“When Upper Body Strength Just Isn’t Enough”
by Keith Hoffman
I’m an idiot and a loser.
These are the chipper thoughts dancing in my head as I walk through a desolate part of Brooklyn on a Friday evening.
It’s Beginner’s Night for the Gay Rock Climbing Club and I have come to a gym to discover my one true love perched on a wall like he was Spider Man and I was his Mary Jane Watson.
“I’m here with the gay rock climbers,” I whisper to the front desk in case they don’t know a group of homosexuals is meeting right under their noses.
Immediately they have me sign a waiver acknowledging the gym is not responsible for my death. I am a believer in signs and this does not seem like a good one.
I look around at the room full of aggressive macho energy. Who am I kidding? I don’t belong here.
I am about to slink back out to the street when a handsome man who looks as if he’s been carved from cream cheese strides past me and smiles his most charming smile.
Clearly he loves me.
Clearly I can’t leave and break his heart and have him searching for me the rest of his life.
Clearly I should stay.
The gay rock climbers are split into two groups: the Ridiculously Hot Guys and the Ultra-Serious Lesbians.
Somehow I end up with the lesbians.
Maybe its because I am not dressed properly. I didn’t know what one wears to climb walls so while the Ridiculously Hot Guys are donned in colored-coordinated gym outfits, I am clad in sensible khakis and a bulky sweater. Naturally the lesbians think of me as one of their own. The only problem is these women aren’t here to flirt. They actually want to climb.
Before I know it I am ˘staring up at a wall peppered with protruding colored rocks. A harness is positioned on my crotch in the most unflattering angle possible attached by a rope to one of my Sapphic spotters
I begin my ascent into hell.
Right hand…blue rock….right foot…blue rock…wait…where does my left foot go??
It is like a game of sideways Twister.
Then I slip.
And I free-fall.
And I am dangling sideways by my crotch twisting in midair.
TURN AWAY!! I want to yell at the Ridiculously Hot Guys who have stopped their frolicking long enough to stare at me in mute pity.
This is not going well at all.
It’s a half hour later and I am making my third attempt at the Boulder Wall.
This wall entails no rope or crotch harness and is built on a cushioned floor.
This should have been easy. I climbed trees like a monkey ever since I was a tyke who needed alone time away from my dysfunctional family. But already I have gotten to know this cushioned floor quite intimately each time I landed on top of it in a contorted heap.
The Ridiculously Hot Guys have wandered off to bond somewhere else and the lesbians have realized no matter how sensibly I’m dressed I will never take life as seriously as they do.
It is only me.
I am alone.
I am not going to meet anyone.
I am too old and uncoordinated to find love.
No one cares.
This experiment is a dismal defeat.
I look at the exit so tantalizingly close.
I looked back at that wall and sigh.
I peer up at the rocks and trace my path.
Slowly….breathing…right foot blue rock…right hand blue rock…
Halfway up I waiver. The only one left to encourage me is me.
But I am tenacious. I have made it through much worse in life. I have survived loss and victory and disappointment and success. I can’t let this damn little wall be my defeat
So I cling tenaciously, get oriented and keep climbing
I follow the rocky path to the top.
And right there high above the frenetic energy, I find who I had come there looking for…
…ungracefully graceful me.
And tonight that is good enough.