REPUBLIC FLEET STATION
Our corporation didn’t have a private gym. Many businesses on the large station didn’t. Station management did offer a corporate facility to the many companies that rented office space within it. It wasn’t publically available so it did offer some security, though the gymnasium itself was surrounded with glass, and anyone walking by could see who was inside. Still, it was better than nothing, and I had been going there regularly for about eighteen months at that point in time.
I was a very a focused man, dedicated to the task before me, and to me working out was no different. I wasn’t there to socialize. I wasn’t there for any other reason than to sculpt my mind and body. Occasionally there were some which bothered me, but for the most part I was left alone.
As with any gym, you slowly come to recognize the regulars. There was one guy I had been working out with regularly for over a year now whenever I was in Dal, a very likeable fellow. He was slightly shorter than I, weighed about eighty pounds less, but was strong as an ox. On some exercises he could push more weight than I could. On others, not so much. He was very thin around the waist, but proportionately broad across the shoulders. He was covered in so many tattoos that many Brutor would’ve felt shame in his presence. I can’t recall this guy’s name; not sure we had ever exchanged them.
He was a civilian, and managed a small import/export business. His staff consisted of himself and two others, and they mostly worked government contracts, but were making a good profit from it. On the side, he frequented the top Aussie casinos, and unlike many whom watched their life savings disappear, he was up seventeen thousand so far this year. He was very proud of that fact.
He had only come to Dal with his partner about a year ago, and hired on their one employee four months prior. They rented a small office that couldn’t fit more than the three of them. If things kept going like they were, he said, they would need to rent out a bigger space. One of the tenants across the way, a smaller, older woman, was in the process of moving her operation elsewhere, and had been dumping all her excess equipment to them. Apparently it was almost impossible to even navigate their workspace.
That was how our workouts went. He typically talked. I typically listened. He never pried about my affairs, never acted as a fanboi. That left me content to exercise with him.
Earlier last week, as I had entered the change room on my way in to workout, I was intently focused on some idea in my head. I don’t remember what it was, and it’s not important to the story, but I was so focused that when this same fellow spoke to me, I responded in a very distracted manner.
Days later, he had asked me during our routine if he had done something to piss me off. After getting some more details, and his reference to the aforementioned incident, I waved him off as overly sensitive, and reaffirmed that no offence had been intended.
I hadn’t seen him since that day.
Today, I walked into the change room, and heard the spray of the shower going. I saw familiar clothing hanging on a hook nearby. It was my regular gym partner. “Oh, I see how it is.” I began in dramatic sarcasm. “You slight a guy one day and he avoids you forever.” I waved my hands in a grand flourish, though the change room was empty save for him and I.
“Not at all my friend.” He yelled back from the shower. “Just been a busy week.” I could hear the showerhead turn off, and the glass door open. I was busy taking my shirt off, getting changed into my workout gear.
We began our usual small talk, me tying my shoe laces, him towelling off. I was just about ready to leave when he interrupted.
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you alone for a while, but there’s always someone else around.” He said, his tone not changing in the slightest. It was true; it was a crowded gym. Apparently the station managers were cheap bastards, and figured a single workout facility on the station was more than enough for the many corporations leasing from them. Currently, that one gym had two broken cardio machines and a snapped cable on a back machine. Hey, it wasn’t my fault it broke, but that’s a tale for another time.
“What’s up?” I replied evenly, curious as to whether this would be the moment when he finally called on the favour of Colonel Roc Wieler.
“Well,” He began. “I think I’ve developed a bit of a crush on you.”
His words hit me like a shockwave.
I realize in this day in age there are a great many differing lifestyles across New Eden. Homosexuality is probably one of the least perverse indulgences out there. Just the same, I was not, I am not, I never will be of that persuasion.
I am also one that defends my own beliefs strongly. I was opinionated. I was brash. One thing I had never done though, was to force my opinions and beliefs on others. It just wasn’t my way. If you wanted to discuss philosophy with me, sure, I would venture forth my credo. Otherwise, what I believed was none of your damned business just as surely as your beliefs were none of mine.
All of that was to say I held no homophobia, nor a sudden ignorant hatred or fear of the man. I had won many a bet regarding “personal space” with other men. It’s just that this man’s apparent lifestyle held no interest to me, and frankly, neither did his friendship. I didn’t even know his name for crap’s sake. And it wasn’t like we had ever hung out outside of the gym. He simply was a good guy to workout with. My mind cringed as that phrase took on entirely new implications.
Anyway, it wasn’t about preferences; it was about appropriateness. I mean, there we were in a change room, him with his doodle in his towel, and he pops this on me? Seriously, do you think I would’ve reacted any differently at all were it a naked woman in front of me? Damn straight I would’ve, but that’s not my point.
Sigh. I don’t think I can articulate my point succinctly.
A compliment was a compliment. Fine. But there’s a time and a place for everything, and this sure as hell wasn’t it. I was very uncomfortable with the given situation, and honestly wasn’t sure how to respond to it.
The hostile side of me thought about paying off a shipping clerk, slipping some Vitoc into one of their shipments, then reporting them to the station authority. That would solve the situation quickly. It was also devious and underhanded, and really wasn’t the best solution to the problem before me.
“You’re gay.” I stated dumbly. Well done, Captain Obvious. “Well, suddenly our conversations make a whole lot more sense.” I rubbed the back of my head with one hand. I had no idea what kind of man he was. Was he a bitch that would start crying if I were to reject him? Was he some alpha male queer that would try to force me to… I shuddered. Whatever, it was what it was. I didn’t really care.
“I was wondering if maybe we could grab a drink sometime?” He said, a slight hint of fear in his voice. Nobody liked being rejected.
“Sure.” I said, giving him PsycheDiver’s number.