Shani was as good as her word – her word being good only because she was good – and before the week was out, I was in rather dubious possession of a fat pair of three-kilogram dumb-bells.
I started using them almost immediately. They were a gift, and I was grateful that someone had thought of me, and I had nothing better to do with my time but to attempt a fresh activity and put Shani’s gift to some definite use simultaneously.
Besides that, I was anxious to run my emotions beside something that could notionally take the place of my old depression. I was excited for the potential of those dumb-bells. I was actually looking forward to becoming addicted to something once again.
I missed complete desolation. It gave me a reason and an identity, and a way of interaction with my peers. Without it I did not seem to be entirely myself. I would always need some obsession, some food to the hungry hole in my cavernous soul. Could cardiac exercise contain enough of the nutritious monopolisation I needed?
It was only days before my weights had utterly engulfed me, and I was lost to all but my beautifully-balanced world of grating muscles and enduring stamina for hours on end, till I collapsed in spacious spread-eagled fashion, the swollen feeling of self-achievement blissfully rife in my fatigued bones. I was body-building, that I was – and such exhilaration when the definitions began to emerge on my arms a month or two later!
Encouraged by both success and pleasure, I soon found refuge at the local gym. Four times a week I visited, and challenged my unresponsive anatomy to greater and greater contests – and in each case, the silent screeching aches and pains could be sufficiently ignored, so that they dwindled away into that throb of contented gratification almost licentious in its lustful prolongation. I could not stop it. Exercise was as absorbing and as addictive as any drug – and perhaps more so for the fact of its novelty.
Body-building – such a bold ring of pomp and pride and corporal consummation possessed that word! I felt fulfilled in a manner that was impossible via melancholy artwork or indulgent procrastination. In pushing my body to such altitudes, I was sweating the evil vicious humours which had been rotting my mind for so long. I was actively denying habits so long and so old, and it felt good. Finally I was in control, and I was happy as well as being in control!
I was so happy when I was lifting my weights – and again and again and again I lifted and bloomed in both figure and joy. Happy monotony drew crude smiles on my tortured face as I forced my body through the gruel of bruising pain. It seemed to release hidden anger and suppress untold despair.
I lived through these months in a way both darkened and brightened by aerobic exercise, where irritation had a habit of evaporating almost before it had come, and grins had a way of appearing even where there was nothing to grin about.
And faith was fast fading to the all-excluding mania of lifting weights.