The Bowflex

Coffee at ten has to be a large part of why I’m up right now. But I’m also up because I want to be up. I imagine someone walking in here and saying, “Is it the coffee, John?” I’d say, “The coffee and a whole lot else.”

I was lying in bed and all sorts of thoughts—memories I hadn’t come across in a while—were keeping me awake. I thought about how I sold my Bowflex workout machine—probably right around this time last year—for $500 cash. It was my parents’ money really. I had bought the Bowflex on a credit card that I wasn’t funding. And I’m just so goddamned sorry that I’ve gotten this far off track and all I can think about is how my parents are seeing this situation.

Their child with promise and potential. What is he doing with his life? Not squandering it anymore than I already have. I’m just so sorry for myself and I know that’s now way to go about it but I was recalling that Bowflex transaction. With half of the cash I bought about two ounces of freeze-dried fungi. Just pathetic, just pathetic. And, of course, to whom can I confess this? Those who already know haven’t realized that they care.

I just want to get things back on track and it won’t happen all at once. How long did I slide? Two years, maybe two and a half. I haven’t lost the potential, but to hone it again is going to take: humility, discipline, dignity, focus, health. Love, lots of love.

And I want to capture my muse. I’ve banished it away, smoked it out of shape, fogged its scream, paralyzed its touch. I will find it. There was a moment or two there, as I was trying to doze off, that I could feel it creeping in on me. I long for it. Enough introspection. One can only go so deep at one attempt. Study, plenty of study—willingness to learn. I need to open myself to the accomplished word. Not to imitate, but to recognize. To know that it’s there, to know what it feels like.

Damn that Bowflex! And Dad knew it, too. He would harp me on it. He gave me my freedom but does not want to be made a fool. What does he have to be proud of me for? He would know better than I right now. I am not supposed to die before he does. Oh God, how good to be alive, to be awake and writing and healing at this point in the morning. I renounce my retirement—I. I, me, we, all of us, the constellation of myself will rally to win back this soul of mine from the pit of indifference.

That damn Bowflex. I put an ad in the paper. Sold it in an effin heartbeat. Justified it away—so easy to do! Who wants to do bench presses in his kitchen? I remember my last workout with it, high. I was completely out of my effing mind. And now that time is recuperation fodder, raw material to be shaped, a bad memory that can serve as a lesson, teach me. I hate myself for it but I move on. Sold it for half a grand, half the original price, and turned that cash around in no time, didn’t I? Loaded it into that car dealer’s SUV and met a different kind of dealer in my driveway hours later. I had iced tea in a green plastic cup that afternoon. I had smoked a cigarette and hoped that the car dealer wouldn’t smell it when he came over to take the Bowflex off of my hands.

I explained to him the stench in the hallway. My neighbors have a lot of cats, I told him. We came out of the building and around the corner—ran into the across-the-hall neighbor. I was afraid she’d think this guy was my father. “Is this one of the cat lovers?” he asked. And she sharply said, “No.” She was looking rough that morning.

Aw, hell. It’s gotta be good for something. I could use it now—though, really, it doesn’t fit well into this apartment. I had disassembled it and stored it piece by piece in the basement. Ran it in the Sunday classifieds and got like five calls that Monday morning alone. Sold it by one in the afternoon. I wanted $550. He said $450. I said, “I been getting calls all morning. I can get $550 easy.” He goes, “OK. Hmm. Will you do $500 then?” We shook on that. I felt pretty good getting what I wanted from a car salesman.

It was in almost-new condition. Not mangled or bent or scratched or tired or missing a piece. (Actually, I might still have one piece left from it, that I had forgotten about, left in an obscure drawer somewhere.) I got good workouts on that Bowflex. I will miss it though this is really the first time that I’ve thought hard about it since I sold it. Another $100 of the cash went to pay a speeding ticket I’d gotten in a central IL county near Lincoln, IL on the way back from a Hunter S. Thompson Fear & Loathing-esque trunk-full-of-drugs excursion to a friend’s cabin. We had marijuana plus paraphernalia and mushrooms in the car. After getting pulled over, we went to Wendy’s and emptied most of the remaining mushrooms onto our cheeseburgers. When I got home, I sprinkled that shake over some noodles and sauce and sat in front of the TV with a nice buzz on. Haven’t done mushrooms in a long time now. Has to be eight months at least. Good stuff.

As I was lying in bed just now, unable to sleep, I was thinking about poetry and managed to filter out some good lines. Though I forgot to write them down. And by now I’ve forgotten them all.


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