Awkward Moments in the Balanced City

Awkward Moments in the Balanced City

A Story by JR Darewood

Lessons from my diary: I should just stay at home. Seriously.


According to a t-shirt sold at Rite-Aid, Torrance is “The Balanced City.”  Since 1921.

Located in the Southbay of Los Angeles, Torrance is packed with car dealerships, oil refineries, high-end mechanics, and UFC gyms. I can’t afford UFC so I stick to my 25$ a month membership elsewhere, jockeying for space to lift weights with bulky guys who weigh twice as much as me, with the occasional tear-drop facial tattoo.

In the stretching area, I stretch next to two younger guys built more like me, less intimidating.  I can’t help but overhear their conversation as they stretch.

“It was so cold!” one of them said.  “I asked for another blanket but they never gave it to me, so I spent all night curled up in a ball in my jump-suit shivering. That’s why I missed breakfast.”

“Oh, I never missed breakfast,” the other said, “I was starving. I was up like a jackrabbit for that s**t.”

Where were they?  In the military? In a science station in Antarctica?  I listened in curiously.

“I wanted to ask you...” the first one said awkwardly.

“If I jerked off?” the other one answered.

“Yeah!” the other one laughed, a little embarrassed. “I really wanted to, but they just gave us that one orange jump suit and I didn’t wanna get it dirty.”

Okay, they were definitely talking about prison.

“Nah dude, I was so depressed the whole time.  I didn’t want to jerk off at all.”

            I decided it was time to stop eavesdropping and went to go work out my triceps.

            A short guy had brought a bicep bar over to the tricep area to do squats of all things. His upper body was pretty well built, but you could tell from his tight compression pants (and the fact that he was squatting with a bicep bar) that his legs needed some work.  He still managed to do each squat with aggressive intensity, making macho grunts with each repetition. He seemed to be eying me as it did it, making me feel a little uncomfortable.

            “Am I in your way?” I asked, from my spot by the cables.

            He pulled the earphones out of one of his ears, “What?”

            “I’m not in your way, am I?” I repeated.

            “Nah, dude. Just doing legs. You doing triceps?”


            “I really like legs man,” he had a heated look in his eyes.


            “Yeah dude.  When I do legs, I feel like I can f**k like... like a champ.” He said the word f**k with an aggressive intensity.

            Wow, he was really getting to it, 30 seconds into the conversation.

            “Friday night, man, my legs were jacked. I was f*****g this girl I met at this party and she was like, slap me.”

            “Huh.” I looked around, uncomfortably. Right next to us was an elderly couple.  Wasn’t that woman in my yoga class? Yoga in Torrance is basically me in a room full of 75-year-old women.  The elderly couple eyed us disapprovingly.

            “She was a s**t, man,” the guy continued. “So while I was f*****g her, I just pulled back and slapped the b***h.”

            “Huh,” I replied, turning slightly and trying to indicate with my eyes that the elderly couple next to us was listening to his misogynistic sex-tale.

            He seemed to pick up that I was kind of disengaging from the conversation, so he added. “I don’t usually hit girls or nothin’. But she kinda made me feel like a b***h.  When I slapped her she was like, ‘is that all you got?’ And i was like, ‘damn this b***h is calling me out,’ so I pulled back and slapped good!” He made a motion with his arm.

            “Wow,” I said, dispassionately, thinking that wow, this is an awkward conversation.

            “The next day, she was rubbing her face and said her jaw hurt! I was like, ‘you remember what you told me to do right?’ and she was like, ‘Yeah I remember.’” He shook his head smiling, and then went back to doing his squats with his bicep bar, making grunts.

            Well, my workout was done, so I headed to the sauna to stretch my shoulders a bit.  The sauna in Torrance is usually full of people who want to go to the gym but don’t want to work out.  Today it was unusually packed, twelve people in a tiny space.  As I stepped in, one of the sauna denizens, standing by the electric heater, said, “Wow!”  The rest of the room was completely silent.  “Damn dude!” he eyed my torso with what could only be described as desire.  Was he hitting on me? In a room full of 12 people? I wasn’t sure. The elderly Korean woman in a one piece was looking at me like she was boring holes in my skull. Everyone was looking at me, some of the people smirking at my discomfort. My admirer’s voice was loud and assertive. “I wish I had half your torso! Damn!” He continued to look at me like I was a piece of meat. I was too embarrassed to him in the face so I just stretched.  What do you say to that? Thanks? I wasn’t sure.

