Chapter 15: Matthew
I don’t think too many people believe in love at first sight. I know I didn’t used to.
Now I do.
I don’t even know her name yet, but I know that I love her.
Dad would say I’m bonkers.
Mom would say I’m nuts.
Both would ask: how can you love a lady whose name you don’t know?
What they don’t know is just how beautiful she is.
So far, I’ve barely managed to talk to her.
The laundry room isn’t the best place to have a real conversation with somebody.
The next time I got a chance to talk to her, she was carrying groceries up three flights of stairs. Probably also not the best time to chat.
Now, I haven’t seen her for a coule of weeks.
Maybe she’s moved out, but I’m sure I would have noticed that.
She and I would make such a great couple, if only she would talk to me.
My phone beeps.
I look at the notification.
My calendar is reminding me that I have an appointment at ten, which is in an hour.
Well, I’d better get going and stop dreaming about the lady in 4A.
Half an hour later, I walk into the gym.
I’m not the kind of guy who played high school football.
In fact, I’m the last person somebody would pick to be on any kind of athletic team. It’s not that I’m weak, slow, or uncoordinated, but I’ve always been the kind of person who only moves to get from point A to point B with the least amount of effort.
“Hi, can I help you?”
A guy in his thirties is sitting behind the reception desk.
“Hi, I’m Matthew here to meet with Luke.”
“Luke? He’s sick today. Sorry about that. I guess nobody called you.”
[Blank] it. I’ll have to reschedule.
“Would you like to work with someone else?”
He presses some keys on the computer.
“Okay. So, Martin’s free at 10:30 to do intake. Does that work for you?”
While I’m waiting, I read.
At 10:25, another man in his thirties comes into the room.
“Hello, I’m Martin. Are you Matthew?”
“Nice to meet you.” He extends his hand, and we shake. His grip is just a little too firm.
Once he gives me my hand back, he invites me to follow him into his office. He points to a chair, and I sit.
“I have a few questions. What are your training goals?”
“Um, I don’t really have any.”
“Okay. Why are you starting an exercise program?”
“My doctor told me to.”
“Did he make any specific recommendations?”
“Not really. He just told me I needed to move more. Not to lose weight or to eat better, but just to get off my [blank] and move it.”
“Are there any exercises that you enjoy doing?”
“No. I hate ’em all. He said I could think of it as if it’s a meeting I have to attend if I want to keep my job. I may hate it, but the calendar says to do it, so I thought I’d try that. I never miss a deadline or an appointment.”
“Okay, I can do that. How many times per week would you like to meet with your exercise program?”
“The doctor said at least three. I don’t want to say I’m just doing the bare minimum, so can we make it four?”
“We can do that for sure. What exercise do you hate the most?”
“Huh, I’ve never been asked that before.”
“Take your time.”
“I haven’t done most of them, but I’m a practical guy, so the ones that look the most pointless drive me crazy. Nobody lies on the floor doing pushups in real life.”
“Let’s go to the gym.”
I follow him out of his office, and a minute later, we enter the gym. There’s a ton of equipment and a few people.
Martin points to his watch.
“Your meeting with exercise starts right now. Walk on the spot.”
“Walk on the spot. This is a warm up.”
Feeling stupid, I do so for a few seconds.
“Good. Keep going.”
“Great. Now march.”
“Yes. March on the spot.”
Hoping nobody’s watching, I start to march.
After a minute or so, he says, “Okay, great.”
He points to the floor.
“Do ten pushups.”
“This is your meeting with exercise. It’s important. Ten pushups.”
I really hope nobody is watching as I lie down on the floor and try to imitate the pushups I’ve seen my classmates doing.
Scotty was the best athlete in my class. He was also the most popular boy. Many girls asked him out, and he went out with a few of them.
“One,” Martin says. “Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.”
My muscles start to burn, but he said ten, so there must be a total of ten.
Come on, Scotty, help me out a little.
“Eight. Nine. Ten!”
I collapse to the floor.
I really should look him up some time.
“Okay, now get up and run.”
“Yes. Quickly now. You’re in the middle of the road, and a maniacal driver’s coming at you in a Cadillac.”
Stiffly, I get up off the floor and look at Martin. He points to a track.
Tentatively, I start walking.
“Vroom!” Martin says. “It’s getting closer. Sprint!”
Feeling dumber than ever, I take off running.
Once, twice, three times I speed around that track.
The other people in the gym must be very polite, because I don’t hear any of them laughing.
Maybe they’ll wait until I’m gone and then roll on the floor like kids who’ve just heard the funniest story in the world.
Well, I’ll give ’em something to laugh about, [blank] it!
I speed up and keep going, even though my legs are burning like gasoline in a Cadillac.
“Vroom!” Martin yells as I’m just about finished the fourth lap. “Just a little faster and you’ll make it. Vroom!”
I fly the last few yards.
“Walk one lap.”
Once I catch my breath, I say, “What’s next?”
“I’ll let you know when you finish that lap. By the way, that was a mile you just ran.”
I doubt I’ve ever walked a mile, let alone run one.
At the end of my walk, Martin says, “Twelve pushups.”
I drop to the floor and become Scotty, or try to.
“. . . Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve!”
I get up off the floor.
