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  • Few places give me hope for humanity like a gym.

    While much of today’s world seems dedicated to the rapid deterioration and destruction of the mind and body, gyms offer redemption, the chance to rebuild yourself, to fight off age, heart disease and cellulite.

    Gyms offer hope. Hope that you can be someone else.

    As with anything that preys on people’s insecurities, the gyms I go to inevitably cost too much. I work out near low level celebs and their managers, spoiled kids and rich wives, recovering addicts, ex-gangsters, gay boys and body builders, people whose body is part of their business. And of course, the chubby gym goers who don’t break a sweat but in their eyes shines the forlorn dream of sullen flesh dissolving to reveal a forgotten six pack, a peachy ass, stored in perfect condition underneath their bulk.

    Inside, the machines line up: today’s racks, cradles and cages, combinations of wires and weights, straps and seats, which seem complex to the ignorant - watch the initiates coo as some burly trainer explains how to adjust each one to bring you maximum efficiency in your personal workout - but to those in the know are quickly altered to fit our needs.

    Their indifference gives them beauty. The weights, the balls, the mats, each one promising a distinct benefit, each one purposed with a specific role, targeting an individual weakness or flaw.

    They’ll take anyone and say nothing. What you get from them is up to you. You can strain away or you can lie there, giving the occasional push. They don’t care.

    For me, the gym is insurance. Insurance against my late nights and my drinking and drugs and all the things I do that I know aren’t great for my body, but I can’t live without. It offers balance, but more than that. If I work harder here, I can go harder elsewhere. It expands my powers and opens new possibilities.

    I approach a work-out with the same intensity and immersion that I try to bring to anything I care about. I lift and push and stretch and heave as much as I can as long as I can, until my face turns blotchy and breath staggers out of my mouth.

    Until the blood in my arms and legs has transmuted into some heavier metal, and my stomach has been replaced by a ravenous pet. Here, there is nothing except numbers and repetitions, limits and goals. Measures to show if you have improved upon last time.

    And the promise of eternal growth, always another notch, another variation, another second holding yourself in position.

    As I sweat more, I visualize all the badness that I’ve snorted and smoked and swallowed being washed out of my body. I wish my sweat would come out in radioactive yellows and poisonous greens until I worked hard enough for it to turn clear and sparkle.

    I picture my brown, hash-infused lungs shedding a crust to become pinker and young again with every deep breath. I can feel my arteries opening up, and any insolent fat that had started to think about forming, anywhere, melt away.

    The gym shuts me up, slows down my mind. Here, the only sound is air coming and going, weights moving, the squeak of my sneakers on rubber. Here, it is purely physical.
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