The day my son died, I drove across town, a podcast playing so loud I felt the marrow swishing around in my bones, until I arrived at a CrossFit gym. I sprinted inside and told the camouflage-panted head trainer I wanted to be a champion. He laughed and said, you have no idea what it takes, but I told him I was ready. I spent the night in my car in a field with the radio turned up, so no thoughts could seep into my brain, and I guzzled a cocktail of cold black coffee, Berocca and pre-workout, until the pink half-frisbee of the sun rose above the paddock and then I drove back to the gym to start my training.
It’s four years later. I haven’t slept. My ears barely function. My formerly flabby body is tightly coiled, and it ripples with muscle fibres and sinew forged by grief. I only need to complete five more muscle-ups to beat the more fancied and bearded Scandinavian brute alongside me and become world champion. I hear a bony pop and he falls from the bar, screaming in pain. I chuckle. What do you know about pain?
I’m on the podium. The gold medal is around my neck. My coach watches proudly from the front row. He might even be crying, but I can’t tell because he’s wearing black wrap-around sunglasses. I’m asked to make a speech. I decide it’s finally time to reflect on my son’s death, dedicating my win in his honour. But the words don’t come out, only tears, until the shiny auditorium is filled with them, and the other athletes and officials are forced to higher ground, and the husk of my body floats out the door and into the streets like an ancient canoe.
Jake Dean is a writer and waverider living on Kaurna land in South Australia. His words have appeared in Schuylkill Valley Journal, Sweaty City and elsewhere. Twitter: @JakeJDean