Chapter Forty-One: “This is like jazzercise in prison camp”

Like every year before, Jacklyn’s New Year’s resolution was to get in shape. It was a resolution she shared with nearly all of her friends. So they had made a pact to do it together. Part of the way they were going to do this was by taking a jazzercise class together. More specifically, they were going to take a jazzercise class that Priscilla would lead in the empty exercise room in the basement of Jacklyn’s building. She had applied to the building super to ask if she could use it a couple times a week. She assumed it wouldn’t be a problem given that it sat vacant roughly ninety-five per cent of the time. She was granted permission, but under the condition that she make the class available to all tenants. She had to put up advertisements and everything. Aside from her friends, only three people showed up for class. Of course, those three people were Gord, his skinny roommate Gavin, and Hot Neighbour, also known as Amare.

The last and only time Jacklyn had seen Gavin, he’d been wearing a pair of black spandex biking shorts and a button-down shirt patterned with cartoon tacos. This time, he was wearing those same biker shorts, unless he had more than one pair, which was a horrifying thought, and a muscle shirt that had a giant cat face on the front of it. Gord was wearing teal workout shorts that were shorter than was necessary and he had a sweatband. Amare was the only one in normal workout clothes and he, of course, looked amazing.

“Christ, this is a real grab bag class,” Iggy remarked as Priscilla set up her portable speaker at the front of the room. That wall was lined with floor-to-ceiling mirrors, but they had warped and discoloured slightly over time.

“It’ll be like exercising in a low-budget funhouse,” Priscilla said, interrupting their conversation to point to the mirrors. Jacklyn snorted and continued trying to ignore the fact that Gord was in the room and wearing very small shorts.

Considering it was a jazzercise class in a basement run by someone who was definitely not an expert, there was a surprising turn out. Granted, most of the people were their friends. Although, Jacklyn was shocked that Bernie had agreed to come. She was notoriously uncoordinated. Jazzercise seemed like a bad call. She could barely jog without tripping over her own feet. Jemima was also there and Priscilla had brought Sybil, who looked far too good in leggings.

Priscilla began the class with a long five minutes of intense cardio. It was essentially just jumping on the spot in various ways for the length of what Jacklyn could only assume was the longest song of all time. She didn’t recognize it. It was some kind of indie, hipster, alt-rock, the usual crap that Priscilla and Tallulah swore by. Jacklyn had spent almost all of December listening exclusively to Kendrick Lamar so this was a bit of a shift.

When they moved on to the first real jazzercise routine after that, Bernie fell on her face as predicted nearly immedaitely. Fortunately, she wasn’t alone as it seemed Gavin was not any more coordinated than she was.

“Fucking hell, this is hard,” he announced from the  back of the room, sandwiched between Gord and Amare, who hadn’t even broken a sweat and was having no trouble at all keeping up.

“You’re fine,” was Priscilla’s kind and sympathetic response from the front of the room.

“I think I’m having a heart attack,” Gavin continued, ignoring her.

“Good,” Gord said. “I’m turning your room into a den. I need somewhere to store my records.”

Gavin groaned, but didn’t make any other complaints, not even when Priscilla announced they’d be moving on to squats. Tallulah did protest that, however, grumbling loudly and nonsensically about spin classes and Eastern European women with the thighs of Olympic speedskaters. Priscilla ignored her and instead lead the class for a rough four minutes of squatting. Jacklyn’s legs started trembling a minute and a half in. After two minutes, her quad muscles felt like they were on fire. By three minutes, she was pretty sure she would have to just fall onto the floor and stay there forever. Amare still hadn’t broken a sweat. In the row ahead of her, Bernie’s face had turned an alarming beet colour. Next to Jacklyn, Iggy was swearing constantly. Sybil was completely fine. Jacklyn caught Gavin’s reflection in the mirror. He looked like he was seconds from death.

By the end of the four minutes of hell, Jacklyn could no longer feel her legs. Tallulah actually did fall on the floor and laid there for a minute. Gavin looked traumatized. Amare took a sip from his water bottle like he was in the middle of a photoshoot for a bottled water advertisement. Jacklyn hated him on principal.

“This is a great aerobic workout,” Amare remarked with a casual grin.

