January 31, 2019

by Noah Waldron
Key West

Anna looks around. Her head is fuzzy, her eyes are wide, her knees are on the ground, her hand is clutching a shiny, bright wrapper which is now void of its original contents just like all the others on the living room floor around her. The dark grey curtains block out the sun, except for a tiny sliver of light shining through where the curtains meet, the deep-sea green color of the walls can only be seen by the sliver of light, the office-style rug feels rough on her raw kneecaps, and her legs were numb from kneeling for so long. It had happened again, and it was going to keep happening; she was sure of it. Anna rushes to the sink to brush her teeth, her mouth covered in debris and still watering. She couldn’t remember the details of the episode, and she didn’t have time to dig through the wrappers for logo clues. Anna stares at the mirror, but her gaze lands 1,000 miles away. Her stomach is larger than it was last week, according to Anna. She quickly turned around, put on her spandex, and proceeded to get ready for work.

On the way there, Anna decides to push a little harder today and burn the calories she presumably consumed. She pulls into a parking spot, gets out, and jogs in. Right away, there’s a smell of some cheap disinfectant and body odor. Yoga balls, weights, treadmill machines, mirrors, muscles, all of it. Anna proceeds through the gym and greets the regulars. Gliding by, Anna makes it to the aerobics room and quickly shuts the door behind her. Her back against the polished doors she slides down and finds herself on the floor, again. All their eyes were on her for too long, it was too much. The thinking spiral started to form, and Anna knew she needed to breathe. But if she couldn’t handle people’s gazes while walking through a gym for 10 seconds, how in the world was she going to handle leading a 45 minute class?
5:30pm on the dot, class began. It was a full class. Anna leads the stretching and realizes she deplores leaning over and having to fight the urge to check and see if her stomach looks fat from the student’s angle. She starts setting up steppers for new students and begins the main work out. This is her chance to burn off the calories, this is her workout, this is her class. She only has 30 minutes left to burn off what can only be assumed was over 1,000 calories. She flies through explanations and demos, people are getting angry.

Anna doesn’t care, she needs this. So many angry eyes, so many death glares. Annas feet shuffle, her arms swing, she is covered in sweat. She hears hard breathing and feet tapping the ground in a rhythmic pitter patter. Faster, faster, faster. The one thought in her head loops faster and faster around her mind, it is the only track. She knew she would have to go faster to make it stop. She stutters through sentences, she runs out of breath, her eyes looking down to block out any judgmental faces, and still Anna is moving. She’s scared to stop. Her alarm goes off. Class is over. Anna kneels on the floor and looks around. Only two students remain. Her head is pounding, her eyes are still downturned, her breathing is slowing. Her chest feels tight and her eyes are burning from sweat. What a vicious cycle.

Anna walks out of the aerobics room the same way she walked in, only this time her manager is standing in front of the main entrance. He smiles, nods, and asks Anna to join him in his office. Anna puts on the same brave face she brandished when she clocked in and follows him behind his wooden door. It shuts, Anna sits, the talk begins.

Anna walks out of her managers office the same way she walked in, only this time she didn’t have a job. This was the last straw.

She drives home and ignores every fast foot slogan glowing in the sunset light. She needed to be home, curled up in a blanket, watching TV.