Later that night I make a similar trek to the gym that my school shares with University of Minnesota. I guess there aren’t enough students attending for it to make sense for us to have our own. I don’t mind, though. I’m just glad to have access to something. Besides, no one ever gives me a hard time. Rose avoids the gym because she doesn’t like being stared at. I understand why that would be uncomfortable as hell. Rose is cute and pretty. I don’t have that problem. I’m not the kind of person that tends to get ogled. I’m mostly just left alone. I get along with all the people here, even the guys.
Upon arrival, I head to the locker rooms and change into my shorts, tucking my gym bag inside.
I feel good when I’m active. I think taking this weight class is probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve been fairly fit for most of my life, but I fell off the train when I got to college. This is my first time getting back into it and my dad is pretty proud. He always pushed me to be tough growing up and started signing me up for karate when I was like, four.
Once I’m changed and finished applying a second coat of deodorant, I head up the stairs to the weight room and sit on the benches over by the mirrors while I wait for the instructor to come down out of his office. A few big dudes start to show up and chat casually, including the one who got assigned to be my spotting partner at the start of the class. His name’s Ian. He’s a pretty normal, basic dude. Tall, blond, and built. He’s on the school’s hockey team or something and is always walking around sporting Golden Gophers merchandise. I guess he’s got good school spirit.
When he spots me, he waves and says something to his friends before heading towards me.
“Hey, how’s it going?”
“Good,” I say. “You?”
“Good,” he echoes.
He seems like he’d be your typical douchey jock, but he’s actually all right. I don’t mind him. He’s friendly. Sometimes a little too friendly. He’s the kind of guy who can talk to anyone with ease...good at casual conversation, or like, small-talk. Rose is like that, too, I guess. People like that are nice; it’s a quality I admire. It’s one of the many things I love about Rose.
“Been painting?” Ian asks.
I think that’s probably the only thing he knows about me. I paint.
“Yeah, I was in the studio before coming here.”
“Sweet,” he nods, “I could tell because you have some yellow on your arms.”
I chuckle at that. “I always have this shit on me. It’s like part of my wardrobe. Completes the look, or whatever.”
He laughs too and it’s deep and hearty. Still, I get the feeling that he has no fucking idea what I’m talking about.
“So, what d'ya want to work on today? Legs? Arms?” Ian asks, changing the subject.
“It’s an arm day for me, but I’ll spot you on leg stuff if you want.”
He shakes his head. “Arms are great.”
Finally, the instructor comes down and gives us an overview of the reps he wants us to do. Usually, it works like this, where we kind of do our own thing until he comes around about halfway through and checks in. So, Ian silently helps me add weights to the bar.
I should try harder. I should try to actually be friends with this guy so we have something to talk about when we’re here. So far, it’s been some variant of the same damn conversation every single time we meet. Pleasantries are tiring, but I don’t really know anything about him. I think he told me what he studies, but I barely remember that, either. I think it was business or something?
“So, uh, are you from here?” I ask him.
He glances at me and says, “Oh! Yeah, I am! I grew up in a more rural area, though. Are you from here?”
“Nah, New York.”
He smiles and nods. “I should’ve guessed that. You have the accent.”
“I could say the same for you,” I smirk. “Although I guess it could have been Wisconsin or something.”
“Oh jeez, don’t say that!” Ian laughs, acting offended.
“I dunno,” I shrug playfully. “all you Midwesterners sound the same to me.”
Ian grimaces but it’s not sincere. He knows I’m just messing around with him.
He lies down on the bench and does a couple of reps, then after a while, we trade. When I finish he offers to fill up my water bottle for me and I pass it over to him, waiting until he returns to get up.
“You good?” he asks. I probably am looking pretty flushed.
“Yeah, sore. I don’t think I’m fully recovered from last class.”
“Oof, yeah, that was pretty rough,” he agrees, but he might just be humoring me because the hockey team probably does some hardcore shit.
“Rougher than sports?” I decide to ask, pushing out my lip stud post.
“Oh man,” Ian laughs. “I have to take this class as part of practice. Why do you think there are so many players in here?”
“I figured you just liked it,” I shrug.
“I guess some of us do,” he says. “I mean, I like it. Even if I didn’t have to, I like staying in shape.”
“Fair,” I say. “I like it, too. My dad kind of forced me to take all these Karate classes when I was younger. He wanted me to be able to defend myself.”
I can’t help but laugh at the memory. I guess he got what he wanted. I like to think of myself as a pretty tough person. No one has ever really tried to mess with me. Hopefully, no one ever does.
Ian nods and smiles. “That’s good. I think dads should always want their little girls to be able to take care of themselves.”
“Yeah. I think he was extra paranoid because he was a single dad and he spent a lot of time working. He couldn’t always be there to watch me.”
Ian nods again and then adds, “I was raised by a single parent, too. My mom.”
“Ah,” I bob my head. “Divorce?”
“Oh, no, uh,” he pauses. “I don’t think so.”
