An Afternoon At The Rec Center

by: Taylor Burnfield

An offering of flash-fiction rife with hurt, longing, and regret, that explores the profound disconnect that too often mars otherwise earnest relationships…

“What the hell do you want?”

This wasn’t the first time Brett had spoken to me this way.

“I just wanted to talk.”

“I’m busy right now.”

I wasn’t supposed to be talking on the phone. I was working at the front desk of The Dallas Recreation Center, but it was a late Friday afternoon and the gym was nearly empty.

“Can’t you just talk to me for like five minutes?”

The men and women who worked out on Friday’s depressed me the most. Fitness for them seemed to be done out of some desperate obligation, rather than actual enjoyment.

The women wore neon-colored clothing that revealed slices of flesh, flesh that clung to their skeletal figures. They spent all night at the gym, wasting away their youth grinding away on elliptical machines and darting along on the road to nowhere upon treadmills.

Then, there were the men, who no matter how many weights they lifted never seemed to be satisfied with their ever-increasing bulk.

“My life doesn’t revolve around you. I don’t have time to talk. Okay?”

I imagined that Brett’s dark eyes looked like a storm right now, like they always did when he got angry at me. Dark eyes, that under certain light revealed a deep shade of sapphire. I thought of the first time I had seen him. Broad shoulders and a jawline that could cut glass. Why couldn’t he speak to me now? I was always there for him. Even that one night at 3 A.M, when he called me crying, wretched with suicidal thoughts. He told me that if he actually went through with it, that it would be all my fault because I wouldn’t do what he wanted.

“My sister was diagnosed with cancer this morning.”

Silence.

I thought to myself, maybe he was in shock.

A woman with brown hair pulled back tightly into a ponytail approached the front desk. Her ponytail was cinched so securely behind her skull that the skin of her temples looked as if they could snap at any moment.

“Excuse me, excuse, ma’am? Ma’am?”

Maybe he was about to rush over here and comfort me.

“Ma’am I have a question…”

Maybe he was going to apologize to me.

Maybe…

“Hey! I’m talking to you!”

I could no longer ignore the ponytailed woman. Her shrill voice and orange camouflage tank top were about as subtle as a forest fire.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“The bathroom. Where is the bathroom? I’ve asked you like ten times!”

“Oh…uh, just follow that hallway over there and turn to the left.”

“Thank you! Was that so hard? Jesus.”

The woman turned away from me and I now had a better view of the ponytail. That thing is going to leave a bald spot, for sure, I thought.

“We all have our problems. I’ve got to go.”

Click.

“Wait, what? Hello? Hello?”

The buzz of the elliptical machines hummed away in the background. The grunts of the musclemen lifting weights were intermingled with the pulsating thumps of techno music.

I hung up the phone. I caught my reflection in the front windows of the rec center. Windows that the janitor, Adrian, had spent all morning cleaning. Adrian didn’t think anyone noticed his hard work, but I did.

Did I really look like that? I was pale and had bags underneath my eyes that hung like two purple crescent moons. I wasn’t pretty anymore. Maybe if I still looked the way I did the day we first met, he’d care about me.

I tried to distract myself from my reflection and looked out into the streets. The heat of the afternoon had now subsided into a misty summer rain, the people outside were rushing to find shelter.

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