[Bei(jing)of Pigs Invasion parts IV and V coming soon to a theater near you]
Haoshibao gym, late Tuesday afternoon. The workout area is busy—both elliptical machines are in use and only one or two of the treadmills are unoccupied. Loud, obnoxious, generally brain- disintegrating ‘music’ rattles from the confines of the glass-enclosed spinning room, where a herd of sweat-drenched devotees finish their class. Though the air conditioning is ‘on,’ the gym has poor air circulation and no fans. Even the employees sitting behind a desk sparkle like Twilight vampires apparently do.
ellis, dismayed by the occupied ellipticals, hops on a treadmill next to a woman in a green t-shirt. Greenie walks on her own treadmill and flips the channels on the flat screen TV above ellis’ head. ellis puts turns on her iTouch, which has infuriatingly been freezing every time she plays music, and tries to get in her zone.
ellis runs at a brisk pace of 10.5-11 kilometers an hour and is soon sweating like an pitcher of cold lemonade on a hot summer’s day. After about 20 minutes of running, ellis straddles the treadmill and gulps some water.
Out of the corner of her eye, she can see that the woman in green is mouthing something. The woman in green looks at her and mouths it again. ellis removes one ear bud. All dialogue is in Chinese.
Greenie:You’re so tired! (太累了！)
ellis:(a little annoyed, as intense aerobic exercise is obviously not conducive to conversation)I’m only a little tired. (一点累)
ellis replaces the earbud and continues to run, but remains aware of Greenie’s ongoing scrutiny.
After 30 minutes, an elliptal becomes available. ellis hops off the treadmill and jumps on the elliptical. She is excited because the elliptical is conducive to reading and she is currently engrossed in A Thousand Splendid Suns.
After two minutes, Greenie approaches and stands next to the elliptical. ellis, sweat reflecting off her like a mirror glinting in the sun, turns at a strange angle, which she must maintain throughout the entire exchange, to look at Greenie.
Greenie:ellis is so strong!
ellis:(trying to be polite) Oh no, no, I’m not so strong.
Greenie:I haven’t seen you here in a long time.
ellis:(wondering if she knows this person) Actually, I usually come in the morning.
Greenie:Yes, there aren’t as many people here in the mornings.
You mean there aren’t as many people here to stalk me in the mornings, ellis mentally notes with a slight twitch of her eyebrows.
ellis:Well, I had class today so as soon as I got out of class I came here.
Greenie goes on to note that she is also a student at Web, where ellis is teaching part-time (is that how ellis ‘knows’ Greenie?). Greenie also seems to know that ellis teaches at Huzhou Tech. Greenie goes on to mention how she’s a teacher at the broadcast school, compares start dates for the new term, mentions how expensive Web is and so on.
ellis nods and inserts a few responses to be polite. After 13 minutes on the elliptical, ellis gets off and heads over to the mat area to do pushups, sit-ups, and a few stretches.
Greenie follows, chattering harmlessly but incessantly away. She randomly inserts a few English phrases into the conversation.
Greenie:How do you stretch, ellis?
ellis has no answer for that. It must be Follow Your Laowai’s Workout Day.
Greenie continues small talk, at first half-heartedly attempting to stretch. She asks if ellis has done yoga before, if ellis cooks her own food. When ellis flips over for sit-ups, Greenie squats down next to the mat.
ellis continues giving polite but brief answers while wishing that she had a documentary crew to follow her around, because the absurdity of this situation will be very difficult to convey without visuals on her sensational and incredibly popular blog. How could one use words to conjure ellis, slick, sweaty, and flushed, lying on a yoga mat doing sit-ups, catching her breath in huffs, as a virtual stranger, seemingly oblivious to ellis’ abundant and unceasing perspiration, squats inches away, watching ellis’ every move and making small talk as though they were old friends chilling in a coffee shop?
It would require many commas.
As ellis finishes, an employee fetches Greenie and informs her she is wanted at the front desk. She tells ellis to wait a moment, but ellis is done with her workout, tired, and not about to wait around to reluctantly give her phone number to another (seemingly friendly but rather clingy) stalker/admirer when she still has to shop for groceries, catch a taxi during rush hour, and make dinner but she’s hungry NOW.
Nearly an hour later, a taxi drives through puddles, remnants of the effects of the recent typhoon, and stops at the front gate of Huzhou Tech. ellis hands the driver ten kuai.
The driver turns around.
Driver: Can I have your phone number so my son can call you and practice his English?
ellis looks at the audience and gives her head a golly-gosh shake.
It’s just that kind of day.