Writing Prompt: Personal Space

As my feet pounded on the treadmill, I listened to an audio-book. The pace was steady, clam almost. I watched the distance go up and the time roll down and I felt that smugness that come from doing something healthy when you know most others are still asleep, or at least still on the Tube heading into work. Suddenly, my zen was invaded by someone else’s body odour.

I looked to my left and saw a figure that would have been right at home on a rugby field panting alongside me. He had clearly been at the gym for some time already, judging by the state of him. Sweat poured from him, his blue tee-shirt stuck to him and looked as though he would remain for a good while longer. To my right there was a nearly empty row of 14 running machines. Only two at the far end were occupied with one empty space between them, while the middle of the row was left unused.

This puzzled me. I considered one possibility, adjusted my ring finger, looked at the mirrored wall before me and dismissed the idea. I considered other options. Does he want to watch a particular TV screen? I looked across them all airing morning television and poorly produced music videos. Ludicrous notion. Maybe he simply liked that treadmill above all others? I moved my head slightly to the right, willing the timer to run the clock down. Did I smell that bad? I made a note to apply my shampoo and deodorant with vigour, hang the white marks. I shook the thought away as uncharitable, yet unable to shake my head hard enough to make the scent go away.

At last, I finished my run, stepped of the treadmill and bolted for the showers.

It’s interesting. I live in a highly crowded city where a free patch of green grass is rare. streets are packed with people on the move, the escalators rarely left with spaces between the steps. In shops, we weave through traffic with our baskets and shopping trolleys. Pubs on a Friday night spill onto the street on a sunny day and a river of bodies flows, elbow to elbow to and from the bar on chilled Autumn and Winter nights.

We’re so used to crowds. Yet, the idea that someone would choose to be close to me when open space was clearly an option let me bemused and bewildered. I have the same reaction when someone stands too close in an otherwise empty lift.

Write something about space. Personal or otherwise. Write about how space and the use of it changes perception or the people in it or a location.

Have fun.

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