first published on March 28, 2020 by The Literary Kitchen

Running sucks, but I just, I need to warm up. I’m cold, and I can’t go through this without being warmed up. It will hurt too much.

“I.. I.. I just. We need to break up.” When I answered the phone, I thought it would be to discuss the plans we had to go out to dinner for his birthday, plans that were fake because I had been coordinating a surprise party for him with his closest friends for weeks. 

Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll start with loaded, alternating, reverse lunges, twenty on each side, so 40 total. Let’s be careful. The last time I did these, I wasn’t paying attention. I went too deep and injured myself.

He called me from the college he works at, between the creative writing classes he teaches. I was driving from home to the gym. I was so blindsided, that it simply wasn’t registering with me. 

That went better than expected! I feel strong, capable. Let’s push it a bit. Fifteen push-ups. Twenty squat jumps. Twenty loaded sit-ups.

We’d had five magical months together. Sounds silly, but we both talked as if we were each other’s death bullet. I was a 36yo divorced mother of three, and he was a soft spoken, 47yo writer/professor. We were jaded grown-ups who were not prone to naive infatuation, yet just a few nights prior, he had held my gaze until tears welled in his eyes, and said, “I have never loved anyone like this.”

Fifteen burpees. Plank for one minute. Fifteen more burpees. Plank for one more minute. Going from the floor to standing and back again frequently is good for the heart and lungs. I’m taking a risk with my knees, but I haven’t felt this good in a while.

I pulled the car over and parked against the curb. “Wait. What? Let’s talk about this tonight, when you get home from work.” 

It’s time to repeat the circuit. 

“No. No. No. I promised myself I would get completely through this. I can’t see you. If I see you, I won’t do it. This isn’t good for me. I mean, I love you. I LOVE YOU, but I haven’t written anything since we’ve been together. I’m not writing. I’m a writer who isn’t writing, and I’m not writing because we’re together.

Lunges. Push-ups. Squat jumps. Sit-ups. Burpees. Plank. Burpees. Plank.

I’m quiet for a long time because I have so much to say and I don’t know where to start. I finally squeak out, “You can’t tell me you don’t have time to write because of me. We are equally busy. We only see each other a couple times a week. What are you talking about?”

I’m going to do all this a third time, but I need a water break. I’ve forgotten to bring my own, but the gym has a water cooler.

“I’m not saying you take up too much of my time. I’m saying that I’m blocked, and this has been happening since we started seeing each other.”

I’m jogging across the gym to get to it, feeling light, with a confidence I haven’t had since my knee injury.

I tell him that this is crazy, that it doesn’t make sense, that it feels like it’s coming out of nowhere, that there was going to be a surprise party for him, that I can’t believe he’s doing it over the phone, while he’s at work. He tells me that he’s as hurt as I am, that he has to do it. 

I’m about five feet from the water cooler, and almost in slow motion, I feel it. The ball of my right foot strikes the turf at just the wrong angle, and my knee buckles, twisting in a direction that knees don’t go, and I plummet, face to floor. Downed.


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