I can do this, only twelve more minutes. Pushing aside the thunk thunk thunk of my feet on the treadmill, I make the speed faster with the misguided logic that the faster I go the sooner this will be over. Suddenly, time seems to move through molasses. Nine minutes to go and a young-ish man, definitely over six feet, white, and very muscular is standing on the treadmill next to mine. Just standing. From my side eye I can not make out any other features besides his blue and very tight shirt. I run a little faster.
Even during peak hours on a Sunday there are always ample cardio machines open. That is kind of their schtick – no classes, but one million machines. Must he stand there? Is it my leggings? They are no different from what any other woman is wearing here (I learned the hard way not to wear anything too loose during a 30 minute run: chafe city). Or maybe it is my top. I glance down to see if there is any visible cleavage. Nope, but I did trip a little in the process.
Seven and a half minutes to go and he is still just standing there. Should I leave? I could switch to a different machine on the other side of the gym. Is that too petty? No, but I was here first. I am twenty three minutes in and damnit I don’t want to move. I don’t want to change machines and begin to cool down only to have to start running again and disrupt my workout all because of some creep. Six minutes left. Why isn’t he even walking?
At a bar the gawking may be a little more acceptable, but come on – this early on a Sunday? I am hardly even awake. Five minutes to go. Is he even gawking? Or am I just paranoid? This could all be in my head. I could be totally overreacting.
I am not overreacting. Am I running provocatively? How does one run unprovocatively?
Deep breaths, three minutes to go. I wish that girl who was running next to me before just stayed a while longer.
Two minutes. I should have just walked away the minute I got that weird feeling – that instinctive “I’m not safe here” bubble in my stomach. But I didn’t and now there is only one and a half minutes left and I just can’t justify it. Does my safety and peace of mind really need a justification, though? If this man were walking next to me down the street I would cross to the other side. If it were dark, I would have my pepper spray in hand. Still, he is not running or walking or using the treadmill in any way. Only 60 seconds left. I should have expected something like this. I should have seen it coming.
Three… two… one… I walk away without wiping down the machine. As I turn the corner towards the women’s locker room I look back. He left.