Swirling Eddie came to see me last night. I’ve known him since I was a child but I rarely encourage his visits because his moral compass is horribly out of whack and I don’t need any help when it comes to bad influences.
I told him that I was planning to run the Comrades Marathon at the end of the month. He laughed so hard that he sprayed tequila all over the cat. We weren’t even drinking tequila. He must have some sort of pouch in his cheeks where he stores the filth. Madder than a chipmunk and a lot less intelligible.
The cat, instead of being grateful for the Mexican shower, responded by running up my chest and attaching itself to my face. It hung there like a furry breadfruit, claws embedded in my forehead. After unhooking the beast and wiping the blood from my eyes, I demanded to know what I had said to provoke such violent hilarity.
Rinsing his face with beer, he gestured at my midriff. “They won’t allow you to run. You have an unfair weight advantage.” He went on to explain, and even draw diagrams, of what would happen when the starter’s gun went off. Apparently my stomach would cause me to overbalance and I would then have to run at a sustained speed of 45km/h just to stay on my feet. I would win the marathon in thirty minutes and be disqualified for cheating.
I leapt from the couch to demonstrate why it was a mistake to disrespect athletes of my caliber. I had a bit of trouble with the leap, to be honest. It was more one of those prolonged rocking actions the infirm do when they struggle to extricate themselves from a chair.
Maybe he was right. Maybe I wasn’t ready for the Comrades. I fell back onto the couch. My belly unfurled like a landslide, crushing entire villages of bacteria nestling in my pubes. I could almost hear the screams. It was horrible. I had to chain-drink a six-pack of Windhoeks just to steady my nerves.
My so-called friend said I was in good shape for my … He hesitated. “Age?” I asked, removing my trusty rusty Okapi from my underpants. The struggle to open the knife left me drained. “Species,” said Swirling Eddie. “You’re pretty fit for your species.” He often doesn’t make sense. I suspect there’s a hole in his tequila pouch.
“But your core is rotten,” he said, quickly moving to the higher ground, which, in my house, is the fridge. I resented being likened to an apple but I had to admit that my central areas were indeed sweet, round and firm. A woman once called me sweet. Since she failed to specify, I freely apply the endearment to different parts of my body as and when needed.
Once again Eddie brought out his sketchpad, or, as normal people might call it, his serviette from Spur. He drew the human body and circled the area that is allegedly known as ‘the core’. It was like a scene from the storyboard for Alien.
It’s true. I do look as if I have eaten a juvenile bushpig for lunch. The only reason I don’t become a transvestite is out of fear that women will smile sympathetically at me in Woolworths and touch my arm and say things like, “You’re carrying high. That means it’s a girl. Do you want a girl? Or do you want a boy? Do you have any other children? Are you married? Who’s the father? What are you hoping for?” Well, darling, right now I’m hoping for the frozen yoghurt fridge to topple over and crush you. That’s not the only reason I don’t become a transvestite.
Later, when Swirling Eddie went outside to lie down in the flower bed, I turned to the oracle that never lies. Almost immediately, Wikipedia began shouting about the transversus abdominis and the quadratus lumborum. I grabbed a chopstick left over from half-price sushi day and invoked the Cruciatus curse. I won’t repeat it here because all you Muggles reading it will die on the spot and the tabloids will call me a Death Eater, which I’m so not.
I also learnt that “breathing is important in providing the necessary core stability for moving and lifting”. I try to avoid moving and lifting anything, really. Does this mean I can cut back on the breathing? No? Oh, I see. The diaphragm is in cahoots with those pretentious body parts that understand Latin. The diaphragm claims to have been born in Greece but I suspect his parents were from ancient Rome. It doesn’t matter whether they’re gangsters or organs, Latinos stick together. That’s how they roll.
Insufficient core stability can result in lethargy but since my core is poked I’m too lazy to do anything about it. It’s a conundrum wrapped in a … ah, forget it. I can’t even be bothered to finish my sentences, that’s how broken my core is.
Apparently Pilates will sort me out. Yeah, right. Pirates, maybe. But not Pilates, which, as far as I can make out, is a gay version of karate. If I’m going to be doing martial arts, I want it to be swift and deadly. I only have three seconds to kill my opponent before my core fails, and I’m not going to waste time lying on my back making little circles with my legs.
I don’t have the energy or discipline to fix what the Americans might conceivably, at a push, call my ‘dad bod’. My first marriage lasted ten years and my second, nine, and I need to be shouted or there’s no chance of getting anything done. Gym seemed to be the answer. It certainly made more sense than getting married for a third time just to fix my core. It was probably marriage that destroyed my core in the first place.
Not being a joiner, I was hoping to score a free session from the Virgin Active gym at Moses Mabhida Stadium. I went to a gym once, years ago, for research purposes. It didn’t end well. On Wednesday morning I sat under a tree and watched the door for a bit, then approached it in a crablike fashion when the coast was clear. I had just come from a three-hour surf at North Beach and, as I shuffled through the revolving doors, I caught sight of myself in the glass. I looked like a nagapie on day release from a methadone clinic. The security guard said something as the door spun me inside. I turned slowly, ready for a fight.
“What was that?” I said.
“Please go,” he said.
“You want me to leave?” I said, assuming a passive aggressive position.
After a tense standoff, I understood that he meant I should go to reception. This wasn’t the kind of reception I was expecting. I bellied up to what appeared to be the front desk of a five star hotel. The receptionist was dressed like an air stewardess and was clearly in no mood to be trifled with. I discarded my prepared speech and pretended to be interested in joining the gym.
“We don’t have a rate card, sir,” she said. “Would you like to speak to one of our sales assistants?” Absolutely not. I scrabbled for firmer terrain.
“I’m in a bit of a hurry. What do you charge for an hour?” She flinched. I could see what she was thinking. “What is this red-eyed marsupial doing in our club? Is he dangerous? Does he have a weapon?” She glanced at security.
“Listen. I just want to look,” I said. “Maybe have a go on some of the machines.” As if this were an amusement arcade for sickos who like to watch.
Perhaps I should have introduced myself, but she didn’t seem like someone who read the Sunday papers. Gyms are packed with people whose idea of a challenging read is The Real Meal Revolution, or, if they’re really bright, The Secret.
I backed away and the security guard opened the door. He seemed relieved. Out on the pavement where I belonged, I pressed my face up against the heavily smoked window. Though the glass, darkly, I could make out pulsating machines and restless, sweaty bodies. I felt my core harden just enough for me to get back to my car and drive to the nearest bar.