Some love took place in the hot tub I was in last night. Allow me to explain…
It’s fair to say that my dedication to the gym is anything less than stable. I went through a phase of loving it. I lost weight. I felt good. I then went off it a little bit but now, I have decided to get back to it, having been a bit sporadic for the last month or so. There are a few reasons for this resurrection in my need to get back to it. I am at Christening at the weekend being one such reason, in as much as I have a slim-fit suit to get into. The other reason being that I bought a Millionaire’s Cheesecake from Iceland for £3 at the weekend and I don’t intend on wasting that money. You could buy a healthy power-juice with £3, after all.
My routine at the gym goes like this. Turn up, change, plod to the gym area, resent the running machine for being boring and losing my interest less than a minute in (as well as for telling me that I’m practically burning no calories and merely wasting time), do some weird movements with kettle bells, attempt a few other things that I’m not entirely sure how to use, see that I’ve managed to awkwardly make it all last for 40 minutes, go to the spa bit.
The spa bit is my favourite bit. A reward for the ridicule of the actual gym bit. Also, brilliant things happen in the spa; more specifically, in the steam room. Just a few things that have happened to me in the steam room at my gym are:-
A middle-aged man began passing around pineapple from a plastic box (I had a piece; it was nice); I somehow ended up hosting a Guess The Age gameshow-style debate in which the subject of a lady’s age became the focus for all in there (there were no winners and subsequently no prizes. Just as well as there wasn’t any pineapple going that evening); a spontaneous giggling fit broke out when a man simply entered, sat down on the floor, and starting putting his legs behind his head. I once fell asleep.
Last night I did the usual ritual and then headed to the steam room. There are usually the same people in there, give or take the odd bendy show off. They are all familiar with each other and hail from the same community in Birmingham. They share stories, they laugh, they’re lovely. I tend to sit in the corner, smiling or chipping in with the odd soundbite when it’s required. Tonight a new girl came in with a tattoo of her star sign on her thigh. She was promptly interviewed and the steam room soon discovered that she was a Virgo. It was then deemed necessary to go around everyone in the room and ask their sign.
Man 1: I’m a Taurus. Like a bull.
Everyone nodded, with the help of an agreeable “That is so you!”
Man 2: I’m Cancerian.
Everyone again agreed. “Fiery, ain’t you,” someone confirmed.
Woman 1: I’m Gemini
Man 1: OOh, mixed personality. We know nobody should cross you.
Mass agreement. They then looked at me.
Al: Like a big, wet fish…
At this point, I’d like to give you a little advice: whether you choose to heed it or not I shall leave entirely to your own discretion. The advice is simply this: don’t announce to a room of barely visible, semi-naked people who you don’t know, that you are “a big, wet fish”. The likelihood is that you’re probably not such a thing and, even if you’re really not, that comment will still lead to looks which wouldn’t be out-of-place coming from a group of strangers who were looking at a big, wet fish. I left.
After the steam room, I headed into the spa bath hot tub thingy. I like it in there. That’s where you can just get lost with thoughts and drift into your own little world where life is carefree. I often come up with my ideas for things I have to write in the spa tub hot bath thing. In fact, tonight I came up for an idea for an advertising campaign that I need to write tomorrow. The downside about sitting in the spa hot bath tub thing is that there isn’t anywhere to write these ideas. I do remember thinking it was pretty good idea at the time though… whatever it was.
Within a few minutes, the woman from the steam room came and sat in the hot tub. She was shortly joined by the two fellas. The bubbles were going, polite nods were exchanged; the fish comment either having been dismissed or they had accepted that it may well be the case that I was a big, wet fish and that’s why I was in the hot tub. A friend of the other 3 joined. I closed my eyes and drifted into daydreams about… well, needless to say, I was happily smiling at my little made up scenario in my head when…
“I need some relationship advice,” said the woman from the steam room. “Come on, there are 4 men here and I need to know what to do about dating.”
The woman was clearly confused and uncomfortable with something in her private life. So confused in fact, that she had miscounted. I looked at the other occupants of the spa tub. The two men from the sauna and their new mate. 3 men. Bless her.
Oh, hold on a minute! I was a man. I AM a man! I wasn’t a fish and I wasn’t walking on that beach at sunset that I’d been daydreaming about. I was a man and I was here in this very hot tub. I could help, of course I could. I mean, I’m 36. I have learnt a thing or two in my time. I must have. I looked again at the other men in the bath hot. One was late-forties, one my age, if not a little older, and the other early- to mid-thirties. This woman had clearly hit upon a crack unit of experts.
