…what are you lookin’ at…oh, me?…

It is no secret that I am out of not just “the loop” but out of every conceivable circle, spiral, whorl, and any other synonym for a group of those in the know. I lead a fairly solitary life, don’t get out much, and when I do, I am and have long been invisible. I’m not the kind of person people notice. I blend in. I’m a wallflower.

So, I was unprepared for what happened at the gym today. Let me set the scene. I am dressed in my usual workout attire; grey sweat pants and a large blue sweat shirt. I am neither fashionable nor tightly swathed. Loose, all the way. I don’t think one ought to wear form-fitting togs when the form isn’t all that fit, if you get my drift. I’d spent a half hour in the aerobic zone on the treadmill, letting the machine tell me when I was at the 85% heart-rate range for my age and weight, and moved to the recumbent bike for another half-hour in the 85% zone.

Then, he walked by. I confess, I watch everyone. I fight off my gym boredom by doing what I’ve always done; making up the back-stories for everyone I see. I’m always looking for physical or personality traits to people my fiction writing. Currently I am in the market for a thirty-something male character; a local lawman, physically fit, the kind of attractive man who has aged well from a pretty-boy in high school to a slightly-emotionally scarred grown-up who’s never really gotten over the young woman with whom he fell in love when he did his one high-school musical, a musical he did only as a “screw you” to his parents who informed him he would never be a pro-football player and they wouldn’t pay for college unless he expanded his high school activities beyond the sports arena.

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He seemed perfect. Short dark hair, not quite buzzed. Good muscle tone and bulky but not some steroidal beast. Green t-shirt, damp with sweat but not soaked. Tight but not too tight black sweats. No facial hair but a shadow of scruff, the kind that shows up on a man who has to shave twice a day after a few hours of not having done so. And really green eyes, a little sunken, visual echoes of years of not sleeping well.

I looked at him as he passed that first time. Not an ogle. A look. I was making notes in my head and went back to my pedaling. Another lap. Speed: seventy something miles an hour. Difficulty level: six. Heart rate at 90%, a little high but, well, I’ve been gymming for three weeks now – a little high is okay.

And then he came back. Okay, well, unlike me – genetically sedentary and far too lazy to get up off of whatever machine it is I am on between sets – some people actually move around while waiting to do the next round of reps. It was on this passage I notice how nicely his sweats fit from behind.

Still, I thought little of it, or, rather, I started concocting a scene in which my fictive lawman convinces my heroine to accompany him to the gym while they are getting to know one another again (she was his first love, of course, and now the suspect in a murder he is investigating) and whether or not she would think, “Nice ass.”

I was still mid-novel, writing my “cute-date” scene when he came back a third time and I looked up and met his eyes and he slowed down and walked closer to the bike, staring right at me, not looking away, and then, stopped. Right. At. My. Bike.

Before I finish this story, firstly, let me just say that I have never had any sort of gift for intuiting whether or not someone was interested in me. Secondly, the moment I think (or hope) someone might be interested in me, is usually just a moment or two before it becomes painfully (and usually, embarrassingly) clear that I am mistaken. Thirdly, he was way out of my league, far too fit and attractive to ever be interested even in a slumming way in me. Fourthly, I was never any good at this sort of thing even when I was young and went to bars where this sort of thing was supposedly meant to take place. And finally, I have always understood that I was not attractive in the way that got the eye thing happening and if I was ever to find any sort of liaison it would be because I was witty, smart, and fun to be around – three things of which I am less and less with every passing day – meaning I am not unaware that my last best hope is a hooker.

So, what did I do?

I looked down, of course, and back to the screen in front of the bike which broadcast MSNBC and my elevated heart-rate . . . which – thanks to the furious pace at which I’d begun pedaling and the shock and surprise at being stared at by someone attractive – had risen to the 120% range.

So, okay, I blew it. But things are looking up. If only I can stop myself from looking down.

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