by Con Chapman
Tuesday is the day when I usually take a break from cardio and work with weights. You need to vary your routine if you want to get the most out of your workouts—I know, I read it on the internet.
After my workout I showered and dressed, then headed to the elevator and pushed the button for the first floor. The doors were about to close when I heard a woman's voice from down the hall say “Hold the door!” I stuck my hand out and who should come racing around the corner but Chloie, my former spinning instructor.
There was an awkward silence as we recognized each other.
“Hi,” I said after a moment.
“Hi,” she said as the color drained from her perennially cheerful face. “First floor, please.”
We stood in silence as the elevator began to descend, then were jolted when it stopped between floors.
“What happened?” she asked, her eyes as wide as a kid's in one of those sickeningly sweet paintings.
“I think we're stuck,” I said as I pushed the red alarm button. The disembodied voice of a man came on. “Building maintenance.” Without even seeing the guy, I could tell that his butt crack was showing somewhere.
“Uh, we're stuck between the fourth and fifth floors.”
“Okay, I'll be up in a minute,” he said. “Don't go anywhere.” Funny how America's best and brightest are not going into building maintenance.
I had known Chloie since she first got her certificate as a spinning instructor and started teaching at my club. She'd gone through a probationary period during which she'd had surgery to add an “i” to her first name so she could dot it with a smiley face, and read the complete works of the Marquis de Sade so that she wouldn't back down when members started to whine that she was killing them.
Marquis de Sade: Funny how he turned out to be a sadist.
We both stared at our feet, then up at the ceiling. “So,” I said after a while. “How have you been?”
“Fine, fine,” she said coldly. “Keeping busy?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Busy, busy, busy.” Again, we lapsed into a silence that lasted half a minute. She cleared her throat and spoke. “So . . . are you . . . still spinning?” she asked. I could tell from the tone of her voice that she was hurt . . . bitter . . . resentful.
“Yeah, every now and then,” I said, trying to maintain a placid exterior. “I, uh, got a twinge in my knee and . . .”
“I saw you in Jenni's class, you drip!” she shouted at me. “Why did you leave me for her?” She was angry and teary-eyed at the same time. The Code of Ethics of the National Association of Spinning Instructors prohibited her from beating her little fists against my chest, but I could tell that she wanted to.
“It wasn't you, it was . . . “
“Oh, don't use that ‘It's not you, it's me' line. That's straight outta Seinfeld!”
“Actually,” I said, speaking slowly in the hope of calming her down, “I was going to say . . . it's your music.”
She looked stunned, as if she were a truck that's just run into a low overhanging bridge on Storrow Drive.
“By the time I got close enough to read the sign, it was too late.”
“My music? What kind of lame excuse is that?” she asked.
“I'm sorry,” I said. “I get in your class and I start having disco flashbacks.”
She turned away from me and stared straight ahead. What can I say—the truth hurts.
She took a tissue from her bag to wipe her tears, and to blow her nose. For a woman who's so skinny she has to pass a place twice to make a shadow, she could produce a honk loud enough to clear out Boston harbor quicker than an LNG tanker.
You might want to get out of the way.
“You shouldn't take it personally,” I said finally.
“How can I not take it personally?”
“You didn't make the music . . .”
“But I picked it out—it's part of me!”
As I thought of all the men, women and dogs that have been Madonna's sex partners, I recoiled from the image of her pointy sieve-like bra poking holes in Chloie's spleen, liver and pancreas .
“I'm sorry—I didn't mean to offend you, but you play so much bad 80s rock—I couldn't take it anymore.”
She tried to snifle a stiffle—I mean stifle a sniffle. “You don't understand,” she said through her tears. “That's da music of my yout.”
I began to comprehend. She was on the wrong side of forty, and her life wasn't turning out like Flashdance.
“You know,” I said, “Just because you like the 80′s doesn't mean you have to listen to Van Halen, and Whitesnake, and Def Leppard and Guns N' Roses.”
She seemed to regain her composure. “When you spell Guns N' Roses,” she said meekly—almost like a little girl—”how come you put the apostrophe on the other side of the ‘N'?”
“That's the way the band spells it,” I said with resignation. “I don't know where they came up with it.” I chucked her under the chin and raised her eyes to mine.
“There's a lot of obscure soul and R&B from the 80′s you could play that might . . . might make me come back.”
She turned her head away sharply. “I ain't beggin' nobody to come back to my class.”
“You wouldn't be begging—I'd be begging you to save me a space!”
She turned back to me and gave me a look that slowly turned into a smile. “Okay. Let me hear ‘em.”
“Well, there's ‘She's a Bad Mamma Jamma', a George Clinton song by The Gap Band.”
“What exactly is a . . . ‘mamma jamma'?” she asked.
“I have no idea—that's what makes the song so beautiful.”
I'm not sure she bought that line, but she didn't entirely dismiss it. “Okay—what else?”
“Anything by James ‘D Train' Williams.”
I guess I let my mouth fall open in shock. “Only a guy who had a #79 hit on the Billboard Hot 100—'Something's On Your Mind'—that was covered by Miles Davis.”
“Who's Miles Davis?” she asked.
There's only so much time I can spend on elementary education. “He was a goalie for the Vancouver Canucks.”
“I don't watch basketball. Is that it?”
“No. I saved the best for last. Ever heard of The Temptations?”
“Well, Dennis Edwards, who replaced David Ruffin as lead singer of the group, later went out on his own and recorded the best R&B song you've never heard of—'Don't Look Any Further'.”
“We didn't have that in spinning instructor class,” she said, a bit embarrassed.
“But surely you've heard its unforgettable chorus.”
“No—what is it.”
“Ooma-day-o ooma-day-o, mombajee ai-o! Well—don't look any further.”
She hummed along with me as I repeated the catchphrase that entered my subconscious in 1984 and never left.
“It's . . . okay,” she said, batting her eyelashes at me like a flutter-by—I mean a butterfly. “Maybe I'll add it to one of my tapes.”
“That would be great,” I said. “No more Twisted Sister?”
“No more,” she said, and it sounded like a promise.
Just then a voice came over the intercom. It was building maintenance.
“You two still in there?” the guy asked. Duh.
“Yes. What's taking so long?”
“I had to go out and get a bigger pair of jeans,” he said. “Somebody pointed out that my butt crack was showing.”
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