Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Death Row

I was rowing. Pulling my wire to a different tune, pulling a load against maximum air/magnetic resistance. Pulling with vigour. Back straight - posture checked against a blurred duplicate, my less photogenic twin. Always a risky business - reflection checking in the vanity fair of gym-world. "Health concerns," I would simper if challenged. I never am though. I accidently applied the back- bent option years ago and could barely walk for a week - not a good option, the BBO.) A silent accusation of preening is a small price worth paying.

And I was rowing. Seat doing the coaster slide, feet clamped for better purchase, legs pumping, hands callousing, arse aching, arse cramping, feeling arsy. The Concept 2 Model D rower. Rowing to health, rowing to fitness, twenty eight to thirty two revolutions a minute. Drag, drag - what a drag. Good sweat, heavy breathing, heart pounding, calorie burning.

I could just about see the TV screens helpfully positioned for the exclusive use of the two rows of exercise cyclists, regiments of super-models and the odd natty-fatty, all immaculately turned out in a sports designer's wetly-dreamt vision of carefully arranged lycra, and not a composure threatening sweat droplet to dampen their simultaneously flipped through trash mags. No sweat, no pounding. No need of the TV screens. But with a little head craning, a carefully stolen squinny, a frozen moment between rows, I spotted on the nearest screen a feature on the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams. Famous also for . . . making a rowing machine - a Concept 2 Model D rowing machine his last sitting place.

I had read somewhere that he died - mid row. Rowing to keep fit in a Los Angeles gym. Died of a heart attack. At the age of 49. An age very close to mine. And I felt less like rowing as a nightmarish image of me keeling over like a floppy toy flashed up in my mind and squatted there. The top part of my body grounded, my legs stubbornly lashed to their footholders, an obscene tangle of limbs and somethings gone badly wrong on rowing machine number 7. The nearest the corner TV screen machine. The end machine.

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