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Gym of Dreams: Mike
|This is a continuation and expansion of the orignal Gym of Dreams. It will be broken up into an indeterminant amount of parts depicting Mike's story.|
|Today started out as normal. I get up to go to work, stretch and work on my Jujitsu forms. I’ve fallen back in love with them as of late, seeing as how I now have the conditioning to do them properly. I grab some boxer briefs and head to the shower. I bathe myself, and after I’m finished, I look myself in the new full length mirror I purchased. I see myself now and I smile, not out of arrogance, but out of pride. My reflection seems to speak to me. “Looking good there Sam. The sum of a year’s effort, packed onto your frame. You better thank Armstrong.” I laugh and I start putting on my work clothes; a drab uniform that barely fits anymore. I struggle to clasp the buttons across my chest and to pull up the pants above my quads. Everything feels almost too tight and I fear they will bust off me if I were to move in the wrong direction. “When are they gonna get me some new clothes? They probably enjoy watching me like this.” I laugh aloud and I grab my shake bottle and head out to work.
The work day progressed as usual also. I’m radiating happiness everywhere and everything seems to brighten up. People seem to have a bounce in their step and go about their tasks with a renewed vigor. I enjoy it more than I did when I was young, seeing people naturally reenergized and refreshed around me. I approach my boss sometime in the day and bring up the fact that I still need new uniforms. He mentions that they put in the request a while back for a tailor to come by. I place my hands on my waist and breathe in, snapping the top few buttons off. I act as if I did it by accident, but I know the faster they’re gone the sooner new stuff will come in. Plus I had the distinct pleasure of walking around the office with a shirt that revealed my massive chest and watching the ladies drool. So much fun to be had all day.
I arrive at the gym exactly as Armstrong gets there. It’s amazing. We’ve become so in sync since I first started coming here, I’m shocked sometimes. We grab our bags and greet each other with our usual punches and half hug. We walk in the gym together and instantly the atmosphere becomes charged. The regulars look our way and wave as we bellow, “Every person in here better be giving it their all!” Our voices are deep and powerful, resonating together to each corner of the gym. It’s another habit we’ve adopted, and it seemed to work wonders. People smile and push harder, lift bigger and feel better. We smile to Joe as he stands behind the bar.
“Hello Joe!” Armstrong says with a grin.
“Evening you two. How’s my two biggest clients?”
“Pumped and hard as usual. Here’s my special stuff again, lock it up for me.” Armstrong pulls out a jar of clear liquid and hands it to Joe while I smile.
“One day, you’re gonna have to tell me what it is Armstrong.”
“Maybe one day Joe.” I chuckle.
“Well if Sam trusts you, who am I to complain” he laughs.
We all have a good laugh and we walk off towards the locker room. The area is pumped, the sound of metal on metal fills the gym. We walk through and people smile and push harder. Armstrong has always been a role model, but now I was too. It felt good to be looked up to instead of down on. I stop to push a college kid a little further and give him a spot. He finishes an extra three on his set. I stand him up, he’s about 5’10’’, and I give him a pat on the shoulder and a smile. “Keep working hard man, you’re coming along well!” He gives me a huge grin and he stands up taller, more confident. I grab my bag and resume my walk with Armstrong while he gives the kid a huge thumbs up.
“You made that kid feel a lot better, you know” Armstrong says to me as we’re changing.
“Yeah,” I respond, “I know. I felt he was getting down about not making gains like some other guys, that’s why I said what I did.”
“I saw that too” he responds.
“That’s one thing I meant to ask you for a while now. When we first met, how did you know about me so much?”
Armstrong closed his eyes and lowered his head. When he raised it back up, he looked at me with his sea-blue eyes and points at them. “It’s because of these. I’ve always been able to see a person’s true self, no matter what they had on the outside. I saw how sad your soul was and wanted to help ‘cause I saw you had a gift like mine, am I right?”
I look at him and know I can’t lie. “Yea, I’ve always been sensitive to people’s feelings. I used to think of it as a curse, but hanging out with you made me realize the precious gift I have. Plus, since I can project my feelings, I want to make people happy.”
“Well, there ya go; two guys with unique abilities making the world a better place. Maybe we should go grab some tights and give ourselves some catchy names. I’ll be Armstrong the Defender, you can be my sidekick Sam the not-so-good-looking-as-Armstrong protector.”
I punch Armstrong in the arm and we laugh heartily. Changed into our gym shorts and sleeveless shirts, we march back into the gym. It’s time to work and we put on our lifting faces. Gone are the smiles and jovial attitude. We begin to project an aura of seriousness as we prepare to combat the weights. We load up the bench with 415 lbs of weight and Armstrong turns to me, “This should be a good warm-up.” I hit the bench and start lifting my fifteen warm up reps. In the middle of the set, I stop halfway up. Armstrong growls, “You can’t be tired now, this is light.” “No,” I respond “something’s wrong. Watch the door.” Armstrong turns toward the door as I continue my reps. As I finish, I hear the alarm ding as the front door opens. I stand up next to my partner and we peer as a small kid, about the age of 15 walks in.
“It’s not fair! Dammit it’s just not fair. I’m in my freshman year of high school and I still haven’t grown any!”
My father looks down at me and pats me on the head. “It’s ok son, you’ll grow eventually. I mean, it’s in your genes!” I look up at him and smile. He always knows exactly what to say. He’s my father and I love him.
