It was a boiling day in the month of August and the sky was blue, the air was warm, and people tried to stay cool by exposing their skins in shorts and skirts while kids ran free screaming, sunbathers bathed and swimmers swan in their plastic pools. Or at least for all I know it was the month of August. I was never a fan of summer or an outdoor person. The only fan part of my life on my summer days sat by my window blocking my view of such nonsense keeping me cool in my shelter as I binge watched new shows and movies that the internet could provide. I had been unemployed for four months then and after hundreds of applications sent and countless resumes in God-knows-where, all I had to do was to sit and wait. And I waited a long time: I was eleven seasons in on what was the eleventh show I had watched that summer. I had gained about 30 pounds and just as the credits came up to an amazing series finale bringing a masterpiece to an end so did what seemed to be the last hot pocket I had. I was double heartbroken. But it was time to move on, “it’s not me, it’s you” kind of deal and it was time to pick the next best thing to watch, download it just in time for me to walk four blocks downhill to the closest 7 Eleven for more snacks, climb that Everest back up again into my idea of Summer Heaven. Pretty much the only time I left the house; a day vampire hunting in order to survive.
It was then that it hit me like a baseball: there was nothing else to watch. I had literally watched everything that sparked any interest in me. I had been through every episode of The X-Files, watched both films, caught up on all episodes of The Big Bang Theory, cured all nostalgiasfrom childhood cartoons, kicked ass with Xena, and even hoarded episodes of Hoarders among other crap made for that box with pictures we all love. I felt miserable. I was a junkie who used all their junk. And deep down I realized I was bored. What was I to do now? I sat up on my bed and stared at the ceiling. I stared at the walls. I bit my lips and just looked around. I analyzed my room, the minty green walls I painted myself that made me feel at ease, the stick figure drawings my nephews made that don’t really look like anything but for some reason I cannot throw out, the rolling stone pictures on the walls, people I admired, people I found attractive. They were my heroes, those faces and bodies spread across those covers, amazing movie stars and celebrities, such inspira- whoa. They all had one thing in common: they were all hot. It was then I looked down and saw it, sitting on my thighs like a purring cat: my gut. Dear God. I was an animal in aestivation and all of a sudden I was a beast swallowed by shame and guilt. My heart sank and it felt like my life was the Truman Show and somehow my parents had caught me without a towel on. I knew exactly how I was going to spend my time for the last weeks of summer: I was going to jog and get in shape just like those rolling stone pictures. Abs of steel here I come.
I was motivated, I was ready, I was Rocky Balboa and Eye of the Tiger was number one on the jogging playlist I had made for myself (naturally followed by Queen, What Is Love, and If I could Turn Back Time. Hey, every exercise needs a little Cher). I had my running shoes on that I dug out deeper in the closet than John Travolta himself. I was truly unstoppable. But I knew I had to start small, I wasn’t stupid, I’ve had read a thing or two about exercising. “You got this” said my brain. And as I laid out my jogging blueprint it had not occurred to me then what I was getting myself into and that running a five mile marathon your first time exercising in years was , maybe, just a bit of a terrible idea. I counted the eleven blocks that would take for me to run from my house to the post office on the Government center. Hmm… about a mile… not bad. A mile to get there and a mile back… two miles. Okay. Perfect plan: I was gonna do five laps. 5×2 10… 10. Ten miles on my first time exercising in years. I… I was unstoppable.
Like I said I had read a thing or two about exercising. I remembered that thing where you should stretch after exercising and that doing before wasn’t really important. So I started. Jumped right in. “Slowly does it” said my brain. And as I began jogging, one foot in front of the other, keeping my balance, I realized how much time I had wasted watching television. I loved jogging. What was I doing with my life? I went a little faster and by the sixth block towards the post office I was running. And by the time I made it to the post office I was an athlete. By the third lap I felt I had won a gold Olympic medal. And by the end of the fifth lap I was Superman.
I had done so well. My breathing was right and one bottle of water after every lap I was very hydrated. And I could feel the burn. My legs were on fire, my muscles were alive and sooner than later I knew I’d have the legs of a horse. “You know what? I think I can go for two more laps.” And so I did. I ran block after block and my muscles hurt more and more. I was sure losing 30 pounds in one run. By the end of the seventh lap I had really overcome all expectations for myself and I deserved a golden star. When I came around the block to my house it was time for this racing stallion to relax. I ran straight into my house, shot upstairs where I stopped abruptly and threw myself on the floor. Maybe I’ll end this day with some five minute YouTube yoga to help me stretch. And I did. I stretched: arms up, breathing in; legs out, breathing out. My leg muscles were on fire. It was time to hit the showers and sleep. And so I did…
I woke up and I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed. I managed to sit up and felt sharp pains on my ankles and knees as I did so. I grabbed my thighs and moved them towards the edge of the bed so I could get up. I pulled myself up by holding onto the night stand and as I did invisible knives seemed to stab my legs in all directions. I dropped onto the floor and shrieked in pain. Tears I could not control rolled down my cheeks and I laid there on the floor in the fetal position whimpering, holding onto my knees trying to somehow relieve the pain. I managed to crawl army style out of my room across my apartment to where my cell phone was charging and called my mother. “Mommy, help!” When worse comes to worst even Greek warriors call out to their mother. She yelled at me, naturally but came running to save her dying child (naturally). At the rate I was going, I wasn’t going to make it ‘til Christmas. I was told to strictly stay in bed and ice my knees. Maybe re-watching the X-Files wouldn’t hurt. It was then she walked into the room with the official final hot pocket left in my fridge. I ate it with a smile because it was the best hot pocket I had in my life.
And for the remainder of the two weeks of that hot month of August, I was a paralyzed aestivating polar bear. And as Advil became part of my unhealthy diet I knew I was in the only Summer Heaven there was for me.