Sweat-soaked and spent of energy, I toss my damp towel on top of a mountainous pile in the hamper labeled Towels.
“Excuse me. You can’t do that.” A lady rises from her hunched over position, where she was apparently conspicuously reading a novel. She picks my towel out of the pile and extends it out to me in her arms like an offering.
“Can’t do what?” I’m late and in no mood to argue.
“You can’t throw your towel in there.”
“Why not? It’s clearly marked towels. I’m throwing in the towel.”
She’s still holding my sweat-stained towel. “No can do.”
“But obviously many people have before me.”
“But they’re not you.”
Disgruntled, I scratch my neck, hoping to distract myself from the irritation crawling over my skin like ravenous red ants. I huff, “Who are you to tell me what I can and cannot do?”
“Take a guess.”
“Seriously? I’m done. I’ve worked out, put in my time. I’ve got nothing else to give, lady. And I’m not really in a guessing mood.”
She blinks. Suddenly, I notice something decipherable about her. Her unusual eye color and the twinkle reflecting off the stud jewel in her nose. “Okay, I’ll bite. You do look a little familiar.”
“Ha, that’s funny.”
“Care to tell me why?”
“Because you made me.”
“Okay, this has officially gotten weird. I’m throwing in the towel and taking off. Nice to chat.” I flip around. As my hand slaps the glass door marked Exit I’m flooded with recognition.
“I do know you.” I turn around to face the lady head on.
“So why are you here, at this gym—by the towels?”
“I had a feeling you’d show up someday. You need me here now.”
“Are you going to spill your name or am I going to have to guess that, too?”
“That’s a little tricky.”
“Right. Tricky because…” I wait her out hoping she’ll fill in the blank.
“Because I’m all of ‘em.”
I stare at her unruly auburn hair, the sharp slope of her nose, even the way she’s standing, as though her hip might jump from its socket and she needs to hold it in place. She’s not kidding. “I didn’t know that was possible.”
“Neither did I—seeing you, that is. I confess I’m a little in awe of seeing you for the first time. I don’t know whether to thank you or to run from you. But instead of thanking or running, I think I’ll just give you this for now, then call it a day.” She pushes my towel into my hands. “It’s yours. You’re not finished yet. In fact, you’ve barely just begun. Now get out there and write me well.”I press my face to the damp towel and rub my eyes, still shocked at our exchange. When I turn around to thank her she’s gone. But the enormous pile of towels has grown even higher. Surrendered stories. Writers who quit before their time.
Not me. Not today.
I intend to thank her after all, by honoring her request…to write, and write, and write her well.
Have you ever had an unexpected person remind you not to quit?
*photo by stock.XCHNG