She began telling us how she’d had a stalker and how it had got serious. At this point, aside from the fish comment, I hadn’t said anything. I was still doing my usual thing of listening because I didn’t know anyone and wanted to assess the situation. I didn’t want to bowl in with observations, opinions or anything that would make the situation awkward. More awkward than 5 people sitting in a hot bath and discussing a stranger’s stalker could be, anyway.
One of the guys – the wisest, I’d say – listened intently. He then offered up the fact the that singer of Massive Attack had stalked someone. He read about it. Everyone stared at him, wanting more. “They had that song,” he offered, “the one that went…”
But he had nothing. The other two said they’d heard of that song. Something about sympathy, was the other one’s injection into the matter. The woman looked on, hoping this triviality would subside; clearly hoping to find out the answer at the same time. One of the men mad an attempt to hum. They didn’t know the song. I sat, watching and listening. I was hoping to get back to the point. I waited. I listened. I waited.
Then I turned to them all and, in what was possibly too loud to have been contained in just our corner of the echoey, acoustically rich spa area; I sang.
“Like a soul without a mind, in a body without a heart, I’m missing every part.” They looked on. It was hard to gauge whether or not they were digesting and trying to recognise, or whether they needed more. I took it upon myself to make the decision that it was clearly the latter.
“Heey, heey, heeeeeeeeyyy…”. They looked. I realised that additional vocal hadn’t been required. Nor had it been wanted.
Man 1 seemed relieved and, unless I am very much mistaken, instantaneously growing in gratitude. “That’s it. Yeah, that woman. She was a stalker. Now, what’s the problem?”
And so it began. In short, the woman likes a man and the man, it would seem, likes her. However, he only really seems to like her of a weekend. That’s when the texts come. So, there we were: 4 men and a lady. We were all trying to decide the best route to take. She was unclear on how she felt and what she wanted. It was playing on her mind and she liked him but she didn’t want to be used. The woman looked to be in turmoil. The second gentleman eloquently addressed the situation.
“Do you feel in a position whereby you wish to embark upon the romantic act of sweet love-making with this object of your affection? he asked.
Actually, there were far fewer words and nowhere near as many syllables in his real phrasing of the question; the impact was possibly of a higher standard though.
The woman refused to counter the crass question with an answer. Man 1 recovered with, “Are you interested in a relationship with him?” She thought she was. Yes, she thought it was about time.
This then led to a mini debate about how you know you’re ready. We went around the pool. The first man had been married for almost 20 years and was in love. “You can’t look for love; love finds you.” (I imagine I shall share that very quotation with my grandchildren one day.)
The second man was (and presumably still is) the same age as me. “I don’t know, man,” he said, “the thought of being with just one person scares me. I mean, what about the other people..?”
The friend nodded. The first man smiled a smile which said he knew what Man 2 was thinking but he didn’t envy it. The woman looked at me. Then Man 1 looked at me. The friend looked at me and finally Man 2 asked me, “What about you?”
I looked at them all. At that point it dawned on me that I didn’t actually know them well enough to really be having such an open, bare (well, almost) discussion. I could listen, sure, but telling them how I felt, personally, seemed a little,well, personal. After all, I’d already proclaimed that I was a big,wet fish and the only other evidence they had that I could offer anything in the way of vocality was to wail the backing vocals to a song from over 20 years ago.
“You’re a man,” said the woman.
I was quite pleased by this because, although only a thin piece of cloth was keeping her from knowing for sure that I had the love utensils of an adult male, I was bare-chested; my body conscious self was slightly eased by the fact she’d deduced I was male from the chest up. “Do men ever really want to meet someone; or is he just playing? What do you want? What do men want?”
Blimey! What do I want? What do all men want? How has this come back to me? How has my quiet smiling in the corner become code for being in any way knowledgeable about such an issue. I looked at each inhabitant of the spa bath tub. They all fixed my gaze. I felt confident. “Well…”, I began.
Now, I love an analogy, me. As with this very blog, why say succinctly what you can say with a series of diversions and dissections? Especially when there’s a captive and distinctly wet audience. I drew a deep breath.
“Well, I think life is a journey, isn’t it? I mean, everyone wants to find someone, don’t they? Eventually. Who knows when we’re ready? It just sort of comes…”
“You can’t look for love,” Man 1 repeated, “Love finds you.”
