If you are friends with Ben on facebook (I won’t use his full name or the name of his gyms because I am certain that he would not want to be associated with a blog like this) you may have seen the song he posted recently as his favorite song of 2012.
This is story that the song makes me think of.
French Harker loved her and nothing else.
She came to him as though she were on a cloud. White tank top and jean shorts, beautiful and soft and radiant, basking in a summer’s sun that killed twelve people that year. He always said she had a perfect face, framed by dark hair that curled around her face. When they made love, she leaned close against him, so that her hair fell around both of them, isolating them, and to French, there really was only them.
Do your hopes and dreams last forever? What do you do when they fade?
French’s back bears the callous of a barbell. He has been training for ten years and has never worn the jacket of an international team. What do you do when you’re not good enough? French immersed himself in the community. He went to school to study athletic training. If he couldn’t live his dream, he would stand on the outside, peering through a window. So he spends his weeknights mopping the chalk and sweat off the floor of a small gym that he owns. It almost does not pay bills. French still drives a 1998 Corolla.
He fails the fifth rep of a final set of squats. This is why more driven athletes become champions and he does not, he understands. This is why his father wonders when he will pursue something that he can fulfill. How long would your friends keep faith in you? French never hears them say, “poor guy,” but he doesn’t need proof.
“I believe in you,” she says.
“Because it’s your dream.”
Sometimes, when he can feel chains of doubt pulling him, he remembers this, and the fifth rep goes. Then the bar becomes heavier, and French tries to keep the belief alive.
* * *
Stay with me, she asks. Hold on to something good.
So he held on.
What does it mean to be good enough? French pulls against an uncaring constant. His third attempt deadlift has always been his most unforgiving enemy. Either not heavy enough to put him on the podium, or too heavy for him to take to the top. His legs begin to tremble, and his hamstrings betray him, but French believes this time, with all his heart, and somehow he stands. Red lights tell him he failed, and French wants to throw his belt across the fucking room.
“I’m done,” he says. “Why am I here?”
“Hold on,” she tells him. She pulls his head against her breast. “You can hold on.”
French holds on. He holds on until his rack pull grows heavier. When he comes back to his third attempt deadlift, he is rewarded with two white lights.
When he hugs her close after, she says to him with a smile, “Don’t you believe?”
* * *
Who are you when you are alone? Do you want to be better?
French could not understand why others became lazy when they loved.
He develops more exposure for the gym. It begins to pay bills comfortably. And then it begins to pay more bills, as French takes it to a bigger building and hires more staff. He pushes the marketing for the gym. Brings in seminars. He isn’t a champion, but he can live a life in his favorite place. It is part of a dream. French can buy a new car. Rent a bigger apartment. Think about buying a house.
“Aren’t you proud?” she looks up at him, her eyes bright.
“I didn’t do it alone.”
They still fuck as though they are in love with each other. When he is inside her, he rests his cheek against hers, to hear her against him. When she says his name, he finds her mouth, and their fluids coalesce.
“I love you, I love you,” her voice in his ear, pleading.
He gives all of himself to her.
* * *
How long does your happiness last?
She has dreams, too. And since the beginning, French has believed in hers as strongly as she has in his.
Even when he realizes he is not a part of them.
“All the way through,” his spotter tells him. His elbows reach full extension. Again, he takes the bar down, drives it back off his chest. All the way through. The bar stalls. French holds on.
He can’t remember what it’s like to feel her. She shies from his touch. Begins to cry.
“I don’t want to lie to you. I love you, but I can’t lie to you.”
She leaves him for the hope of something better.
The bar falls back to his chest. His spotter moves towards him, and French stops him. “Hold on.” He pushes again. Why does he try? The spotter takes it, and French throws his belt. “FUCK.” He ignores the spotter’s disappointed frown.
“You got close.”
French’s faith waivers. Who believes anymore?