This is another story based all too firmly in real life; there is much fictional about it, but there are uncomfortably real parts. Well, you write what you know, and I know something about this subject.
It also came out a bit longer than I had anticipated. I try to corral my characters, as a rule; these refused, and the story kept writing itself until it reached the length you see here.
I opened the closet and pulled out the pants. I had not worn them in years, perhaps as long as a decade. So why bother? a little voice demanded.
Because maybe it's time, I snapped mentally.
I looked at the pants for a moment longer, and then said aloud, "Let's do it." I slipped the burnished brass button through the buttonhole, and slowly unzipped the fly. I stepped into the legs, and tentatively pulled them up, pulling the ends of the waistband together.
The fit was not right.
My heart soared.
The pants were at least six inches too big in the waist. My hard work and perseverance had paid off. For the first time in my life, I had seen a project through to completion.
Eighteen months ago I had promised myself I would lose at least one hundred fifty lbs. From the fit of the pants, I knew I had lost at least that much. Perhaps more, and maybe even a lot more.
If I had been dedicated to my plan before, I knew I'd be obsessed from then on.
(Eighteen months earlier... )
The snap on my pants was the last straw.
I was huffing, puffing, wheezing from the exertion of bringing six bags of groceries from the trunk of the car into the house. Shit, from the garage into the house. Walking the length of the grocery store, even leaning on a cart, had wasted me. I sat in my leather easy chair to catch my breath.
No one wakes up one morning, looks down at a huge belly, and thinks, "Oh, no." I knew I was a fat slob. I had felt myself deteriorating for years. I was accustomed to the level of exhaustion from such simple tasks; but I was certainly not ready to feel a sudden release from the confines of my straining pants, followed a split-second later by the sound of the metal snap striking the wall.
I sat there, pants open at the top, loose tufts of polyester showing where the snap had once been sewn securely in place, and I wept. I was overcome by sorrow (not to say self-pity) at my plight.
It wasn't bad enough I was unemployed, or that my wife was also a fat slob too, or that her weight-related problems had led to a cessation of all sexual activity five years earlier. It wasn't even enough that the medications her doctor had her on had killed even the spark of libido.
What hurt the worst was that I had done it all to myself. I had squandered my talent, my potential and my body in the pursuit of instant gratification. I had always settled for less than I should, taken the easy way out of every situation.
And there I sat, mid-thirties, with not the duke of an idea what to do next.
That's when I realized I did know what to do next, what I should have done years earlier. I got the phone book and located the nearest health club.
My first day at the gym was a fiasco. The trainer assigned to work with me, a young fellow who had clearly never done much besides exercise, was a tad smug, at least to my way of thinking, as he tried to do a body-mass index on me, and failed. I was just too big for accurate readings.
The weight stations were difficult, too, because I wasn't flexible enough to do much.
In the end, he stressed the values of the treadmill, as it was about all I was going to be able to do. It took everything I had to crank out three minutes without collapsing.
But something in the way I felt afterward ... I knew the treadmill was my silver bullet.
So, did I call that first day a fiasco? Maybe not.
I began going every day. I'd stay for three hours at a time, trudging out three and five and seven minute increments at increasingly higher speeds, drowning my sorrows in the sweet nectar of water, sweating it out, allowing it to rid my body of the crap I'd allowed to be deposited there.
Before three months had passed, I was walking for thirty minutes at a time at around two and a half miles per hour, and after a respite doing it again, sometimes four times in a single morning.
I had sprung for an iPod; I loaded it with the music of my youth, arranged it all into fifteen and twenty and thirty minute increments, enough to keep me boppin' to the beat. I was feeling great, and the best part is that people in the gym started to notice me, talk to me, compare notes on progress. I was developing a social circle, something I'd not had in years.
Eventually even my wife, who was pretty much oblivious to everything except work, food and Trading Spaces, began to notice. She wasn't turned on or anything, but she saw my efforts.
A couple of months turned into six, and six months into a year, and a year into eighteen months. I was smaller, no question, but I was wearing nothing but sweats and loose shirts, even around the house. I was scared to get on the scales, afraid to find out I had lost only a paltry amount; but no, the difference in my body was far too pronounced. I had to have lost at least close to my target figure.
Then I realized there were some old clothes, stuck back in the closet, unworn for many years. I knew about what I weighed when I was in them...
And so I approached the closet. There was a pair of pants I had last worn eight years earlier. They were fourteen inches in the waist smaller than the pants I had sundered the day I decided to do something positive.
And how sweet it was.
I hopped on the scales, unafraid. I waited for the digital numbers to stop their flickering, deciding what to say to this burden. ("One at a time, please!")
I looked at the final number; it was one hundred sixty-eight pounds below my high-water mark. I'd beaten my goal. I'd sealed the deal, and I'd earned a celebration.
I turned into a workout machine after that. For a celebration, I got deeply into weight training, not with the intent of looking like Ah-nult (as if), but to shape up a little better, sculpt and mold and transform loose skin into something a little tighter, better defined.
Truth to tell, I didn't really like most of the weight-training crowd. To make a pop-culture reference: if you've seen Steve Martin's 'Roxanne', you will remember Rick Rossovich as Chris, the pretty face without intellect who won Roxanne's affection. That's how most of them struck me.
So I steered clear. I spent time assisting, informally, other folks who were in my previous condition, to varying degrees. (I noted, with some shame, I never really met anyone who was as far gone as I had been.)
In any event, the gym management noted my progress, and my work helping others. One afternoon, as I was headed out the door, freshly showered, smelling not the least like a man who had just dropped five lbs of water weight, Mike, the floor boss, approached me.
"Yo, Jeff, gotta minute?" he asked.
I looked around. "Me? Sure," I replied.
He indicated the way back to his office; he ushered me in, motioned for me to sit, and he sat behind his desk.
He got right to the point. "Need a job?"
I did a double take. "Well, yeah, I guess," was all I could muster.
"Look, we've been watching you work out around here, what's it been, two years? Something like that?" I nodded; he continued, "You've made progress like the poster kid for weight loss. I mean, if you could do what you've done, and don't punch me out, here, anybody could do it."
I had to admit: he was right. I was off-the-charts sorry when I started. I nodded.
"So, look, we can take you on as an employee, put you through some training, send you to a few classes, and then you work here helping others who were closer to your past, and make 'em like your present." He was speaking directly, looking me in the eye; there was no guile, no better-than-you, no insult, just a straight-ahead, common-sense business proposition.
I thought about it for a half-second; then I said, "You're on."
His face split into a grin; he reached across the table and took my hand, which he shook, and the deal was done.
The next seven weeks were a blur. My wife was impressed at my weight loss, and my career resurrection; my co-workers at the gym were complimentary of the station I'd attained.
And so it was, one sunny day in October, I began my new life as a glorified spotter. I had certifications to earn before I could do much more, but I could manage aerobics classes, help individuals with training regimens set out by others, that sort of thing.
I soon gained a throng (well, maybe that's too strong a word) of middle-aged and retired men and women, who seemed to see me as one of theirs. I was closer to sixty-five than to twenty-one, and most of the folks with whom I worked were in their fifties and sixties. To them, I was the young whippersnapper with the hair and the music. They were devoted to me; I reciprocated.
The autumn, and especially the winter, was my time of real growth. I gained the confidence of everyone in the gym; I helped my crowd take off those Thanksgiving and Christmas pounds. Those hardy souls, the ones who came in after the New Year to make resolutions they only half intended to keep, were taken under my wing, and those of my crowd; and we worked them suckers into healthy new bodies.
.... There is more of this story ...