David Jester: Nineteen Thousand and Eighty-Eight Steps


I am lying in bed, reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, and across the room I hear a rhythmic thumping of feet on the carpet. I listen to the soft, padded, repetitious thuds, over and over again, to a cadence of some nonexistent drill sergeant, who has synched the troops up for a midday run with left, right, left. From behind the cover of my book, it sounds like a young woman jump-roping on a well manicured lawn, while a Greek-American family plays out their life on the pages I consume.

The air is cold outside, on this Maine winter night, and the window that is behind my head, where a headboard should be but is not, radiates a chill through the glass. The frigid night air penetrates the overstuffed pillow which props my head at a 45 degree angle, as my eyes hungrily devour the words scrolling past my vision on the crisp pages of this paperback novel. Stopping, I move the book aside a few inches, and at the foot of the bed is my wife, running in place, naked, while holding her breasts as if her hands are a sports bra. She is in a battle of fitness, and obsessively tries to vanquish a foe who is in a Fitbit challenge in some other remote, unseen location.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love looking at my wife’s naked body, I don’t tire of it one bit. She is built like an Amazon, with more muscle than most men have, yet she maintains this level of feminine grace that is sheer sexy. Her muscles tighten as she jogs in place, and she resembles the hard, yet graceful lines of ancient Roman sculptures, which depicted men as muscular giants in poses which accentuated muscle and strength. Her statue though, would be an anomaly to archaeologists who would unearth her sculpture centuries later. Her muscular form, the strong pose, would differ from the soft curving women they so often immortalized in smooth, creamy, white marble. While those beautiful statues of the female form were often limned in positions of repose, my wife’s sculpture would have herself performing some Herculean feat; and yes, she would be naked, and she would prefer it that way, disrobed, as nature intended.

With an olive complexion that progresses from bronze, to copper, and then to burnt sienna during the summer months, she is a sun worshiper who despises the Autumnal Equinox, and is giddy for the Winter Solstice, the event horizon for longer days. As a gardener, she has always been able to maintain a tan, and when she lacks that, the dirt that is caked to her body makes up for the palish — or at least she thinks so — color of her skin in early spring. When she has had little opportunity to expose herself to the warming sun overhead in the cerulean blue skies of Maine, she searches out moderately warm days to shed layers, so her skin may absorb the Vitamin D nature provides. Right now, against the pale light of our bedside lamps, as she runs on the other side of the room, spinning around in circles as if she were performing some cult ritual, her skin takes on the color of a Crayola Crayon of Burnt Umber, disrobed from its paper sheath.  

Over the years my wife has taken to many different workouts and many different physical challenges. We both have competed in, and finished, Spartan Beast Races. These rugged, mountainous challenges truly pit a person against their own psyche, pushing one’s mental ability to endure the physical challenges presented on a mountain side, while running fourteen plus miles through mud, dirt, woods, and so on. She is also a runner of staggering abilities; I have seen my wife not run for months, to then go for a ‘light’ run, consisting of seven miles in just little over an hour. But gym challenges have always been her favorite, and although she loathes the competition of board games and sites her lack of competitive spirit for the pure vitriol she holds for these games, she seems to become a ruthless competitor when engaged in these events of physical torture. Seventeen thousand steps, five thousand more than prescribed to be the daily goal for this challenge, but her foe, who I am assuming is at home nestled beneath the covers in a warm soft bed, has logged eighteen thousand. So here is my naked wife, bouncing around the room, unwilling to admit defeat in this small battle of the fitness war, at ten o’clock at night.

My wife, the woman who hates to be center of attention in public, who would rather sink into the background of a crowd than be center stage, a woman who wouldn’t sing in front of me for over ten years — although it is still a rare occurrence, despite a gorgeous, melodic voice — will tear up a gym to complete one more burpee than the other person, one more pull up, or deadlift more weight than she did the week before. She does not just compete against others, but sees herself as a competitor as well, always pushing herself further, to greater feats of strength.

So here I am, sitting in my warm bed, on a cold night in Maine, trying to concentrate on reading my book. Across the room, my naked wife is running in place, trying to achieve more steps than some adversary in this challenge. Our dog Noah, lying in his bed, is curled up with his long black fur like wisps of ink trailing through water. Draped across this ragamuffin of a dog, is the blanket he yearns for. This square of striped fleece fabric has anthropomorphic properties for him, because like us, he too is covered for night, tucked away in his bed, the same as his pack of humans. He stares at her as I do now, well, I assume NOT as I do, but instead wondering how we got here in the first place. I offer my services to aid her in this time of need, and we give this much thought, but in the end, we can’t figure out a position that would get the Fitbit to register the movement. So she continues, across the room, jogging in place, until she reaches nineteen thousand and eighty-eight steps, and has vanquished her foe. As she slides into bed, the electronic step counter is put asleep for the night. But now instead of steps, it tracks her sleep patterns. Registering her movement throughout the night, keeping an eye on any tossing and turning, it becomes much like some electronic eye, spying from the wall, a fitness big brother in bracelet form.

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