Movement, removed.

Yesterday at the gym I rode a stationary bike that was anchored two feet in front of a large plate glass window. Outside the window were three sycamore trees, their leaves already crisping in preparation for the encroaching and inevitable fall. Beyond them sprawled a half-parched lawn, brownish-green, extending toward Friar’s Road in the near-distance. Cars passed eastward in the commute.
There was a devil’s rain at play, something the midday had conjured, with the sun shining simultaneous to the increasingly transient showers.
Had I actually been moving through the weather, on a real bike, I’d probably have been sweating just as much—only differently—with monsoon weather flushing the skin and with the otherwise factor of wind being its own thing, the cooling effect of momentum.
The gym however, was air-conditioned: the wind there is positively pressured and continuously pushed downward through evenly spaced vents. The assorted riders ride nowhere, but the digital read-outs insist otherwise: there are all these measures of miles traversed, spans of time-in, sundry calories spent.
I played this game where I agreed to do just ten minutes on the bike. When that didn’t match up to an even number of calories burned, I figured I’d keep going, pedal toward the five-mile mark. When five miles didn’t amount to an equitable sum of minutes, I continued pedaling, looking for a goal, never of course reaching the plate glass two feet in front of me, nor un-anchoring the cycle; I finally stopped at ten miles, thirty-five minutes, 400 calories disappeared. That’s what the read-out said at least.
Even enough. I stopped the program and dismounted.
The trees hadn’t changed much, but the traffic had slowed and the rain had stopped. I took out my ear-buds, the gym equivalent to parking a bike, and the whoosh of the air-conditioner was immediately apparent: always that substitute wind.
It occurred to me how often we look to digital measurements as something we could otherwise intuit, things we could register ourselves, but don’t; always looking instead to the monitors and LCD displays, the light pollution and digitalized numbers.
When Cayde was being born, the doctor pointed to the monitor left of where Jenn reclined on the bed, epidural in place.
“Look—you’re having a contraction right now,” and what should have been a body-clinching spasm, and where Jenn should otherwise have doubled in pain, the contraction just showed up neatly as a seismographic tic on the hospital’s machine.
Jenn and I nodded as if simply noting a brief change in the weather.
When Carol, Jenn’s mom, was let go in peace, and when we together shuffled into the white-accordioned room to say good-bye—Jenn having gone first and instructing the nurse to please re-bandage her mother’s head as there was a coil of brain exposed beneath the existing bandage—when we gathered around Carol and let her salts find their final shoreline without expectation that a machine stopped could in any way change her condition—she unresponsive, already gone—we still looked to the flickering numbers on the screen to let us know, decisively, that the dwindling electricity and down-trending needles meant she was at last passing, that we were given cue to say our final things, and be allowed exit into the hallway.
It is a modern thing to measure things immeasurable.
At the gym, there are all these mirrors. Self-inventory is recommended, in which case—after a workout—you can remark how your body has changed, if temporarily, by having moved through all these varied yet static stations. The chest is flushed, the iliac crest is pronounced, you have more color, and everything suggests you’ve accelerated to somewhere. Still the plate glass remains, as do the trees outside. The bike stays anchored and on its monitor blinks a heart-shaped cursor—also sensors on the handholds—requesting: please, please, another pulse.
There is the forced air when leaving through the sliding glass doors; when exiting to the parking lot and just walking to the car, the heart either slows or accelerates—however it should when recognizing the familiar lines of the crosswalk or the particular light at whatever time of day. Regardless, it remains its own privately measured thing, this heart: quiet, reticent, beating silently and soundly, always resolute, belonging ultimately and always all to itself.


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