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GYM, MARTIAL ARTS, HAPPY DANCE, ZUMBA, PILATES, RUNNING, WALKING, TREKKING, ETC.
CLAUDIA APABLAZA


from EVERYONE THINKS I'M A FAKIR
translated from Spanish by Toshiya Kamei


I was getting nowhere for a while, but when I turned thirty-three, I met G, a handsome drama student, at a bar in the Alameda, and I started to feel that I was really getting somewhere, however slowly. He told me he was twenty-eight, but my friends insisted that he was twenty-three or twenty-four at the most, but it made no difference to me, because he was young and handsome, so I liked him. Days passed and he kept sending me emails, text messages, WhatsApp, and DMs. My friends told me not to hook up with him, because he was very young, just a boy. Besides, he might have a girlfriend. I asked him point blank one afternoon when we went out for a mint-flavored coffee at the corner of Sucre and Manuel Montt. G said, No, I don't have a girlfriend. How about you? That same night I took him back to my place, we ate, and we fucked. And when he saw me naked, he said, Hey, you have to work out a bit harder. You have to work out every day, once or twice a day, if possible. I believed him. He offered to be my instructor and we started working out together. Some things happened, then others happened, followed by some others. I forgot about some things, but I remember that from the start I was afraid he would move out if I didn't work out enough.
white From the start I was afraid he would leave me. I didn't want to hold myself back in life. I wanted to get somewhere. I didn't want him to go. I had found my love and my personal trainer, all in one, like McDonald's Happy Meal box or combos from some soda shops or fast food joints: French fries, hamburgers, triple plastic cheese, sweet and sour sauce, and all that disgusting shit. But we weren't one of those Happy Meal boxes. We were a Happy Veggie box.
white To keep him from leaving, I decided to recite a brief text every day:

whiteGod, God, I don't want him to go
whiteI want to get somewhere
whiteI'll be at peace
whiteI don't want him to go
whiteI want to work out with him
whiteI'll be at peace
whiteI don't want him to go
whiteGod, God, I don't want him to go
whiteHow am I supposed to work out alone?

Almost no one values the body. Only two in every hundred people, they say. Others see it as an extension, an appendix, something they borrowed to carry out acts, stupid ones at times, not as an integrated dynamic whole. But no him—he saw it integrated.
white We were the same. Together we could be a Happy Veggie box. And we worked out every day, which I still remember: gym, martial arts, happy dance, Zumba, Pilates, running, walking, trekking, etc. When we worked out, I recited my mantra and exorcised the ghost whispering that he was going to leave me to work out alone.
white That's how real things started happening with him. I started getting somewhere. At last I felt like things were happening to me. For example, they open the bathroom door while you're taking a shower, someone wakes up next to you giving slaps because of nightmares, or they brush their teeth next to you and you have to fight over the faucet to rinse your mouth, elbowing. Since that moment these tiny details have started happing. They didn't happen before. Now they did. But never before.
white If I had to define myself today, I would say: I'm a woman who's afraid of losing her McDonald's combo or her Happy Veggie box, and things are happening to me, all kinds of things, or rather tiny or huge things. For instance, someone uses up your soap, drinks your chamomile tea, takes away your pillow at night, and slobbers your back.
white I liked him because of all that, and besides, he was the only man who made me see the reflection of the body every so often. He was more handsome and younger, and made me see in the perfect mirror. I actually believe that he wanted me to reach the state of the body I imagined. The state he imagined. Managing to make the mental image and real image of the body match. A trained body.
white Every day G repeated: Are you a body or do you possess a body? I am, I said. I laughed, remembering conversations I had with my father about the stability of body-mind, and I thought my father knew more. Even so, I felt that G was my teacher. And I repeated: I'm a body.
white Then we kept working out. We made progress. We got up, ate breakfast, and went to the gym. We only wanted to be perfect, clean bodies, ones that know how to float, dance, and move with ease. Image versus reality.
white We did the following in the exact order:

whiteGym
whiteMartial arts
whiteHappy dance
whiteZumba
whitePilates
whiteRunning
whiteWalking
whiteTrekking

The second thing that happened to us is that we moved in together. I had just bought a house, small but lovely, near the neighborhood where I lived. He said, OK, I'm going to move in with you, but only under the condition that we have to keep working out at home, always. OK, I said. And we moved in together and arranged the house to our taste. He liked to cook, and so did I. We cooked often, at any time of day. The neighbors didn't get angry when hearing the clatter of pots and the clink of silverware on plates. We put various exercise machines, to work out together, and we made no noise while working out.
white And every day G repeated: Are you a body or do you own a body?

