Maybe it sounds weird, but the nastiest rat tail I may have ever seen inspired me to start this blog. Here’s the story: at thirty one years and ten days I decided to start exercising. This was last summer, and while not *unhealthy,* I certainly wasn’t in shape either. So I dragged my ass to the gym and started going in circles around the track that hovered above the basketball court. 15 laps to a mile. By the time I got to Thanksgiving I was doing pretty well, peeling around the track and feeling good, in general. Then I quit going. The holidays and fitness weren’t a good match.
Flash forward two months to St. Valentine’s Day eve, substitute a LifeFitness treadmill for the track, and picture a super skinny 18ish year old fellow climbing onto the machine directly in front of mine. He was wearing flowy shorts and a tight white t-shirt that made me hate him because I will never look that good in a tight white t-shirt. As I was huffing and puffing along at 3.5 on a Random Hills setting, he hopped up on the treadmill and began warming up at a clip of 7.2. I figured I was twice his age and I hadn’t played sports in high school (thus any sort of comparison between us was absurd), but I nonetheless decided he was my nemesis and probably rolled my eyes. Then I noticed something peculiar. As he sped up toward 8.5 with barely a heavy breath heaved, I spied this curious slender lump beneath his shirt. At first I thought it might have been particularly thick scar tissue and began to pity him for having Scoliosis. Then it started moving, swishing back and forth as he ran. I nearly panicked. It had begun writhing around, creeping toward his shoulder in what looked like an attempt to escape out his collar. It contorted itself into all sorts of interesting shapes, like a fishing hook or an upside down question mark. Then, breezily as you please, he reached back and tamed it. With a flick of his wrist he pressed it back in place, in a nice line running from the base of his neck straight down his back. At which point I almost fell off the treadmill when I realized that it was, impossibly, a foot long rat tail.
The upside of all of this, I realized later, was that time had passed quickly and for the better part of ten minutes I didn’t notice my pain.
I thought of snakes; I couldn’t help it. With the tight cotton fabric of his t-shirt stretched over it, I thought of what I imagined microorganisms might look like under a scope, or sperm. It stayed on the move. As I traveled minutes 30 to 45, including cool down, I watched him achieve 9.5 all while continuously keeping close guard of the tail, making sure it never succeeding in emerging from his collar to, as it seemed to be trying, strangle him. I was fascinated, clearly. And I began to think about blogging …