Burnt Kugle

     “Do you have the channel changer?”  Said the man next to me on the treadmill.  

     It’s Friday, and I managed to steal an hour before I enter the hellishness my Friday’s usually dole out.  This isn’t just any Friday.  This Friday is my father’s birthday.  If he were still alive, he would have been 91.  Cancer took him back in May of 06.  This Friday is also my Mother’s Yartzeit.  She departed the world on this day in 97.  I think she left on my Father’s birthday as a final “screw you.”  For years she wanted to leave him, but could never find the courage. 
     I am riding a recumbent bike that goes nowhere and everywhere and have a full view of the lap pool outside.  Steam is rising off the water outside and the sun has not yet fully risen.  The pool is crowded with swimmers splashing and pawing at the water in attempts to loose body fat and lower high blood pressure.  I can see a large man almost directly in my line of view hogging an entire lane and resent his greed.

    The pool is where I normally go for my exercise when I’m fortunate to escape the grind of putting bread on the table and the voices in my head.  I don’t go to there to achieve large muscles, or work on a sexy body, or for any other vain reasons. 

     I swim laps hoping that I may unburden myself from the fear and anxiety of everything I think I need to accomplish, everything I think I am not, and everything I think the relationship with my wife and two children requires.

    I have a routine in the pool.  First I swim two lengths in a breast stroke and then two lengths in a more demanding freestyle.  Two lengths of each take me three minutes to complete and an easy way get through thirty minutes.  Thirty minutes of swimming, three minutes at a time, is easier than trying to wrap my head around swimming for half an hour. 

     After six minutes, I’m no longer thinking about my business, about my salesmen, about my slow paying accounts, about the goods we didn’t receive, about the goods I bought foolishly, about the goods that arrived damaged, about my bank balance, about my vendors whom I owe money, or about my son’s loneliness, or about the apartment my 21 year old daughter shares with her thirty-two year old unemployed boyfriend.  By nine minutes I’m in love with my wife again.  By twelve minutes I don’t mind the chick flick she wants to see on Saturday night and somewhere south of thirty I haven’t a protest about the list of chores she expects me to take care of on Sunday.

     But today I am pedaling away on the bike.  I am getting to know my new friend Babel.  The wise bearded one on the Westside suggested we should meet and like the others he’s introduced me to, I am growing fond of my new Russian friend. 
     The man in the pool is still hogging the lane and is now wearing miniature flippers on his hands.  He is aggressive in the way he slaps the water and kicks, is brawny and probably German.  I’m also guessing his speedos are too tight.  Through the dripping condensation on the window, I can see he’s wearing nose plugs and is probably quite pent up. 

     His pace is quick.  Faster than I swim.  I wonder what he’s trying to forget, run from, or what the holes in his soul look like that he feels the need to fill.

    I turn to the man on the treadmill.  His running is loud and heavy.  “No, I don’t know where it is,” I answer.