“Run a mile.”
He doesn’t play Cadillac, but he doesn’t have to.
I imagine that at the end of the run, I’ll meet the lady from 4A, and this time, she’ll tell me her name, smile at me, and ask me to help her carry her groceries. Maybe I need muscles, after all.
After the second run, I walk one lap and then Martin shows me some stretches.
“Your meeting with exercise is now over.”
We book my next three meetings with exercise, and then I wave goodbye and go home.
The next morning, I feel sore.
When I mention this to Martin at our next appointment, he smiles and says, “Good. It’s just the minutes of the meeting.”
Chapter 16: Martin
“We need to be a team.”
That’s what Melanie has just said.
Well, of course we need to be a team. We’ll be the greatest team ever.
I say this out loud, and she smiles.
“What does being a team mean to you?” she asks.
“What do you see us doing to be a team? What do I do? What do you do?”
We’re still sitting on the couch, and I want to just pick up my teammate and carry her into the bedroom, but I sense that finishing the conversation first would be the best road to take.
“Well, um, er, I work and you take care of our baby.”
Oh good, it was the right answer.
“That’s right. I don’t want to work. The only career I need is raising children. You can play with them, of course, and we’ll need to discuss important issues so they can’t go to you and say, ‘Mom says I can borrow the car,’ when I said nothing of the sort.”
“I knew a boy who could do that. He’d ask his mom for something, she’d say no, so he’d tell his dad that his mom said whatever it was was okay. His dad would allow it. My mom never undderstood why they kept letting that happen. She and Dad always agreed on the important things.”
“My parents are the same as yours,” she says.
I smile. This conversation is about to end, and the fun’s about to begin. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love talking to Melanie, but I love loving her even more.
“Who’s going to cook dinner?”
“Which member of the team cooks dinner?”
“Who cleans the house?”
“That’s starting to sound just a little bit one-sided.”
“I’ll be very busy with the new baby. Have you ever seen somebody look after a baby?”
“No. I’ve seen them being pushed in strollers when I’m out, but that’s about it. I thought you only needed to feed them, change them, and put them in the crib.”
“The only part of your last sentence that I object to is the word ‘only.’ Feeding them takes time, and so does getting them to sleep. They often cry and you have to figure out why. It’s not like an older kid who can tell you what they need. So once the baby is born, I won’t always have time to make dinner. I also may not always have time to do all the laundry. Our clothes don’t go with the baby’s clothes. I also might not always get around to vacuuming and dusting. I can do about half of all that, but I need my teammate to do the other half.”
“Well, maybe we could order dinner once in a while. Heck, maybe we can hire a housekeeper.”
She shakes her head.
“I don’t think we can afford that. Besides, I don’t want a housekeeper or to order dinner half the time. What would be best is for you to do it.”
“But I work.”
“Once the baby comes, so do I.”
We look at each other.
She’s still smiling, but her expression has lost some of its usual softness.
“Maybe we could . . . um, ask my mom to live with us. You and her could split things like laundry and putting the baby to bed.”
Mom did say she missed having a child in the house, so asking her to cook dinner sometimes wouldn’t be such an imposition.
“That’s an interesting idea. I haven’t met your mom yet. Even if she likes me, will she want to leave her home and live with us?”
“I’m sure she’d help out.”
“Yes, mine would too, but I’d only want to ask her if I was sick. This isn’t helping out we’d be asking her to do. This would be living with us and doing half the housework and child care every day until the child is old enough to go to school. I know Mom would not do that. I also wouldn’t want her to. We’d clash over things like what color shirt the baby wore.”
She puts her arm around me and pulls me closer.
“When we need some time to ourselves, that’s when we ask Mom to take the baby for a few hours or overnight. Let’s talk more about this stuff later.”
The next day, she goes to tell her parents that she’s expecting.
I have a much less pleasant task ahead of me when I come home from work.
I need to find a lawyer.
I don’t know any or how to find a good one, so I just look in the phone directory.
I end up making an appointment to talk to one the next week. I’ll have to come up with some reason why I’m staying late at work.
My phone rings.
“You’re invited for dinner tonight. See you soon.”
She’s right. Her parents like me. Now all I have to worry about is Mom.
I call her and arrange to visit on Saturday after work.
“Mom,” I say, as soon as we’re sitting in her living room, me with coffee and her with tea, “I have something important to talk to you about.”
“Well, you know Susan?”
“Of course. How is she?”
“Um, I don’t know. She . . . she left.”
“Just this week?”
“No. I’m sorry Mom. I’ve been too ashamed to tell you. It happened after Christmas. I woke up one morning and found the key on the table and a note saying she’d met someone else.”
“Oh Martin, you know you could have told me.”
“I know, but I wasn’t sure how I felt, you know?”
“Is there? I hope it’s good news.”
“Yes. I’ve met someone else. Her name’s Melanie. Mom, we’re . . . she’s expecting.”
I leave after promising Mom that I’ll make absolutely sure Melanie and I come to visit her the next afternoon.
It all goes well.
Mom and Melanie laugh and joke, I drink coffee, and Mom makes some kind of herbal tea for the two of them.
Susan’s name never comes up.
If the lawyer’s any good, her name will never be mentioned in Melanie’s hearing.