BellaOnline Literary Review
Oops! by Mark Berkery

Non Fiction

Reagan Nail

I got blessed by Jesus while working out at the gym. Seriously.

Let me start from the beginning. . . I was riding the stationary bike in my college gym, sweating profusely through my faded blue T-shirt, when a short, curly-haired soccer player sat on the bike next to me. (I could tell he was a soccer player because the whole team worked out at the same time and wore the same bright yellow shirts). While I pounded the pedals, he lackadaisically twirled his feet and talked to a friend on the other side of him. Then he turned and stared at me intently.

“What are you reading?” He asked.

Without saying a word, I held up the novel for him to inspect. I kept my eyes focused on the distance I’d biked. 8 miles and counting.

“Wow. I don’t think I could ride this thing and read at the same time,” he said. “That’s too much multitasking for me.”

Although I hate making small talk at the gym, I attempted to be polite. “Makes the time go by faster,” I panted without looking at him. He, on the other hand, continued staring at me with a look of inquisitive wonder and I became very aware of my wet armpits and sweaty ponytail.

He can’t be hitting on me, I thought. I’m a decade older than him and seeping salt. Why does he keep looking at me?

A minute later, he hopped off the bike and stood in front of me. “You have asthma?” he said, nodding at the inhaler sitting in front of me.

“Yep,” I replied, still clocking my mileage and counting down to the finish line.

“Can I say a prayer for you?”

I stopped pedaling.

“For your asthma?”

I recovered quickly and began pedaling even faster. Who is this guy? I thought. Is this some sort of a soccer team hazing tradition? He looked at me with such open and curious eyes that I decided to forgo my skepticism and err on the side of caution. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

“Sure,” I said. “I can use all the help I can get.”

He smiled, but instead of walking away, he moved to stand behind me and placed his hand on my sticky back.

Now he’s touching me? I thought.

Suddenly frantic, I scanned the gym to see if anyone else noticed the crazy teenager behind me. Thirty oblivious people walked, ran, and biked in place, their bodies moving like one pulse. They hadn’t a clue.

The soccer player prayed quietly at my back, and I continued to cycle well past my goal distance. What else could I do? The prayer lasted more than a few minutes and by the time it was over, I was praying, too — for the humiliation to end. I wondered if Soccer Boy’s hand would leave a mark on my sweat-stained back, or if his friends were secretly watching from afar and laughing themselves to death. But when it was all over and I finally stopped pedaling (15 freaking miles!), he introduced himself as Kevin and said he’d pray again for me later. I managed to smile and mutter a confused, “Thank you.” Then he walked away.

So you tell me — touched by an angel? Or touched by a stranger trying to test my manners? I’d like to think I wasn’t the butt of a gigantic joke, but more than that, I’d like to hope that Kevin keeps praying for me and my asthma. Like I said, I need all the help I can get.

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