Like sardines in a can, the locker room is packed with people. Wearing the white LA fitness provided towels like togas, friends Romans and countrymen ignore one another. The young hoopsters chat about the game, or stare quietly and intently at their hand held phones texting away as bodybuilders secretly flex in with one nonchalant eye on the nearest mirror and the oldest, oblivious to all, wander about naked with their bald heads, pot bellies and flip flop sandals.
I have just worked out. Well 15 minutes on an exercise bike followed by light lifting and stretching might not be much, but following 10 inactive weeks of surgery and radiation, I am tired and feel good.
Conversation surrounds me. A young hoopster is mortified he farted during the game. I smile secretly, we would have tried to cut one that cleared the court, and reveled in it. I hear sports, fathers teaching sons, this is a good place.
I strip down, grab a towel wrap it around my waist, not a codger yet, and head to the showers. Turning the corner I glance at my image in the mirror when I see the scar. Four angry red inches at the base of my neck. I stop dead and gasp, it declares cancer, defective. Subtly like the body builders with their secretly narcissistic flexing I glance about the room. No one cares at all. I exhale and continue to the steam room.
Three of us sit in the room, the steam smells of camphor, like Vicks Vapor Rub, so thick that even in this small room we are faceless men never to be more than strangers. I sit, as the impurities run out my heated pores, in a sort of tribal ritual cleansing, and ponder the scar. A drop of sweat runs off my nose and drips on my forearm, escaping further from my arm to my leg, and then away free.
I shake my head and open the door and step out. Cool air embraces me like a ghostly lover and accompanies me as I head to the showers.