as young as we’re ever gonna get

In years past, the faceless image of the super ripped dude on the mailer, his golden tan abs rippling with the unspoken promise that you could one day look like this if you were taking the right nutritional supplements, would have been sufficient to draw me into the nutrition and fitness store that recently opened up by me, but nowadays the $20 off a purchase of $50 or more was the enticement I found most alluring. Clearly these marketing geniuses had covered every angle. As soon as I walked in, a super cute 22 year-old girl came out of the back, walking casually but purposefully towards me, asking if I needed help finding anything. And because my fear of appearing impolite slightly outweighs my fear of interacting with people, I told her I was looking for a whey protein supplement, hoping that she would just point me in that direction and not do the hard sell but figuring that outcome unlikely when she put her hand forward and said, “Oh, by the way: Hi. I’m Alexis.”
“I’m Gerard,” I lied for no real good reason, and instantly felt anxious about the lie while mentally noting her surprisingly firm grip. I should probably include the detail here that though I hope it won’t always be this way, in this particular chapter in my life my wardrobe choices are made primarily for comfort, which is a euphemism I use to explain some pretty unflattering styles I’ve elected to be seen outside the house with lately. I’m also shaving and bathing for comfort, as long as we’re being euphemistic, so by being matched up with this smartly attired, energetic girl, I was already at a considerable disadvantage. Sensing my vulnerability to a host of upselling techniques, I grimly steeled myself for the engagement.
Relief came over me as someone else came in to the store. It was this creepoid who I had noticed driving around in the parking lot in kind of an ominous way, and before I had a chance to fantasize that Alexis would go interact with this unrepentant weirdo to preemptively safeguard against shoplifting, this other really cute 22 year-old girl came out of the back, honing in on him like a Tomahawk missile with a smile and an outstretched hand. “Hi, I’m Stephanie. Can I help you find something?” I wondered how many of them were back there. Was there a black chick? Did they keep a couple of hot guys on reserve, just in case a lady or a gay guy came in?
Alexis asked about my workout routine, eliciting from me the confident disclosure that I do some light running and swimming three or four times a week. I silently assured myself that by not mentioning weights at all, I had deftly eliminated from Alexis’ sales pitch repertoire several rows of plastic neon-colored jugs containing the Get Huge-type powders and mixes. This strategic move had me suddenly feeling like a chess grandmaster. I don’t exactly have my act together in other areas of my life, but the few hours a week I spend working out is the only time I feel I have even a modicum of control over anything, and in talking about a subject on which I was knowledgeable, I began to feel less intimidated. Maybe even emboldened. If I could display this kind of poise while buying a car or negotiating a conflict with a co-worker, I’d be a completely different person.
Meanwhile, it escaped my attention that by acting interested and impressed, Alexis had subtly built up her own advantage, as she was about to use my own strength against me like a judo champion. Given the benefit of hindsight I can see now that I had underestimated her, but swollen with my newfound expertise, I audaciously filled out the rewards card form she breezily pushed across the counter to me as she ran my debit card, and I impressed myself by savvily maintaining the Gerard ruse. It hadn’t taken me long to get cocky, and my cool demeanor abruptly dissolved when she quizzically mentioned that the name I had written on the form didn’t match the name on the card.
“Stolen card,” I breathlessly blurted in a panic, dreading the phone call I would have to make to the bank to report that someone had stolen my identity. I tried not to think how it was probably gonna look suspicious that the false charge was for a product I’ve been purchasing faithfully every six weeks for the last decade, and instead imagined myself looking graceful and athletic while sprinting towards the white sunlight beyond the glass door. See, I wasn’t just some guy in sweats, Alexis. These were my workout clothes.


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February 2012
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