First he was smiling. Then falling.
If his pelvis had been a shovel, the heave of dirt would have landed on me. I had just pressed the rectangle of the angry red “stop” button with my knuckle. My water bottle, mobile phone, and balled-up borrowed towel waited in the recesses of the treadmill to the left and right of the console.
His cell phone started it all. He stepped on the adjacent machine. From the peripheral view, he looked like Alex, a guy I knew in high school who later went in the Army and lost lots of weight. He was a sandy blond with close-cropped hair. About 6 foot tall and barrel-chested.
He started his workout routine, then within about 15 seconds, the phone dropped like a lead zeppelin (mind you, he wasn’t on the stair-stepper to heaven) and flew off the back of the treadmill, looking like a small, sailing gray claymore mine before the steel balls explode out of it.
I turned at the sound, and our eyes collided. His were an electrocuted blue. Still, he smiled.
Perhaps that was his biggest mistake.
He hit hard on his left hip, which I guess was better than hitting face-first or knee-first, the latter of which I’ve done on a home treadmill (or dreadmill, as I often call it).
In short, his manparts were probably saved, but I doubt his pride was. He bounced off the back of the treadmill and out into the aisle as I winced inwardly.
Of course, he didn’t need help. He was a dude, and, as such, refused my knobby little proffered hand. Two other people, both women, rushed over to his aid. Perhaps it was his lucky day, or his unlucky one, depending on how he narrated the situation to himself.
Either way, I second-guessed. Should I have called out I’ll get it, then hopped down and scooped the phone off the sparkly blue carpeting? Should I have looked at him? Did I breach gymnasium etiquette by not ignoring the phone-drop? Could I have done anything to prevent his fall? Should I have grabbed at him as he fell? (Yeah, as if I could have stopped him.) Do I dare to eat a peach? (Never mind those singing mermaids.)
I apologized to him and asked him if he was okay. At least twice.
I was sorry I’d seemed to distract him, I said. Or perhaps that’s wishful thinking, in addition to being at least a little self-centered.
In any case, now perhaps I should go polish my best Blanche DuBois accent. With fading youth as my focus.
Clearing throat and rolling out the drawl (yes, I’ve still got it way down in the bag of tricks):
“I don’t want realism, I want magic! . . . Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it!” (from “A Streetcar Named Desire,” by Tennessee Williams)