The third thing we did is that we went out every day to train in a new route. We had a new route. We had found it. From our house in Bilbao to Bustamante Park, where we did exercises, squats, sit-ups, and then we ran to Plaza Italia, and later passed by the Mapocho River. We felt totality in our pores.
white Every time we finished working out, I felt terribly nostalgic and called my father: Hello, Dad. How are you? I miss you. G thought it was so odd, but he got used to it. He realized that my father taught me how to exercise first, not him, and he had to wait when I remembered my father and wanted to talk to him. After this nostalgia came laughter, and we liked to go to a pizzeria and ate one or two slices. At times we ate sandwiches. I liked one with cheese and avocado, and he, one with barbecued steak and avocado.
white While eating I recited in silence: God, God, I don't want him to go. I want to get somewhere. I'll be at peace. I don't want him to go. I want to work out with him. I'll be at peace. I don't want him to go. God, I don't want him to go. How am I supposed to work out alone?

The fourth thing that happened is that I took him to see my parents. They thought he was handsome. My mother took a good look at him and said, Yes, he's handsome. On the other hand, he seemed to be wondering all the time whether my parents worked out or not. Life was actually divided between those who work out and those don't. Everyone gave the body a sideways look to know if they worked or not; that is, to know if they were a whole or pieces of bodies separated from minds, scattered, on the run. To know how much they neglected their bodies, how much they took care of them, and how much they tried to keep them in shape. And well, he realized that my parents had all kinds of machines to do exercises at home. He was delighted. I could see it in his face. He was excited to see a treadmill, then an ab machine, and a stationary bike.

After months of training, I started feeling more secure. I no longer worried that he would leave me. I didn't feel like that anymore. I stopped praying for a few days. I would pray at some other time.
white When we stepped into the gym, we felt like going to heaven. Then the same thing the next day, and the day after that, always. As if I had been always like that since I was a young girl. Even when we did other regimens. I couldn't think of the body as an extension, but the body was me, him, you guys. But I had stopped praying. Maybe I was wrong, but I didn't want to do it. I had grown tired of the mantra.

Several things happened in the middle of all this. I really felt things were happening to me. That was it. Are you a body or do you possess a body? What do I know? At times I am, at other times I possess it. But I'm a body, I suppose. When I was a young girl, my father told me I was a body.

One day we were eating couscous with vegetables at home. He said he wanted us to try new body regimens. I said we had already tried all, that there was nothing left to try. We argued. He screamed through the window. He said no. There must be some we haven't tried. He became obsessed with it. He started searching online for some regimen we hadn't tried. I was afraid that he would leave me if he didn't find it. I started crumbling down. I thought he was going to leave if he didn't find a new regimen, to look for it in another continent and fill his Happy Veggie box somewhere else. I felt sad and discouraged. I locked myself in the bathroom, cried a bit, and prayed again: God, God, I don't want him to go. I want to get somewhere. I'll be at peace. I don't want him to go. I want to work out with him. I'll be at peace. I don't want him to go. God, I don't want him to go. How am I supposed to work out alone?
white He opened the door and found me crying. What's the matter, sweetheart? I said my stomach hurt.

Then things have kept happening, until now. Other things happen, much more. He's still obsessed about finding a new regimen. Other things follow more things. So many things, so many issues. He keeps obsessing about regimens. So do I, but to a lesser degree, I'm sure. But he says he's more obsessed than I am, finishing his sentence with "I'm sure." And I say: you're more obsessed than I am. And he says: you and I more than you and you and I more than I. We laugh. We know we love to say, "I'm a body," even though no one else does. At times we fall asleep while chanting: I'm a body. I'm a body. I'm a body.
white One day I'm afraid that he will go, another day I'm not. I pray when I'm afraid.
white Every day G still keeps repeating: Are you a body or do you possess a body?
white Sometime he says: tell me about your childhood. Did your dad force you to do exercises? I say no. Don't be silly. But I'm lying to him. My dad made me do sit-ups and my brother exercises to straighten the spine. That's all. Do you think it's strange?
white When I arrived home that day, he was doing a new regimen. I, too, have started doing it, I said. I sweat more every time. I feel I'm making progress. I don't want him to go. I don't want to lose him. I want us to make progress. And at times I still wake up fearing he may leave, but then the fear doesn't last long. He calls me sweetheart and the fear is gone. He says, Let's work out and I get over the fear. He says, Look, this is how people are working out in Spain, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Do you have a problem with that?
white And things keep happening to us every day. And we keep working out. And well, he seems to be staying for now. Thank goodness. We keep working out every day: gym, martial arts, happy dance, Zumba, Pilates, running, walking, trekking, etc. And I keep repeating every day, when I wake up, when I work out, when I dream: I'm a body. I'm that malleable matter. Dynamic cells. I'm life. I keep making progress. God, God, I don't want him to go. I want to get somewhere. I'll be at peace. I don't want him to go. I want to work out with him. I'll be at peace. I don't want him to go. God, I don't ever want him to go. Please make him stay forever.