I caught his eyes from across the packed gym and my heart skipped a beat. Or maybe two. I was on a treadmill at the time, with incline set to max and as it was the first week in January, I was wearing my Christmas excess. Breath stopped. Sweat poured. If there was anyone I didn’t want to see today, it was the good looking guy from the gym. I didn’t mind the juice heads or the Asian students taking selfies of themselves on machines. I wouldn’t have minded the posers and posturers, the guys with curly wurly arms. But the good looking guy was the one I didn’t want to see.
Amid the normal landscape of a university gym, there’s the healthy ratio of fit girls, fat girls, fab and flab. There’s the proportionate number of Kerry to Mayo jerseys and there’s always that one guy who refuses to wear anything other than his 1999 Utd kit. (Yes, the full strip.) Corporates and scholars train side by side in a smelly mix of plankers and bankers, climbers and rhymers. There are the down to earthers who prefer to do floor exercises above all else and the international students who stare at you until you’re forced to get up and give them your machine.
I hopped into the gym that day with the noblest of new rear resolutions. Squats were my promise to myself. All the squats. That all changed when, already breathless, I laid eyes on the only one who could take my breath away. He was walking shoulders back in the direction of an Arc, wearing a navy Under Armour t-shirt and blue Nike shorts. His runners had only manifested over Christmas. They glowed in unworn whiteness. His round face looked fuller than the last time I’d seen him, but just as distracting. I could still recognise the mix of Stenson and Eriksen that I loved and I struggled even more to breathe.
I tried to push the STOP button on the treadmill, instead hit SPEED and found myself channelling my inner Zola Budd. So much so, that my stomach whipped itself into a trembling mousse. My face smouldered. I couldn’t keep up with my feet and all I could think was ‘He’s watching!’. When I eventually managed to tug the emergency cord, my legs wound themselves around each other and I folded to a panting catastrophe on the canvas. I was struggling to hold down my breakfast, when over appears the ride.
‘Jaysus, that was some workout’ he says, ‘are you ok?’
I couldn’t fight it anymore. Breakfast was served.