We are in the dressing room of the gym. I’m sitting on the bench with tears in my eyes. I had only completed a couple of exercises when I suddenly felt I could not go on. ‘I have to stop,’ I told Peirene. ‘You can finish your round.’ But she followed me into the dressing room.
I now bend forward, closing my eyes. ‘I feel sick.’
At first Peirene shows no sympathy. The ancient Greeks valued the beautiful body and she is not sure that 21st Century Britain has really kept up.
For a moment there is a silence. Then she sits down next to me and puts her arm around me. ‘So, what’s the problem?’
‘I have to read through the whole manuscript again,’ I say.
The nymph rolls her eyes. ‘So you’re not even thinking about the leg-curls or the upper arm-thrusts’. Then she refocuses. ‘You’ve been through the manuscript endless times. It’s now been edited, proofread. Your publisher is very happy with it.’
My third novel Kauthar is ready to go to the printers. The book will be published in August.
‘It’s full of mistakes which we haven’t spotted. I know it. I feel it in my blood.’ A tear drops onto my trainer.
‘You have to let go.’ Peirene strokes my back. ‘Your job is done.’
A sob escapes my throat. The nymph practices a bicep flex.
I lift my head and look at her indignantly. ‘Peirene! You’re not even listening.’
Peirene sighs and says: ‘Only two days ago you told the audience at Daunt’s Bookshop that creativity is a collaborative process and that one needs to let go in order to make space for others to do their job.’
‘That was two days ago.’
Peirene ignores my last comment. She stands up and pulls me with her by the arm. ‘Let’s finish our round.’
The weights on the machines feel heavier than ever before. I huff and puff and turn red, while the Nymph next to me looks elegant and controlled.
‘Do you still want to read one more time through your novel,’ Peirene asks as we are getting dressed.
I shake my head too exhausted to even speak. Peirene is already putting on her make up while I’m still battling with my socks, when it suddenly dawns on me:
‘You lowered your weights today, didn’t you?’
She throws me a mischievous glance. ‘Well, only a bit. I felt you needed a proper work-out whereas I was in great shape – mentally and physically.’
Image by John Haslan.