            “I still feel kinda outta shape,” I said not looking at him directly, “you always find an exercise that needs work.”

            “S**t, I wish I had your abs!”

            The sauna left me feeling more tense than relaxed, so I showered and headed to a bar in another city over by the beach.

            I went to order a drink at the bar next to a tall guy, probably 6”4. He was very well manicured and built-- he looked like a fitness model.  Wait, were his eyebrows waxed?  He was leaning over the bar and seemed to be and seemed to be ogling the bartender.  It was like they were having gay sex with their eyes.  I decided it was going to be a while before I got a drink so I turned to step away from the bar just as a cute but short girl hobbled toward the fitness model. She was struggling to walk in the confines of her slinky glittery dress, and she was far too drunk for her stiletto heels. Wow, without those heels she’d be even shorter. She let out some sort of a high-pitched squawk that I think was the fitness model’s name because he turned around, just as she teetered right in front of him.  Noting that she was off balance, the fitness model looked aghast and almost seemed to try to press backwards as far against the bar as he could go. She toppled unceremoniously in front of him, eating s**t with a loud smacking noise as she hit the floor.  Instead of helping her up, both his hands went to his face and he gasped in horror.

            “Dude, you’re supposed to catch her,” I said to the fitness model. He looked at me disparagingly, rolled his eyes and went back to flirting with the bartender.

            I stepped forward to help her, but the girl bounced up like some sort of a female Tigger and threw herself against me.  “Are you okay?” I asked.

            “Thank you,” she said, leaning against me in a drunken embrace, “you’re solid.”

            “I work out in Torrance.  It's 'the balanced city.'”

© 2014 JR Darewood

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very funny. I like this story. couldn't let go.
a tiny remark, though. I felt the ending was cut short. I felt there was room for more.

Posted 8 Years Ago

jajajajaajjajaj..It was really funny to read and I imagened you with all those guys in the sauna..
**facepalm but laughing**
It was not a good day to go to the gym;)

Posted 9 Years Ago

I liked this, made me laugh.
Just yesterday I had a random stranger start following me around wanting to talk, the poor old duck seemed lonely, so I didn't mind too much, untill she took my son by the hand and went to walk off with him.
That was freaky.

Posted 9 Years Ago

Very entertaing read! Is this a true story? I really hate it when strangers decide to overshare with me. There was an old man on the bus who decided to tell me his life story, which mostly involved his dying mother in Africa. I didn't know whether to s**t or go blind.

Posted 9 Years Ago


9 Years Ago

But hey at least you know you're ripped :p
JR Darewood

9 Years Ago

haha well i've had both those things happen too, but that's for another story...
JR Darewood

9 Years Ago

where do you live?
Hmmm, interesting. I dont quite know how to critique it! I liked it, I definatley liked it! It was simple, but very unusal and it did make me laugh. I can image everyone has had these kind of moments with random strangers! You should probably read over it and refine the grammer and punctuation, it stumbles in places, but with a quick re read and edit you can fix that! Anyway, a very interesting piece which i couldnt stop reading! Great Stuff.

Posted 9 Years Ago

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~ a very trippy piece of writing... the title is perfect and beautifully justified in the opening and closing lines... the episodes are intensely insightful... you take the reader through the different realms of human nature... ~ different elements relating to the physique of a person serve as a very interesting context for deeper study into the way the human mind works (or doesn't ?)... ~ all in all, a very fascinating piece of writing... that was served like a slice of life... but actually is much more... and delves into certain elements of human psychology that are worth visiting and revisiting for all of us... in my humble opinion...of course...

Posted 9 Years Ago

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This was odd? Weird? Definitely funny. Liked it though:)

Posted 9 Years Ago

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7 Reviews
Added on March 15, 2013
Last Updated on December 12, 2014


JR Darewood
JR Darewood

Los Angeles, CA

Writing is really the greatest release. It teaches you to take notice of the depth of the world around you and channel it into new insights you want to share with the world. I love it. BTW: I turne.. more..