Jim Trainer

Too Skinny, Too Small by Don Bajema Chapter 3

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2013 at 11:20 am

Yeah I knew it and I stood there in cleats and in this super hero plastic space armor while my whole soul drained out of my legs and seeped into the turf. I never felt so filthy guilty or alone in my life. I can’t shake the feeling. Those eighty-five thousand faces still stare silently at me wherever I go. Only Donna knows when to look away.
A team from the EMT ambulance went to work.
Maybe they could paddle him back, and they tried, right there, under the lights, as the whole world watched them working on him. Which horrified the stands because they knew then for sure he needed to be saved, and this desperate flurry meant to them he was already gone. A minute, then almost three as a crew came in and erected a kind of tent over him as they frantically tried to bring him back to life. The tent was orange and had our team logo-that familiar profile of the Saber Toothed Cat, ears back, eyes ablaze, mouth open and with two long teeth extending below the open lower jaw and I thought with a sinking feeling, as a helicopter whopped over the rim of the stadium like a dragon fly that they were prepared for this, that this was a contingency, that they knew it would happen, that they’d have to perform procedures they’d need to hide from the stands and send in the chopper like a medevac. The ball spun against the wheel and landed on my number. And I was the guy.
I stood where I was my feet sunk in concrete and because I was an agent and participant in something so dire, no one bothered me. It was like I was in a ritual, I was a relic that should not be disturbed or moved, or looked at, or spoken to. I just stood there watching Washington’s empty eyes and body jiggling with every touch of the medical crew. I stood there like a set piece on a chess board-a pawn in the game.
And since then I can’t imagine touching anyone.
Even a woman like Donna.
“Breakfast?” She reached for the room phone.
“Lunch later. Go ahead. I still gotta work out.”
She spun slowly away from me saying,
“Mushroom omlette. Toast, seven grain. Juice. Fruit. And later..”
She looked back at me holding up four fingers. I nodded.
“…for lunch at four..Fruit salad, Cobb salad, two salmon without the rice. And the usual champagne. A case of sparkling water.”
She turned and mumbled in the phone,
“Skip the flowers.”
That was thoughtful because this place brought a flower arrangement big enough for a funeral with every meal. Last night she saw what I was thinking, remembering sitting in the back of the limo, behind the tinted windows watching the Washington family standing heads bowed on a frosted hillside, the press circus below them in cars by the hundreds, respectfully giving them a hundred yards of solitude to put their son, their brother, their grandson and friend into the ground, their pride, their joy, their winner and benefactor, the one of them made famous, the reference to their own name, forever less the ironic white father of our country and the more the black star of high school, college and the big time, big money, big exposure, big television, big enough to finally match the hugeness of his body, the enormity of his talent, the wattage of his handsome smile, my one time fiancé and his new wife standing by his mother lowering him into the ground while I stared through time that was no longer this moment and that, but back on the field, under the stadium lights, in locker rooms, and alone hiding here in a never ending swirl on the table before we settled into gigantic swordfish salads and some kind of exotic bread that Donna named for me, a small town in Sicily I think, but I forgot.
My workouts are cruel. They have to be. I do nothing beyond what my own body can bring from my own interior contractions or from what gravity demands. I never lift weights-another big problem with the coaches. You are required to go to the weight room. So I’d go. But I never lift anything. I might do pull-ups as a concession. But I learned my workouts from my father and he learned them in a narrow cell. I do jump squats, and I do slow motion agonizing squats, I do clap push-ups, and I do slow motion agonizing push-ups. I am either exploding, or I am barely moving. I pretend to have sixty-pounds in either hand and I curl the weight to my shoulder and heft it above my head, heart pounding and muscles straining though there is nothing there. Nothing at all. Just my mind imagining the resistance and the muscles believing me. I am the man in Divinci’s circle, my arms and legs articulate