Step by Step

Today’s prompt was “something to hold on to” but for some reason, one I wrote about years back “write about small change” popped into my head with a new interpretation, so I went with it. Pseudo-inspirational (by which I don’t mean religious – the two get interchanged a bunch).

Brian started out with pushups. Well, that was the idea anyway. It ended up being more like “lower myself into a pushup without dropping myself.” It took about a week of trying it twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, in a kneeling pushup stance, the kind the girls did in gym class back in school. Even then, almost years ago, a lot of them were doing regular pushups.

He hated how his belly brushed the ground when he lowered down. “Working on that,” he reminded himself.

Then it was crunches. He started with one, then moved it up to five. Five minutes on the exercise bike he had dragged in from the dumpster, in perfect working order but given up on by someone else like him, maybe. Someone who couldn’t stick with it. He put it on the lowest tension setting and tried to keep up with the Metallica on his iPod.

Damn, Lars could drum fast.

After, stepping off, wobbly-legged and panting, he tried the cool-down of walking down the hall and back, to slow his heart gradually, but he ended up on his back, trying not to throw up as he felt his pulse pummel his body.

One day he was so sore he almost couldn’t drag himself out of bed. Forgot to stretch. He thought of skipping a day, letting everything recover, and thought no, that would be the end right there. He had to keep momentum. So he stretched out every painful muscle, ran in place for a minute to warm everything up, stretched again, and went on.

This time he didn’t drop himself on the pushup, but couldn’t get back up. He strained against gravity for a while and then let himself drop. “Tomorrow,” he promised, or threatened, himself.

A few days later, and he didn’t have to lie down after five minutes on the bike. He paced and breathed deep, letting his stomach balloon out and sink back with his breath, until the pulse pounding in his throat didn’t threaten to gag him.

At the grocery store, he left the beer alone and bought half-sized cans of his usual soda. Skipped the chips and picked up veggies and Ranch dressing. Whole grain sandwich wraps, tomatoes, lean turkey and lots of lettuce. Strawberries and whipped cream.

The whipped cream reminded him of one sticky night with Ashley on a weekend when her parents were at the Cape. He wondered if she would be at the reunion. The thought gave him a fresh push of motivation.

A week later he put the tension on the bike up one tick, and did his first pushup. He didn’t even miss chips, and he found he was full after the first wrap and didn’t need the second, especially with a handful of veggies and dip on the side. Out with friends, he got guacamole instead of cheesy nachos and let himself have one beer, an expensive microbrew he never would’ve gotten before because drinking a bunch of them would’ve emptied his wallet.

He ended up the sober one, and drove Danny home. As Danny stabbed at his doorknob with his key, he turned to Brian and said, “Dude, have you lost weight?”

Three pounds, so far, not really visible, and so small that Brian had been afraid to celebrate it, thinking it was just water weight or natural fluctuations and that the change would be gone next time he stepped on the scale.

He shrugged and told Danny, “Been trying.”

“I should do that too. My high school reunion’s next summer,” Danny said. “Ten years.” He ran a hand over thinning hair and finally stabbed the right key into the lock. Brian said goodnight and took off back home.

He managed four pushups and ten crunches before bed.

A month later and he was able to tighten his belt another notch. Another month and he needed a new belt. Two more months and he needed new pants; he’d gone down four inches and it was too uncomfortable to cinch the old ones. He had gone down to one soda a day, then one a week. Then he decided he liked beer better and bought a six pack of that microbrew he’d had at the bar with his buddies. It lasted him over a month.

Fifty pushups with his legs straight. Sit-ups instead of crunches. Half an hour on the bike with the tension up to five, legs pumping to Lars’ frantic drumming as if they were drumsticks themselves. The guy in the mirror was looking nicer every day.

“Who knows?” he told himself. “Maybe you’ll have a date for the reunion.” There was a girl at work he’d started saying hi to when he saw her in the caf or passed her in the hall. Soon she was saying hi to him, chatting as they waited for the coffee to brew. Sitting with him at lunch. Going for walks during the half hour of their hour break. Maybe next week he’d ask her to dinner.

He could climb any mountain, one step at a time. He just had to keep moving.


~ by Amber on June 1, 2012.

One Response to “Step by Step”

  1. Beautiful remainder.

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