Andre is 6’3”, 220 lbs.
He wears a black do-rag, double striped track pants and a white sleeveless shirt revealing his 19-inch tatted biceps. Bronx born and raised, he earns a living co-managing a pizza parlor.
Amy is 5’3”, 115 lbs.
She wears black Lululemon shorts and a purple Lulu top. Amy is a private school bred trust fund baby whose “fashion PR” paycheck ain’t covering her handbag obsession, let alone the $9000/month rent bill.
At what crossroads in life do these two become friends? Or even get the chance to meet each other?
The corner bar? Unlikely.
The DMV? Doubt it.
The subway? LOL.
I look around the train: Suits reading the paper, bums sleeping in their own piss, elderly gasping for another breath, 12 year olds off to school, unemployed surfing twitter, pretty girls, well groomed dudes, sloppy hipsters.
All packed elbow to elbow and not a single exchange. Not one “hello”. Not one smile. Complete isolation. No acknowledgement that another human being is literally on top of you.
Guard wallet, check. Avoid eye contact, check. Would this damn thing hurry up?
It’s a cold, isolated environment, like so many public venues are.
WHERE DO AMY AND ANDRE MEET?
Ding. Ding. Ding.
The Squat Rack
Conversation unfolds effortlessly.
Depth, foot angle, hip drive and bar placement.
Crazy rep schemes and quad vs hamstring activation. Sweatin’ and pumpin’ out sets.
They gravitate to one another like Cory and Topanga, Mikey McD and Worm, The Fox and The Hound.
The gym brings people together that simply wouldn’t meet in the real world. Something about the atmosphere makes the invisible borders that guide our real life interactions – class, status, gulp, race – nonexistent in the gym.
The gym is a place where a high school drop-out and PhD learn from each other. Where a 24 year old meathead and 77 year old retiree can joke and laugh and intellectualize and trash talk.
It’s a place where outcasts are welcome. Where lost souls find themselves. Barbells and comradery replace the leather chair and stuffy therapist.
It’s a place where men and women learn more about themselves than school or work or plopped near the television.
It’s a place where broken hearts go to heal, tiny muscles go to grow and confused minds develop toughness and clarity.
The gym is a special community. People are open and friendly. They help each other.
Veterans help rookies. Girls help guys. Rich help poor, and poor help rich.
Money doesn’t matter. Status doesn’t matter.
Gays help straights. Christians help Muslims. And deep squatters help everyone else avoid the smith machine.
Who you are in the outside world simply does not matter.
WHY IS THIS?
Maybe it’s the endorphins. Maybe it’s the shared love of chalk and iron. Maybe it is the pre-existing understanding that you and your company are striving for a better life.
I’m not sure about the why. And it doesn’t matter – it just is.
As for Andre and Amy, nah, they never did run off into the sunset and make beautiful babies. But they were open to one another, learned a few things, shared a few laughs and each gained a friend.
The gym is my breath of fresh air in a polluted concrete jungle.