At the gym recently, I went to my locker after a nice long Jacuzzi. Felt like a hundred and forty-seven bucks. Warm, relaxed, on top of the world. When I got to my locker, I saw that it was surrounded by three older gentlemen. Coincidentally, they had returned to their lockers simultaneously and the gym gods placed their lockers at odd and uncomfortably close angles to me and mine. They were at various degrees of undress or dress - I couldn't really tell what was going on. All three were north of seventy and seemed not to notice one another or me.
What the hell, I squeezed in there somewhere and began dressing. I was one leg into my underwear when the man to my left seemed to drop every stitch of his clothing all at once. He was unbuttoning his shirt one minute, the next he was stark naked. I'm not sure about the existence of God but I do know that God didn't make this guy in his current form. From his waist to his toes, he was painfully thin. This waist-down-man appeared in dire need of a combo plate of something fattening with a double dessert thrown in for good measure.
If I had to guess his age, I'd say that he was 74. His feet were were at least...Pleistocene. On top of that, with everything the guy did, he made a loud comment. He pulled on a tee shirt and sighed, "Oh boy!" Put on his watch, "Good heavens!" Little dab of deodorant, "Whoa!" Every movement came with a statement.
Okay, get those socks on and get moving, Brian!
I closed my eyes and put my socks on very crookedly. I stood up, pulled on my pants and began to hurry in dressing. Something wasn't sitting right in my head. I wasn't grossed out and trying to escape this surreal moment. I...I don't know what it was. I needed to get going. That's when I noticed for the first time a rhythmic whistling behind me. I don't know how I had gone so long, taking it for granted. What did my brain convince itself the sound was? A strong breeze in a pinwheel factory? Why didn't my brain alert me to this sound before? Was it overloaded with other subject matter at the moment?
Okay, turn around and look at the last guy. Shit, you know you have to have the full compliment of aged men, so get it over with. Decrepit trifecta, here I come.
Completely gray, sweet looking guy just getting dressed. Extremely old guy. Probably near or on top of 90. Probably once had skin covering his body instead of this ancient parchment. Apparently unable to admit or emit air without problem. Lung issue. Damn shame. Still...one might expect wheezing, not whistling. Hard to breathe, I get it. Pursing your lips with each inhale and exhale makes a whistle though. Who am I to judge, especially when I have no idea what the guy's issue actually is? Still...
All I could think about was, "I'll bet dogs are friggin' following this guy all day long." Cruel thought. Stupid thought, bad boy. Awful really. Still...
Okay, get the hell out of here now. Throw on the shirt and hit the road. The unknown feeling had crawled up my back and was preparing to strangle me from behind. The locker room was feeling crowded suddenly. Time to go.
Old Guy #4!!! What the hell? Where did he come from? He'd somehow mingled his way into the middle of things and he was staring right at me. Gray head and full tangled beard. Kinda like Rasputin without the evil scowl.
You know how someone gets your attention and they hold it and you can't look away because you know something's about to happen? Like they're about to tell you something of great import. Yeah, well he had me like that. He took a step closer and smiled.
"Five more fucking days until fucking Christmas! Whuddya have to say about that?"
Well put. What could I possibly say about that? There is no comeback for a statement like that in a room filled with mostly naked, infirm older versions of myself.
That's it! I now knew the name of the creeping feeling that was stalking me in this warm and moist room. The belly and bruises and curved toes and crap lungs were the contrary gifts of age. All I have to do is keep waking up and these things will finally catch me. None of us can outrun the pursuit of age and illness. One day, not too far from this moment, a younger man will look at me and feel the need to run. I hope that he is as fleet of foot as he thinks he is. I know better but I wish him speed.
I nodded to the "fucking Christmas" guy and walked slowly out of the locker room and up the flight of stairs to my car. Those stairs are still my friends now but the day will come when I will dress slowly in the locker room too, trying to avoid the not so easy trudge up those stairs.
Five more fucking days! Christmas is coming for us all.