Danny put the exercise video in, took a deep breath, then pushed play on the remote. In moments Johnny Black was on the screen surrounded by his troupe of girls, all of them ready to sweat to the rhythm of cheesy bebop music.
“Are you ready to sweat?,” he said pointing through the screen at Danny.
“Y-yea,” Danny croaked in a whisper trying to get in the mood of things.
“Alright, Let’s get to it.”
It had been two weeks since Danny had put the video in. His first few attempts had left him sore and gasping for air. They had also left him with a sense of complete hopelessness. He had quietly given up until guilt had brought him back today for one last token try. Then he would quit completely. It was a pattern he was familiar with, and somewhere in the back of his mind he knew his lack of will to break free of this pattern was the source of much of his troubles.
He was in no mood for introspection, however, as he labored under the weight of his own body. Ten minutes into the video he was soaked in sweat and gasping against the stitch in his side. Once he had made it twenty minutes without stopping. Now, with less than ten minutes of workout time, he found himself reaching for the remote and pausing the video.
Johnny Black and his gang all stopped in mid-stride. He had been in the process of describing proper breathing while holding your stomach in. His mouth gaped in mid sentence with a slight smile, eyes wide open, like a clown holding out an ice cream cone. After a moment, however, Johnny stepped out of his pose, stood strait still, arms crossed and head cocked to one side. The smile was replaced with a scowl as he stared out from the screen. Danny, unable to meet the intimidating gaze, dropped his eyes to the floor.
“What the hell is wrong with you?,” Said Johnny Black.
“I-I just needed a minute,” said Danny. He kept his eyes averted, unable to hold Johnny’s steady gaze.
“Oh, you needed a minute. I haven’t seen you in two weeks, and now you can’t even get through a basic warm up set? That’s pathetic–no, no you’re pathetic. I’m sick of this shit. I’m sick of watching you sit on the couch and stuff ho-hos, and dunkin doughnuts down your throat. Hell, your couch looks like it’s sick of it too from the way it’s dragging the floor. What are you a double ‘D’ now?”
Tears began welling up in Danny’s eyes from the painful jibes.
“What? Are you going to cry now you big baby? Yea, like crying is going to make you lose all that weight. You know what you are? Your a big- Hey!, hey where you going?”
Danny left the room. In the hallway he wiped at his eyes, trying not to break down any further. His problems with his weight had destroyed any self esteem he had once had. He felt hopeless and miserable, trapped in his own body, embarrassed even to go to the mail box. “Danny? Danny, I’m sorry,” Johnny Black said from the other room. His voice taking a softer tone. “I’m sorry Danny. Come back. I’m sorry I said those things. I didn’t mean it. It’s been two weeks, and the adrenaline was kicking in, and I was excited, and… Hey, come back in here and lets talk, alright? I promise I won’t yell at you anymore. Come on back.”
Danny cleared his eyes, and shuffled back into the room. He kept his head down, casting occasional side long glances at the screen. Johnny Black gave him his best smile, trying to fix what he had broken. Danny began inching towards the remote.
“Now hold on Danny,” Johnny said, seeing his intent. “Let’s talk about this for a minute, allright? I’m sorry I said those things. It was wrong. I shouldn’t have done that. Just please give it one more chance. We can do this Danny. I know we can. I want to help you Danny, but I need you to let me.”
“I-I can’t,” said Danny, warry of another outburst. “I’ve tried so many times, but I just can’t.”
“Don’t sell yourself short Danny. You just need a little motivation. I’ll help you. You can do it.”
“But what if your wrong?”
“I’m not wrong Danny. I know it. Trust me.”
Deep down Danny wanted to believe him. He was sick of himself as much as Johnny was. He wanted to have a life worth living. He wanted to go on a date with a girl.
“Alright,” Danny said. “I’ll try.”
Danny pressed play on the remote and started the video again. Soon he was back in the rythm of things. Gasping, he struggled through the routines. He was determined to last for half an hour this time. On the screen Johnny Black called out encouragement.
“That’s it Danny, work it.”