“Alright!” I thought. Don’t be jumping on my analogical trip into what is sure to be destined prophecy. Anyway, it lacks in effect if you overuse it. I still liked it though. Good quote, Man 1. Anyway, I could see my opportunity was ebbing away and the light was about to go off, meaning the bubbles would come back and the sound would drown out my wisdom.
“Ok, so..” This was it, I was about to head somewhere… “I think that you can imagine that person you want to be with. You may not know who it is, or where they are, but you can imagine. So, right, like I may describe my ideal woman as someone who is beautiful, with a fun and caring personality, who has a quirky sense of humour and who is strong and independent but, y’know, affectionate and not afraid to show her vulnerabilities too…”
I looked at the friend. I’d lost him. I looked at Man 1. He was nodding. Not too much, admittedly, but he was. Man 2 was just staring, his forehead a little furrowed. The lady was clearly balancing somewhere between agreement and thinking that I was a bit of a pompous arse. Well, she’d asked.
“It’s a journey, isn’t it?” I repeated, aware that I’d mentally derided Man 1 for already doing such a thing, “Like if you set off to go to a destination that you haven’t been to before. The ideal woman is the destination, in a way. You can imagine the destination but, because you’ve never actually seen the destination yourself, you can’t recognise it until you arrive. Or meet her.”
They listened. For some reason.
“The journey may have some beautiful scenery. You may enjoy the journey and have some fun times along the way. You may experience some fun places and have some mini-relationships. Like, you may stop off at Tamworth services but you know you’re not going to stay there forever because Tamworth isn’t your destination. It’s pleasant enough, but your life can’t be spent at a service station. Even stopping off at services isn’t as rewarding as being with the person you want to be with.”
They were all still there. Even I wanted to leave the conversation at this point…
“So you continue the journey but you get to the point where the scenery isn’t so interesting and all you really want is to find someone to be with. The destination. I think… The person, destination, that you want to be with. Or in…”
I was in danger of making this a little less meaningful as I’d initially intended it to be. Not that my initial intention was to go anywhere near this diversion of nonsense.
Man 1 interjected, “And you don’t know what the destination will look like when you arrive, and you can’t know how you’ll get there. But you’ll know when you arrive.”
“Yes!” I proclaimed, elated that he’d got the point. Mainly because, if I’m entirely honest, I’d lost myself somewhere around Tamworth services.
The friend asked the woman if that’s how she felt. I think it was more as a way of finding out if anyone really knew what was happening. She looked at the friend, then at me.
“So how do you know if you like someone?” asked the lady.
Had she not paid any attention at all!?! Had I not just succinctly explained this in crystal clear detail? No, I hadn’t.
I felt confident with my car analogy now. “I know if I really want to be with someone and want to get to know more about them and spend time with them because if I’m not really into someone, then I can be all flirty and it’s all fine. You’re not putting your true feelings out there. They can’t hurt you. They can’t get in the car and…”
I didn’t know where I was heading with that one. I left a pause, hoping that it would come across as wise. If it didn’t, I would make a wailing, singing noise. I was allowed to continue. Worryingly…
“If I really like someone, I act like an idiot. Like an awkward 14 year old idiot who shouldn’t even be behind the wheel of a car. I set off the car alarm, turn the windscreen wipers on, bump the horn…” (That isn’t a euphemism by the way.)
“Yes!” Man 2 had at last understood. Really!?!?
The lady looked at me, thoughtfully. Man 1 smiled. The friend’s head was under the water (I think he’d tried to escape so as not to hear any more). There was a silence. The woman was in thought. Man 2 broke out into a beaming smile, laughed and smacked me on the shoulder.
“Well,” he said, “Did anyone else have a clue what that was all about?” He laughed some more. Quite loudly, actually.
There was a thoughtful pause from everyone. And then the woman spoke.
“I don’t think this man who is texting me is my destination,” she said, thoughtfully.
“Are you going to just f**k him then?” asked Man 2.
“Probably. Yeah.” replied the lady, less thoughtfully
And with that, and the realisation that the various conversations and interruptions had meant that I’d been in the spa bath hot tub talking about serious relationship matters with people I didn’t know for just shy of an hour, we all got up, got out and went our separate ways.
I didn’t drive; I got the bus home.
So, Here’s What I Have Learnt Today: You can’t look for love; love finds you.
But does it stop off at Tamworth services along the way? Now THAT is a question I think needs asking in a hot tub bath spa pool very soon.