in Nijinsky’s obsessive circles, I am more dancer than plow horse. I’m too skinny and too small. The coaches were furious. They ridiculed my workouts, though I knew they would. They ridiculed them until I moved a lineman aside from his barbell and snapped his weight from the floor, caught it on my shoulder blades, pushed it over my head and slammed it on the floor again, and again until the coaches started yelling for me to stop-fearing I’d hurt myself. I walked out of the weight room and no one has said a word since. There’s a jump and reach test, a vertical jump test-displace your center of gravity forty inches and they call you a phenomenon-I did forty-four. Run the forty yard dash in four seconds and three tenths you’re top speed-I ran four-two twice in a row. The western mind, our culture requires big weights, big noise-the only thing in my workouts that’s heavy-is my breathing. I never, or hardly ever, other than once a day workout for longer than three minutes at a time-but I manage to work those three agonizing minutes eight or nine times a day. The body responds to frequency-it thinks its our life-we were designed in antiquity-not in a weight room.
But for one part of every day I sustain the agony for 60 minutes. There’s No Huddle and No Halftime in my workouts. My theory has always been workout so hard the game is easy. Every third workout I go to 90 minutes-or two overtimes. Today is an overtime day. I’ll go into the bedroom and on the carpet in loose cotton sweats, I’ll jump and clap and strain, and reach and stretch under tension until the cotton I’m wearing is dripping a puddle on the carpet, I check my pulse with a finger to my neck, counting out the beats for six seconds to multiply by ten into a one-hundred-eighty to two hundred beats a minute. Then, and this is why I workout for time at three in the morning, so that the stair well will be empty when I slam into the wall as hard as I can twenty times with the flat of my shoulders and arms. It shakes the floor, and trembles through the wall a bit and I worry someone from the hotel will come around and check it out. I don’t want to have to bribe a porter to keep quiet, when I know if he realized who I was would never, for no amount of money not tell someone. So I do it two floors down and then split fast for my floor. But hitting walls is essential. My body has to be hardened to impact or I’m fucked. I go into a game, and I still might, I don’t know, I can’t begin to know, can’t begin to think about it, but if I do and I was not hard to impact the shock of a normal hit might pass me out.
I look at the clock, Donna finishes on the phone for a 5:00 am delivery. It’s 3:08-I’ll go at 3:15. I dread it. I hate to workout. It’s a battle every time. At this stage its not for the physical, its to keep the mind in line. And when I start for the first few minutes I’m anxious as hell thinking I’ll quit. I never do. But I’m scared every time because the urge is so strong to stop the pain, a pain that goes on so long, and today, like I said, is an overtime workout. I press my guts down judging if I’ll need to shit-that can be a big problem-I heat way up, beyond soaking sweat and when my guts get up to a certain temperature-if there’s anything in there its gonna evacuate. If I had to stop mid-workout I’d never get it back. I’d quit. If I quit I lose my manna, my juju, my magic and if I lose that I’ll have nothing left of myself at all.
Donna hangs up.
“So what you gonna do, Eddie?”
I shrug.
That’s the end of it. She told me an hour after she met me she was with the league, though of course it was supposed to be a secret, Donna was supposed to be a planted spy, an influence, a psychologist and manipulator-her job to get me to play again. She said they wanted me to fall in love with her. I just smiled and asked,
“What’s it pay?”
“It pays very well.”
“How well?”
She smiled,
“If you play, I get more.”
“An hour? What’s it pay if this was Walmart?”
She smiled on top of the last smile revealing Donna more than she realized, or maybe she did and that’s where the love was starting.
“Something ridiculous.”
I can’t tell if she knows that I know she is expected to be my ‘suicide’ if I won’t play.
This time I go into the bathroom and close the door. Turned out, I did need to take the shit.

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  1. […] read some more of Brother Don Bajema, why don’t ya? He’ll be posting a new chapter of Too Skinny, Too Small every Sunday until the Super Bowl. Which is great news b/c ever since I declared my boycott of the […]

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