got to the other side, she was already there, splashing around with the water.
“I’m asthmatic,” I said, smiling weakly.
She nodded and removed something from her pocket lined in her swimwear. An inhaler. “Me too,” she said, smiling as she got out of the pool.
A casual observer may enter the Ikoyi Club gym one day and see a young man, maybe about 19, running on the treadmill like his life depended on it. And they’d see his lips moving with his earphones, muttering to himself as he stared at the mirror, sweat gleaming off his forehead. The casual observer would think that he’s just rapping along to his favourite song, but the casual observer would be wrong.
“We die here,” I’m saying to the fat as I stare deep into my own eyes.
“Both of us. We die here.”
Thanks for reading. Check out the first Weight for me here- https://medium.com/@AnthonyAzekwoh/weight-for-me-3608733aa123