“Mm,” I hum in acknowledgment. “My parents got divorced when I was like, four or something. My mom was an addict.”
“Jeez!” he exclaims.
Ian looks completely scandalized and I can’t help but laugh. He’s probably the type of guy that grew up so sheltered that he forgot people like that even exist.
“Dude, it’s fine,” I say. “I don’t care.”
He looks wary. “Are you sure?”
“Oh, yeah,” I say casually.
“That’s pretty intense.”
“Yeah, well, she never wanted to get sober, so my dad said see yah.”
Ian wrinkles his nose. “That’s awful…”
He seems uncomfortable. I forget that things like this bother some people. I guess I don’t really feel like it’s a secret I should be keeping. I wouldn’t say it’s something that haunts me. I was young when it all happened, so it was a big deal then, but not now.
When I think Ian’s about to scramble for a subject change, he doesn’t. Instead, he says, “I never even met my dad.”
“Ahh,” I mouth.
“Yeah,” he shrugs, “I don’t think he and my mom were ever married. I wouldn’t know though, because my mom doesn’t really talk about him.”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to bring up a sore subject,” I say, although I wasn’t exactly trying not to either. This is just kind of my go-to topic of conversation whenever I meet another kid of a single parent.
“That’s okay,” Ian insists. “It’s not really…I mean, it’s whatever.”
He looks like he might continue but before he gets the chance to, our instructor wanders over.
“How’s it going over here, you two?” he asks us expectantly. It’s obvious that he wants us to get back to work.
“We got distracted, sorry,” Ian answers quickly. “We’ll get back to it.”
With that, the instructor nods and wanders off, but he’s probably going to keep an eye on us.
We keep doing reps and soon enough, the class is over. We don’t talk about anything heavy. We just talk about casual things. He tells me more about his courses and I find out that, yes, he is in fact studying business.
I feel pretty damn sweaty. I wave at Ian before parting ways and head to the locker room. I take a shower and then put on a fresh change of clothes. On my way out of the building, I spot Ian again.
“Hey, do you have a ride?” he asks.
“Want a lift, then?” he offers. “I have a car.”
“Yeah, that’d be lit actually.”
We trek through the parking lot to his car which turns out to be an old but decently taken care of Chevy Tahoe. I climb into the passenger side seat and pull off my hat to readjust my mop of wet hair. When it’s this cold out I like to tuck all my curls in. Otherwise, they’ll literally freeze into mats.
Ian asks me where I live and I give him directions. It’s not too far from here, but technically my house is in Saint Paul. That’s something I never understood about this city: why have two cities so close to each other that they’re literally connected? Why not just make them one bigger city?
“Do you live in an apartment?” he asks.
“Nah, it’s a townhouse,” I tell him. “I live with a couple of other girls.”
“Right on,” he says, nodding along. “I room with my best bud and his girlfriend.”
There’s something funny about the way he says it, but it also sounds like he’s trying not to come off weird...so I decide not to pry. I don’t know him well enough to ask about all the finer details of his life.
“If I could have it my way, I’d live alone, but I just can’t afford it right now,” I respond instead.
Ian laughs and nods his head. “Yeah, I feel that.”
Eventually, we make it to my house and Ian wishes me a good night. I tell him to drive safely and that I’ll see him for our class next Wednesday. I walk up the steps to my house and unlock the door, then turn around to wave because he waited to make sure I got in all right. With that, he drives off and I head inside.
Ian seems like a super nice guy. I’m actually glad we talked a little bit today. It will make spending two days out of the week with him way less awkward.
I shut the door behind me and spot Megan and Danielle spread out at the dining table with various open envelopes.
“Hey, rent’s due,” Megan says as soon as she spots me stomping the snow off my shoes on the mat in the hallway.
Cutting straight to the chase, I guess.
“I’ll write you a check,” I tell her.
“Cool, same.” Danielle nods. “You have a good day, Avery?”
“I did,” I reply, but I’m pretty worn out and don’t feel like taking the conversation past that. “I have a lot of stuff I have to finish up tonight, though.”
“Lame,” she drones.
“I think I’m probably going to head to my room and get started,” I say, moving towards the stairwell.
“Bring down the check when you have the chance,” Megan presses, not bothering to look up at me. She’s busy organizing and reorganizing the bills.
“Don’t worry, I will,” I assure her, before turning and leaving the room.
Before I can forget, I go and write the damn check. It definitely seems like something I would forget to do and if Megan has to keep nagging me I know she’ll end up getting pissed. She’s a pretty no-nonsense person. I guess I am too, but she's a hell of a lot more uptight.
So, when the check is filled out I head back downstairs. I chuck it on the table in front of Megan and say, “There yah go.”
She nods her thanks and I head back up to my room. I have an essay I need to write, analyzing some old painting. At least it’s work I can do at home rather than in the studio. I hate being there late.
I close my bedroom door behind me and grab my laptop, sitting on my bed with it. I open it up and type in my password.