Copenhagen is freckled with what are called ‘training pavilions’.
You can do something like 25 exercises on these things, all in the comfort of a waterproof, semi-public panopticon. I started using the one on the way to work last year as a way of staying in gay-shape (big arms, chicken legs) to avoid the gym, which is subjectively boring and objectively expensive.
So I do my little turn on the pavilion a few times a week. One of the charmingest features of this routine is that the Pav sits in the middle of Copenhagen’s ghettoest (i.e. most full of teenagers) neighborhood, and I am verbally accosted by youths roughly every other time I stop to work out.
Usually this consists of low-caliber stuff, pointing and giggling and whatnot. There are three girls, though, who seem to hang out at the pavilion every afternoon, and have taken to shout-counting while I’m doing pullups or whatever (“..Three! Four! Weak! Weaker! Homo!”). I used to find this discouraging, but recently it’s become just another cut on the soundtrack of my out-of-shapeness.
Yesterday, for some reason, the girls watched me silently for a few minutes as I went through my little Sisyphus routine, and walked over to me when I was done.
‘You’re pretty strong,’ the shortest one said. Up close, she looked about 14, or at least her clothes did. Black tights, billowy shirt, and a fluorescent cacophony of belts, ropes, shoelaces and bangles cinching the parts of her she wanted to show off. ‘Watch’, she said.
She then performed a few wobbly dips, while her friends giggled ‘you’re stupid, Anna!’ I, in full Terminanish, said something instructional about maintaining balance. This continued for several minutes: A grown man amidst three vaguely criminal tweens, instructing them on outdoor exercise.
Each pavilion has an inclined row of monkey bars, each one higher than the last. I never attempt these, since it feels like a terrorist training video, but the Leotard Queen wanted instruction and an audience for her attempt at the summit.
‘What should I do?’ she asked, hanging from the lowest bar.
‘Swing,’ I said helpfully. ‘And go up, I guess’.
She was about three bars up now, and gaining momentum.
‘Good,’ I said. ‘Now make sure you—OW SHIT!’
In a wild swing from the fifth bar, her rock-hard little Converse swung around and nailed me in the chin.
‘What the FUCK, little girl!’ I said in English, holding my jaw.
She fell to the ground, folded over with laughter.
‘You guys suck,’ I said, reverting to both Danish and elementary school. They were laughing too hard to notice my scorching rage, and I was too lightheaded to fight them, so I wobbled over to my bike.
‘I’m not going to come here anymore!’ I shouted through the good half of my mandible and rode out of ridicule range.
This morning I woke up with a sore jaw, nothing to do in the afternoon and an appetite for ruining a teenager’s day. This must be what it’s like to be middle-aged.
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