Editor’s note: This was originally read at Salonathon: See Something, Say Something, on Sept. 15, 2014.
He has these massive estuaries, running with strangled blood, tracing ultramarine lines through his biceps and triceps and deltoids and sternocleidomastoids, writing like so many oarfish, massive, long, grotesque, almost … pornographic, these veins, veins in the anatomical sense but also the geographical, because his upper body is built like a topographical relief, all bulges and curves, mountains and hollers, shimmering with sweat, running with a thousand little rivulets atop the great, blue, starving-for-air-and-thick-with-oarfish rivers, and as he lofts the bar, groaning with big 45 lb. plates, first in the right angle, T-rex arm spasm of the skull crusher and then down upon his stegosaurus plate chest for a bench press, is like watching fearful, awe inspiring creation, the bulging branches of Yggdrasil forming before one’s eyes in violent nascence, his every rep dwarfing me via the sheer scale of his cultivated creation, like the first chapter of Genesis or the second of Deliverance.
And yet this Yggdrasil is shaking, quivering, not in time with the DEV or Black Eyed Peas or other tortuous anthem pumped from the pomegranate seed speakers camouflaged within the ceiling of the LA Fitness, and not from the sporadic rhythmic strikings which reverberate mirrors even through the spongy Venus foam of the floor; no, his universe, wrought of his own blood and tears and sweat and some pusher’s steroids, is trembling to the special, diacritic vibration of his own personal entropy, heat and friction—burned off in those rivulets, carried away in the suffocated oarfish estuaries—and ATP exigency devoured, devoured like the oxygen in those great blue veins which are currently jumping their banks with the exertion, with the quivering, approaching heat death of his universe.
I head towards the corner of the gym for the gaunt plum mats and my daily routine of 200 crunches, but it is full of planks and lunges and butterflyed groins, and I look back at the degrading universe, who is clearly struggling. This is plain to see—I see it—and yet I say nothing; no one else notices, lost in mirrors, in their own bodies or another’s, in the Mildred-like white noise swaddling of white larvae poking out from white ears like tiny white crustaceans, and as I watch silently he drops the bar, drops it straight down onto his face as if a blunt guillotine, powered by the massive porthole plates being held on to it by delicate little silver ribbons, powdering maxilla and mandible, sliding agonizingly—due its uneven fulcrum—atop ragged clumps of teeth, of fat, wet tongue, a slowly shearing pestle greased by blood and gum and fat, tearing through his cheeks like melted plastic, riding all the way down into the temporomandibular joint, continuing its slow slide until the plates on the short end of the lever mercifully cover his face even as they crush it into the grey, cleaning agent-soaked padding.
Everyone is running past me and screaming, tongues rapidly, wetly, paroxysmally clicking off of perfect white teeth, high and tight and pre-wrapped ponytails remaining perfectly in place, the hairs clinging to each other in this time of crisis; now bulging muscles—though none, I notice, as perfectly bulging, as lovingly, impressively made as Yggdrasil’s own—ending in ludicrously small hands and fingerless gloves struggle to move the bar, and they are all running—the wall of mirrors makes the horror seem doubled, like two crowds of Samaritans rushing headline at each other to be the good ones—and screaming through the terrible music, and I notice that the gym mats are completely free and I walk over to start my crunches, to create my slaughterhouse gutters.