“Yeah,” Tallulah snorted from the floor. “If you like jazzercizing in hell.”

By the end of the hour-long class, Jacklyn was exhausted. She was sweating, breathing heavy, and her legs were shaking. Amare was still completely fine, but Jacklyn was pleased to see that Sybil at least had eventually broken a sweat. And Gavin was just broken. Despite the spandex cycling shorts, it seemed as though he didn’t actually exercise very often. He demanded that Gord carry him back to their apartment, which Gord did not do. He did spray Gavin in the face with his water bottle, though.

The next time Priscilla lead jazzercise class, Bernie didn’t come. It was fair; she’d spent more time at the last class tripping over herself than exercising. Gavin was also notably absent, but that came as a surprise to literally no one. Gord and Amare were back and Sybil had somehow managed to talk her co-worker Chris into coming as well. Jacklyn suspected there had been some pretty heavy lying involved. Chris looked wholly unprepared, especially after the five-minute jumping warm up.

“Jesus,” he heaved at the end, bent over with his hands on his knees. “This is like jazzercise in prison camp. I keep waiting for Richard Simmons to serve me gruel or for Jane Fonda to pistol whip me.”

“I don’t think that actually happens at prison camps,” Jemima scoffed.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you used to be a prisoner of war,” Chris retorted. Jemima didn’t say anything else after that.

Halfway through the class, after the squats and the six-minute arm workout, right around the time Priscilla was making them all run with their knees up to their chests, Jacklyn wondered what exactly had possessed her to come back. Sure she wanted to be fit, but at what cost? There was sweat running into her eyes. It was only the second week of January though, which seemed early to give up her New Year’s resolution. She figured she should at least make it into February.

“Why are you doing this to us?!” Chris yelled at Priscilla in the middle of their ab workout. They were holding planks and had been for at least a minute. It was a long time for most of them, those who had clearly not done a plank in several years. Amare was attempting to do one-armed planks because he was outrageously fit and also a pretentious showoff.

“We’re going to be lady buff!” Priscilla called back. It was the tagline Tallulah had come up with the week before. It was meant to be motivating.

“I’m not sure that’s something I want!” Chris shouted.

“You’re going to have a butt like Nicki Minaj!” Tallulah chimed in.

“I’m not sure I want that either!” Chris returned.

“Eh, I’ll take it!” Gord called from the back of the room.

By the time it came to stretch at the end of the class, Jacklyn had never been so happy to sit down. Granted, she was stretching her hamstrings to an excruciating extent, but it had become increasingly difficult to keep herself upright. She wondered if all jazzercise classes were like this. From what she could remember of ‘80s workout videos, it seemed like there was usually more gentle stepping and some slight squatting. The people in Richard Simmons’ tapes always seemed so happy, like they were delighted to be in the same room as him and his bedazzled dolphin shorts. Jacklyn, on the other hand, was fairly certain that she’d kill someone to be able to leave the basement of her building and never return.

“You have to do the same stretches as everyone else, Jemima!” Priscilla chided from the front of the room.

“Why?” Jemima called back, doing something entirely different than everyone else.

“Because we’re not anarchists!” Priscilla retorted. “This is a jazzercise class! Follow along!”

“God, she’s aggressive,” Chris hissed to Sybil and Jacklyn. The three of them were in the second row from the back, Amare and Gord behind them.

“She’s very thorough, I’ll give you that,” Sybil replied.

“She’s missed her calling,” Chris continued. “She’d be really great at torturing people for information.”

“If they didn’t die before they could talk,” Jacklyn interjected.

Jacklyn ran into Gord in the hallway outside their apartments the following evening. Jacklyn had pulled both her hamstrings and her groin. She had spent a lot of time very slowly walking up subway stairs throughout the day, generally angering the people behind her. Gord was walking toward his door like John Wayne.

“Hurting?” Jacklyn asked him, nodding at his legs.

“It looks like I’ve been riding a horse for three straight days,” was Gord’s response. Jacklyn snorted and pushed open her apartment door. Snib immediately dashed into the hallway toward Gord. She thought about going after him, mostly out of spite and pride, but then decided that she couldn’t be bothered to walk anymore than was strictly necessary and simply continued into her apartment.

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