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I walked into the gym yesterday afternoon to do my usual routine: hop on the step-climber, ride the bike, cross-train myself into a frenzy, go home frothing at the mouth. But this plan changed when I ran straight into our massage therapist Tyrone, who happens to be the first black man to ever live in my hometown of Bemidji, Minnesota. We also attended the same college, Bemidji State University, so we were both Beavers. Well, technically, I was a Beaverette.
I didn’t know Tyrone back then because he's ten years older than me. He was a college football player and I was a Girl Scout. But because our mutual luck is wild and lovely, we both ended up in Arizona at this very gym. We recognized the Minnesota Nice in each other the minute we met three years ago, and have been friends ever since. Even though Tyrone is a born-again Christian and I’m a recovering Catholic—and even though he has a wife and children and I have an anxiety disorder—we are bonded.
Tyrone is the quiet in my storm, at least at the gym.
“Hey!” he called out when he saw me. My Tyrone magnet pulled me into his chest. He wrapped one arm around my shoulders and picked me up like a toothpick. I dangled at his side.
“Hey!” I said back, smiling for the first time in seventy three and a half hours. “How are you doing?”
“I’m fabulous!” he said as he put me down. “Can’t you tell?”
“What are you working on today?” he asked.
“Same stuff,” I said.
“Why don’t you try Pilates?” he said. “There’s a class starting right now! Change it up! I know the instructor too…here she comes. Her name is Linda.”
A well-toned woman appeared out of the crowd of old people and middle-aged women and sweaty businessmen on their lunch hour. Tyrone patted me on the back and I pitched forward into Linda. “This is Katie,” Tyrone said, catching me by the shoulders and straightening me up. “She’s family.”
I know that Linda and I exchanged greetings and I know she said she’d love to have a new student. I know I got swept up in a crowd of kind and helpful women as we moved from the lobby into the Pilates room. I know I was shown where the foam mats were, what ball and weights to get, and that I should take off my shoes.
But even though I did all of those things, my mind was elsewhere. Tyrone’s comment ran like a news ticker across my brain: “She’s family.”
They were the sweetest words I’d heard in days and days, maybe even weeks. The concept of family can be so convoluted. I was so glad to live up to Tyrone’s definition, and his words rang in my ears.
Today I can feel muscles I haven’t felt in years. That is what a new workout will do for you. My body is looked after and I have a lot more plans for it, but my spirit is waiting for the same attention. My spirit is on hold, a library book waiting to be picked up.
And then there is the case of my heart.
It too is tense. I can't decide if it's future or past, submissive consensual...or simply present. It's so used to the dominant insistent. It needs to get used to something else. Something progressive.
While I don't want to feel it ache like my other muscles, it would be nice to know it's in there somewhere.