Classy

I’m particular about my gym wear. To illustrate, my socks must be white or a shade approximating my skin tone. I call the shade “nude.” Crayola misguidedly called it “flesh.”

After a torturous day’s work, I reached the Y desperately in need of a stress-defusing workout. Too bad I’d forgotten to bring allowably-colored socks. I hadn’t time to run home to fetch them. I also knew, if I showed up at home, I’d be held captive there. I checked the car trunk and backseat. No socks. I contemplated dumpster-diving into the pool deck’s lost and found bin, teeming with abandoned bathing suits, towels, plastic dinosaurs, socks from one-footed people, and what have you. Faced with the prospect of diving into that gloppy, ammonia-stinking, intertwisted morass, I decided I’d sooner stand in rush-hour traffic in an ice storm holding a sign like the homeless people carry, but mine would say, “Need socks.” I bit the bullet and wore the only socks I had: dark blue.

The locker room deposited me into a room crammed with seasoned weight machines decorated by red pleather upholstery. I hoped nobody would observe my sock irregularity. Before I started working out, a 17-year-old girl engaged in reverse lumbar curls made it patently obvious she was looking over her left shoulder at my dark blue socks. She seemed to laugh and then flashed a smile. I figured she laughed because I looked like a nerd.  Wearing dark blue socks to the Y is as nerdy as slipping those old plastic ink stain protectors on a shirt pocket. It didn’t matter she was only 17. That’s plenty old enough to make me feel mortified.

I exited the weight room and walked fast to the far end of the Y. I didn’t talk with or even look at anyone to avoid attracting undue attention. I finally reached safety. On the balcony overlooking the indoor pool, I’d be alone in the embrace of hothouse humidity punctuated by muffled, indecipherable pool yells. In peace, I could ride a recumbent bike there, eyes shut, with nobody to observe my dark blue socks.

A few shameless minutes into my bike ride, the same 17-year-old showed up, prostrated herself on the mat in front of my bike, and began a stretching routine: hamstrings, calves, quads, hip flexors. It looked like she was planning to stretch everything. I wasn’t staring. She’d planted herself directly in my line of sight. It was only then I noticed she was wearing dark blue socks just like mine.

“I thought you were laughing at my blue socks, but you’re wearing them too!” I said.

Mid hurdler’s stretch, she looked up, opened her brown eyes wide, smiled knowingly, and confidently pronounced, “They’re classy.”

She resumed stretching. When done, with legs crossed, she took a few slow, deep, yogic breaths. She then stood, gave me the familiar smile of an old friend, and opened the balcony’s exit door.

I kept on riding in my classy dark blue socks.

James RossA newly-retired health researcher, Jim Ross has published poems, photos and stories recently in Lunch Ticket, Friends JournalPif Magazine, and many other journals. Forthcoming includes Apeiron Review, Cactus Heart, and two photo essays. He and his wife split time between MD and WV and look forward to becoming grandparents of twins this summer.