Her name was Lavinia. She was tall and slim, or dare I say thin?
I ask because I am no longer sure if that word is an acceptable term today.
Yesterday ‘thin’ was fine; you could say thin without heads snapping to look at you with sneers of derision plastered upon them.
Even ‘skinny’ was allowed if used in the right context, say when describing the ‘cut’ of a denim jean or milk in a café latte.
I am never sure which words are in fashion, in season, which have been cast aside or banished. I am not ‘with it’ any longer, or so it seems.
However, I wander far from the main thread of this tale; a tale about an elegant woman named Lavinia, who I saw frequently working out at my gymnasium.
Such an unusual presence was Lavinia, as she ran on the treadmill or pumped away on the cross-trainer, in comparison that is to all the other people there.
Long before I introduced myself, long before I knew her name, Lavinia fascinated me. Clearly, she was not a ‘spring-chicken’. I guessed she was aged late sixties, possible early seventies. Yet here she was, several times a week, working out and putting many of the younger folk to shame.
Then again that should be no surprise, because many of the regular visitors to this gym were not here to follow any physical fitness routine. Many, mostly the younger women and several young men, used the gym as a place of preening and for posing.
I found their pretentiousness posturing and outright displays of vanity rather entertaining. Watching them often helped while away the time when working up a good sweat during a training session.
Now, back to Lavinia.
One day she was on a treadmill next to my own. I could not help but occasionally glance at her. She always looked so neat, so prim and proper and she had a certain air, one of elegance and athleticism combined.
I asked “Are you a dancer?”
She replied with a question “Why do you ask?”
I thought I detected the slightest of blushes.
“The way you move your hands, the way you hold them when you bend”.
She smiled; bright, kindly, understanding and motherly all at the same time, but not with a slightest hint of patronisation.
“I have studied dance” she said, “a long time ago”.
I worried myself, afraid I had embarrassed her and tried not to watch her after that conversation. But she was so poised, so collected and unself-conscious it was impossible not to occasionally glance her way.
It sounds stupid for a mature man, a man of my age, but I never worked up the courage to speak to her again.
I think I was looking for an excuse to start a conversation, a reason to say something, something I thought would not sound pathetic.
Each time I found something I could say, another part of me said I was being foolish, that she would most probably dismiss me if not laugh at me.
Then Lavinia missed a few of her regular sessions.
I asked the staff if they knew the reason that she was not as regular. I was answered with shrugs and a shake of the head.
Even if they knew, they said, it was against company policy to divulge any information about any client.
Fair play I suppose.
After a while Lavinia stopped coming to the gym altogether.
I asked around, speaking with some of the other women I had seen her associating with.
It seems she was a widow and the gym was her way of coping with grief. She wanted to meet people, to make new friends.
Could I have been one of those friends if I had not been so shy?
I shall never know, because I was informed that Lavinia died alone and lonely in her small flat.
It seems few people spoke more than the obligatory, almost necessary, ‘passing words’.
Or maybe they, like myself, are just as lonely as Lavinia, yet too afraid to venture beyond the fear of rejection?
Perhaps we shall never know, until it is too late?
© Paul White 2017