Defeated, fatigued, and downtrodden from my day of work, I lumbered to the door at Anytime Fitness and swiped my key card for entry. The grey sky, rumbly thunder, and rain-filled clouds overhead reflected my mind’s state–the kind of exhausted that only teachers understand.
To begin my day, I had left my Lipton mint matcha green tea, consumed for mid-afternoon caffeination, in the fridge. Later while hobbling up the stairs at work and juggling my lunch bag, backpack, Thirty One utility bag, and two drink cups, I spilled my Community Coffee on my peach and sky blue striped t-shirt dress. A common occurrence, but nevertheless unwelcome. My FitBit died right at the beginning of first block with no way of charging it, a day’s worth of steps left untracked. I showed the wrong clip from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory during first block and didn’t notice until halfway through. In the midst of later blocks, the internet hiccuped not once but twice during the showing. Pandemonium broke loose, and my students declared anarchy in loud protestations verging on expletives, condemning the internet for infringing on coveted “movie time.” All of this happened before lunch.
I could have continued with my litany of threnodies, but I shook the negative thoughts off my mind like a last album T Swift song and placed my phone, keys, earbuds, and Yeti into one of the cubbies on the left wall beyond the entrance.
With my head down and blue and orange flower quilted Vera Bradley tote on my shoulder, I shuffled past the solitary treadmill walker and the empty row of ellipticals to the ladies room to change into my workout gear.
As I latched the door closed behind me, the automatic lights flashed on, bringing the slate hued bathroom into a garish, eye blink inducing light. Taking a few moments to adjust, my sight returned and settled on the mirror stationed directly across from the door. Instead of my own reflection, I saw Miss Geist from Clueless: hair disheveled, coffee stained, necklace askewed, and lipstick smudged. I spied runners in my pantyhose, though I wasn’t wearing any, and overheard Cher and Dionne cahooting about my sorry state and planning an intervention.
I pulled an imaginary pencil from my hair and hurled it at the trashcan on my right. I missed.
“Shit. Am I really that lame?” I vocalized.
Was this the reflection of what teaching has made me?
I exhaled five slow yoga breaths to make Twink Caplan in all her 90s floppy-collar glory disappear and entered the handicap stall to change.
I plunked my bag down on the backless chair, which inhabits the stall’s corner, questioning the last time it was cleaned but not dwelling on it. As I sifted through my bag’s contents, I was enthralled to find a sports bra, tennis shoes, shorts, and a shirt. A victory smile slashed my face like a kindergarten teacher demonstrating how to make U’s with a red dry-erase marker on the classroom whiteboard.
The previous week, my workouts didn’t happen twice because one day I forgot shorts and then the next a sports bra. Typical Jess. One mandatory item needed to complete my day gets left at home daily. Thank goodness it was my tea today.
With an abrupt decrescendo, my joy soured when I slipped on my black, stretchy bike shorts under my dress. A crunch scraped my thigh. Leaning over to assess the situation revealed the shorts’ legs were uneven. I yanked on the right side to adjust the length, but it wouldn’t budge like a kid refusing his milk at dinner. Ensconced in the fabric but let loose by the tugging, my shorts emitted a strange wafting bouquet of mountain fresh air.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” my voice echoed through the vacant bathroom. The echo escalated, bouncing off the cinder block wall and ascending to full apex as it came back and slapped me across the face.
That’s it. I shimmied out of my shorts. Upon linoleum contact, I grasped the offending shorts by both legs and brought them delicately closer to my countenance; the pleasant clean laundry smell skyrocketed to pungency. An undissolved All brand Power Core laundry detergent pod had glued the right side of my shorts into the crotch–my shorts now as useless as a two legged tripod. Hitting me like a pie in the face, the real reason the Neighborhood Walmart featured these pods on the clearance shelf last week skidded into realization–faulty dissolving mechanics. My reward for an attempt at being a spendthrift.
A frustration tear escaped my right eye. And like a penny being tossed into a cascading fountain at an outdoor mall, it slid off my face and directly hit the coffee stain on my dress, the brown trickling out ripples from its center and seeping further outward into the fabric. My very own tiny French roast wishing fountain.
Uncontrollable giggles gurgled from my mouth at the notion.
What a shitty day, but I refused to let it win.
I unhinged the lock, flung open the swinging door, and strode over to the sink. After cranking the chrome hot water handle and adjusting it for flow, I thrust my shorts under the stream for a split second and with fervor attacked the glob of detergent with my unpainted fingernails until it mostly dissolved, pausing occasionally to wipe soapy foam from my hands with a brown paper towel. Victoriously, I plucked the remaining glue from the lycra and flicked it into the trashcan, making my shot this time. Take that shorts and trashcan!
Upon completion, I surveyed my handiwork. Although saturated and splotchy white in places, I declared them ready for the elliptical. They’d dry quickly once I hit my stride on the machine.
I returned to the stall and quickly dressed looking forward to burning off the day’s bad juju. Damp, but no longer defeated.