This is just beautiful and a lovely description of our relationship with the barbell and with life itself.
I love the bar. Love the cold steel, the heft, and the worn patina on a barbell that’s been used a whole lot. I love how diamond knurling refuses to slide against my fingers. Fresh knurling can take too big of a bite from my skin, though, so I may ease that bar back into the rack, and grab one that’s a tad worn. Sure, the spin might not be as fresh on the older bar, but that’s okay. I am not as fresh as a new bar.
I love the bumpers. The dense rubber, the deadened bounce, the dead weight as you take the bumper off the stack and slide it onto the ends of the barbell. Somehow, this is always when the bumpers seem heaviest. Not when you lift them as they sit on the bar, inert, unable to do one damn thing; you must do everything. Nor do they seem heaviest when you take them off the bar after your work. No, they sink most in your grasp when you bring them to the bar for the first time, like you are a humble peasant with an offering for the gods. The weight is heavier than it will ever be from that point on. Because you’re not ready. Because your lungs are not open yet. Because your heart is not open yet. But you will get there.
I love the chalk. A little bit of it, only. I prefer to grasp one rounded piece and rub my callus line, then ghost the supple skin between my thumb and forefinger. No matter how much or how many years I lift (like I could lift years, instead of just live through them), this part of my hand still seems the softest, the most vulnerable. Like it should tear but never does. Maybe it is like my heart, that seems the same way. I think when I am old and gray this part of my skin will still have the delicate warmth it does today, no matter what life does to me from this point forward. Maybe I will be this lucky.
And then it is time to do what I have come here for. I stamp my feet as if I am summoning thunder. Boom. Boom. Like I am 6’5″ and a physical specimen of the terror that is in my soul, instead of this small person wrapped around a confused, confusing, beautiful, ugly, wondering, wandering soul. A child who grows older but maybe never wiser. I slap my palm against the side of my right quad and step up to the bar. I do not love the bar any longer. There is no romance now, no sweet talk, no terms of endearment, no cajoling or teasing or flirting. Now, I hate it. I hate the bar because I must lift it and those bumpers — and succeed and rejoice, or fail and confront my weaknesses. It is as close to a physical representation of my fear, my frustration, my passion, my love, my life, as anything could ever be. Even words. And life is simple in these moments, far simpler than it will be again afterwards.
I breathe in, and begin …