I grew up in a marine home. My father is a Lieutenant Colonel, and while he loves it, it requires us to move around a lot. I never got to keep many friends because we were always moving. I loved my father though and respected his dedication. But that’s not the only thing I respected. He was a large man, well toned from years of physical training. He stood at 6’5’’ tall and weighed around 250lbs. He specialized in training of new troops for “special assignments”, even though he never told me exactly what he did. But whatever he did kept him in excellent shape. His whole body pulsed with veins whenever he moved. His arms weren’t the largest I’ve seen in my life, but they were rock hard and solid. He let me hang from them many times before, even to this day. His shoulders were broad and wide, perfect for carrying me around on and his chest was barreled, with massive pecs that I could sleep on for hours. His legs befit him too, thick with muscle and hairy. The rest of him was clean shaven, but his legs were manly. He was my father and I loved him and wanted to be like him so badly.
That’s why I’m so upset I haven’t grown. My father has been training me for years in the same way he did his ‘recruits’. While my endurance was extremely high, my strength was mediocre at best. I could do an average amount of push ups and pull ups, but I could run all day. That was the best times I had with my father: long runs through the woods, nothing at all around us, just me and him talking. But I wanted to really make him proud. I wanted to play football like he did and be the greatest defensive lineman in school.
My father spent some of his time in the basement. There was a T.V. and couch where we would stay out of my mother’s way, and I would curl up and fall asleep on his massive chest. There was also a foosball table where we would play. But on one wall was his trophy case. The one trophy he took most pride in was from his high school football days. It said on the front “Most Quarterback Sacks Ever: 73. Golden Central High School.” I looked at it and I beamed with pride as did my father. He was a threat to quarterbacks everywhere. He led his team’s defense to a record 23 points allowed in his senior season. My mother enthralled me with tales of how he performed on the field, and it filled my head with wonder and admiration of my father.
So when summer had ended and I still stood at a measly 5’ tall, I wanted to scream. My father had landed a 4 year assignment in this new town, and I would be able to spend my entire high school year here. But I dreaded going to a new school and trying out for a football team being this measly height. My dad patted me on the shoulder and said with love in his voice, “It’ll be alright son, you’ve still got years to go.”
My mother drops me off in front of my new school, Jade Mountain High. I step out of the car and wave goodbye and get ready to face my first day. It was hell. It seems the mountains that we now lived near grew big people. I was by far the shortest male there. Even a large part of the female population was bigger than me. I was assigned to classes and had to put up with the indignation of being called “Little Mikey” all day. My name is Michael, named after my father and his father and so on down the line, and I always hated being called “Mikey.” My father had stopped calling me Mikey and preferred to call me Mike, while my mother was the only one who I let call me Mikey, due to the sweetness and love in her voice.
The day only got worse when I went to try out for football. I was determined to play defensive line. The coaches wanted to put me as running back, saying my “size” and “stature” would fit that position more. I said I want to be a lineman. So, they let me try out. Unfortunately, the linemen there were at least 5’8 and 250lbs. They were nowhere near as big as my father, but I seriously doubted I could move them. I could maneuver around them with my speed, but coach said that I had to power my way through them. That was the most humiliating thing I’ve ever done in my life. This large guy, a junior, stood in front of me and I had to push him out of the way to get to the quarterback, a simple drill. The only problem is that no matter how hard I pushed, the guy didn’t budge. He didn’t even try to resist. He just stood there, watching me try to move him. After about a minute of this travesty, the coach blew his whistle and called me over. He told me that it was obvious that I wanted to play, and that I could play as a runner. If I wanted to play as a lineman, I would have to grow. Then he rubbed my hair almost mockingly and called me, “Little Mikey”.
I left the field and put away the practice pads they let me use. Practice wasn’t over and I could hear what sounded like laughter when I left the changing room. The junior was on the sidelines looking at me and laughing. “Damn him,” I thought “If only I would grow like my father, I’d move him.” I walked around to the front of the school, waiting for the time for my father to pick me up. As I’m sitting there, I let my mind drift. This is something I’ve known since I was small. If I lose myself and allow my inner mind to listen, secret voices would speak to me and give me guidance. I needed to grow big and strong. I needed to make my father proud.
A few hours later, my father arrives and honks the horn. I awake from my trance and hop in the car. He knew about the tryouts and I tell him the truth. He looks at me gently with care in his eyes and says, “Maybe next year tiger.” I look up to him and say “Dad, I need a favor. There’s a gym in town that I wanna go check out, can you please take me there?” He looks into my eyes, gauging how serious I was and says, “You know I can train you, but if you really want a gym, just tell me where to take you.” I smile a huge grin and direct him downtown, where my ‘friends’ told me to seek help.
Armstrong and I watch this kid come in the front door. He’s looking at the ground as he enters, followed a military man. We can tell by the way he walked that the guy was the kids father and, from the way he moved, spent years in the military. I nudge Armstrong and whisper, “The kid needs help badly.” The father walks up to Joe while the kid looks around a bit. He was around five feet tall and maybe 130lbs. His limbs looked like sticks and he had a demeanor of disappointment all around him. He looks at the weights and the equipment like he was totally lost. Armstrong did his best to catch his eyes. The kid looked our way and locked eyes with the big man. After a few moments, he turned away and walked back toward his father, who was finishing his conversation with Joe. Armstrong whispers to me, “He’s upset ‘cause he wants to be like his father. He feels sadness over thinking that he won’t live up to him, and he’s becoming desperate.”
“I guess this is where we step in, right?”
“After Joe finishes the tour.”
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