Carla Stern


The 120-Second Workout


     I put the seat back in my hybrid, placed the pillow behind my head and shut my eyes. Not sleeping, not resting. I cracked the window: it was still summer, oppressive and close. I had the familiar Ambien aura around my eyes and tingling around my pussy from when I had masturbated at 4 am. If I hadn’t been in the hospital parking lot in full view of the whole world I would have thought about bringing myself to orgasm again – except that it had been taking me so damn long lately. That, and the fact that my body had, incredibly, lost the ability to fall asleep. Ten grams of the soporific provided no more than three hours, after which I would wake up and lie in bed, staring at the ceiling: too fuzzy to do any work, too disinterested to read and too disquieted to relax. This went on for months until I fell into a state of chronic exhaustion. I supposed this was my welcome to menopause.

     I checked my phone. Two minutes to my medical interpreting job at the dialysis center. Hardly enough time for an email, a text, a story outline, a phone call, an errand, a snack, a to-do list – anything, really. I could have logged on to Quizlet and studied legal vocabulary for my upcoming court interpreter exam, but that bored me to tears. That left one option: the one hundred and twenty second workout.

     You start with the hair on your left forearm. You have hair on your forearm, right? You’re not a professional bike racer? Good. Stroke it gently up and down with the cupped palm of your right hand. Three, four seconds. Feels nice. Resist the urge to crack your knuckles. Using the tips of your fingers, move your right hand up your arm. Linger in the indentation between your deltoids and your biceps. You’ve worked out for years: enjoy the fruits of your labor. Do not look at your phone. Now move on to your neck. Up and down. Those two prepositions are so mundane and yet carry within them an explosive power, like Mehta dancing the rumba. Feel your chest. You’re so skinny; every bone is delineated like a washboard. When you breathe in, you imagine that can see your tendons twitch and your ligaments fire. You have trained your body to respond. Tilt your head back and close your eyes. Do I really need to be spelling this out? You put one foot in front of the other!

     Now your lover comes in. Open your eyes and meet his. Acknowledge your lust. Revel in it for two, three seconds. You know what will happen but you don’t yet know how. Your lover takes you in his arms. He puts one hand on the small of your back and the other he places on your diaphragm, the back of his fingers pressing in. He pulls into you: his face is one inch from yours. You may open or close your eyes as you wish; the calories expended are the same either way. By now you should have turned off your phone or put it on silent.

     Oh. Hot flash. Five seconds.

     You move your hand through his hair, fingers apart, taking in its texture, so different from your wiry unruliness. His silken mane slips through your fingers as effortlessly as you stroked your forearm. Finally, you can touch lips. This is the part you love the most. If he were a warlock, you would be under his spell; he is a man, though, and so you are ordinary putty in his hands. Now you close your eyes and give in to the consuming sensation of his mouth. This is a place you could live for a time and not be bored or restless.

     What if you were one-armed? Blind? What if you were in a wheelchair? You want to be inclusive. This workout originates in the brain. Think about it. He would be straddling you in your chair, and you would be finding creative ways of keeping him on balance; or your tongue would be an eye, and with it you would be reading the outline of his upper lip. You would simply be using a different roadmap to get to the same place.

     Did you sense your phone buzz? Ignore it. These distractions will adversely affect your cardiovascular fitness and endurance. They will also lower your emotional IQ and may even lead to onset of migraine, which you, of all people, don’t need.

     You are luxuriating in the tension of his mouth. Stay there for a few seconds. Then move your head down, put your ear to his chest and listen to his heart beating. Don’t forget about your hands. If you have nails, lightly press them into the sides of his waist, up and down, in hypnotic fashion. If you garden, play the piano or otherwise like to keep them short, use your fingertips to tell him a story.

     This is the one hundred and twenty second workout, so you can’t linger on his beautiful chest. Move down to his belly, and slowly lift up his shirt. Put your nose to his navel and live there for two seconds. If he is wearing a belt, damn him! He will have to undo it, unless you are unusually dexterous. Look up for one second and notice the clouds dreamily floating by. As he lies back, undo his pants and slide them down his legs. Acknowledge how awkward this moment will surely be. Very deliberately take his cock in your hand. He will be watching you. This is good. Get into the tactile mode. You love the hardness of his cock and its need to be objectified. (Women do not own this dilemma.) The tongue is a strong muscle; use it. In any case, he will tell you exactly what to do: is there a man on the planet who cannot voice his sexual needs?

     He’ll want to last sixty seconds, but this is the one hundred and twenty second workout: he lasts ten seconds flat. “Spotlight on you”, he says. You lift up your skirt and climb on top of his already supine form. (If you chose pants this morning, you must improvise here.) You have brought your man to orgasm; you are now ready for your close-up. Are you still in your hybrid? I don’t think so. You grab his bedposts with your hands. You move your pelvis in small but efficient circles around his mouth, and his tongue is working your clit like the tantric love master you know he is. Your thighs are trembling as you come. Twenty seconds, but who’s counting?

     Lie down, and put your head once again on his chest if you wish. Hands, those endlessly useful instruments of expression, should never be idle. You know what to do.

     If your eyes are closed, open them. Turn your phone back on and put your seat back up. Look through the windshield at the people going into the dialysis center. They are tired-looking, sick-looking, burdened, overworked. Their kids are in jail, or drug addicts, or abusers, or abused. They wear T-shirts that say My Dad’s tattoos are badder than yours. You will be interpreting for them now. But you have just done the one hundred and twenty second workout.

     So are you ready to face the day?