There’s a guy at my gym who possibly hates me. Actually, I can’t tell. It’s confusing.
A few months ago I was changing in the locker room and I got into a conversation with this guy. He said he works in opera, and we talked a bit about this opera director I know who turned out to be an acquaintance of this guy’s as well. You know, just a nice, pleasant talk in the locker room.
The next time I saw him — he was using roughly the same locker as before — I smiled and said hi. He just glared at me. And since then I’ve seen him around the gym and he’s never said anything to me or smiled at me.
So I started wondering what was up with this guy. Had I said something that time we’d met that had upset him? And if so, why didn’t he say something about it at the time?
Alternatively, I started thinking, Maybe this is a different guy — who (a) just happens to look like the previous guy and (b) coincidentally used roughly the same locker. In which case, that time I thought I was meeting him for the second time and gave him a big “Hi!,” maybe he thought I was some sort of lunatic who goes around the locker room greeting total strangers.
In any case, I keep seeing this guy — or at least, one of those guys — around the gym. And I’ve gotten kind of self-conscious about this whole thing — I worry that it seems obvious that I’m going out of my way not to interact with him. So maybe he thinks I have something against him! Maybe he’s wondering, Why is that weird bald guy who gratuitously said hi to me that other time now going out of his way not to say hi to me?
Though I have to say, my gut feeling is that this has been the same guy all along — and perhaps my musings about “a second locker-room guy” arise from a subconscious inclination to suppress my hurt feelings at being disliked. …
Anyhow, I was returning from the showers this afternoon, thinking about that guy who may or may not hate me and feeling grateful that he (or his doppelgänger) wasn’t there, when I realized that someone else was saying something to me. It was this older Asian guy I see at the gym a lot. I’ve been really inspired by the older folks at the gym, who come in every day and seem very fit in body and mind — but this guy has always struck me as extra-cool. He wears bright blue “croc”-type sandals, and all his movements are very deliberate. He takes his time, whereas most of us are in something of a hurry to move on to the next thing in our day. In the showers, he does Tai Chi-type stuff. Back at his locker, he does extra exercises. His posture is incredible. Everything seems to be happening as part of a deep spiritual practice. And I’ve never seen him talk or smile.
So when I realized he was talking to me today, it came as a surprise. He had just taken down one of the plastic stools that they keep on top of the lockers, and he was asking me if I wanted it. I said, Sure!, and thanked him. Then, as I was leaving (he was still doing his various deliberate locker-room things), I said, “Take care” — and he looked up from what he was doing and gave me a brilliant smile.
This not only made up for my yucky, confused feelings about the opera-guy with a possible mysterious vendetta against me, but also for another encounter I’d had earlier in the day: A loopy fellow on University Ave., walking in front of me, had repeatedly turned around to stare at me. Finally he said, loudly, “Oh no, you can’t! You think you can, but you can’t!” and then he ran away. And the thing is, there are so many things that I wish I could do, and probably can’t; and I try not to think that way, but then that guy kind of threw it in my face. I couldn’t help but think of him as an aspect of me — perhaps even my essence — come along to disrupt my silly hopes and insupportable dreams.
Walking back home from the gym, I saw six or so guys cross the street on unicycles of wildly varying sizes. Then, at the corner of University and MLK, I saw an elderly man dressed up as an Egyptian pharoah. He was waiting for the light to change, and he looked totally comfortable. I smiled, and kept walking.