Today was the closest Robert Smith had ever come to death. It was a dreadful feeling being sick. He could barely move his feeble body around on the bed. He spent days in Destiny’s bed, gulping Tylenol to reduce his high fever and chills. Whenever he would eat food, he regurgitated. After that, he would experience a severe headache that felt as if his brain were being compressed in. He ignored his mother’s phone calls on the first day. He was not prepared to tell her that he was sick because he was frightened about it himself. His mother worried heavily about minuscule things like if he twisted his ankle playing basketball or a simple scrape or cut. She would lose her mind if she knew how sick he was now.
“I think you should call your mom and talk to her. Tell her you’re at my house. You don’t have to tell her you’re sick,” Destiny suggested.
Perhaps Destiny was right, but Robert had such a close connection with his mother that seconds into the conversation, he would feel obligated to tell her of his illness. If he lied to her, he would feel guilty. He just had to find it in him not to talk about it at all.
“I’ve never been this sick before. I feel like I’m going to die,” Robert regretfully said.
“Don’t say that. You’ll be fine, babe,” Destiny said, kissing him on the forehead then embracing him. “I’ll take care of you. Just make sure you call your mother.”
Later in the day, Robert gave in and called his mother. Immediately, he received a long speech on how worried she was, how many times she tried to call him, and she wanted an explanation to why he ignored her phone calls. He spent the whole phone call apologizing, while he avoided revealing that he was very ill. He also informed her that he would be spending a few days at Destiny’s house and he would not be coming home. He could only hope that the illness did not last long. Only God knew what the duration would be in this current state.
Robert found comfort through his sickness, knowing that the most beautiful woman in the world would be attending to his needs. Destiny was right by Robert’s side to care for him each and every day, similar to how his mother would when he was sick as a child: helping him drink fluids, shower, and making sure he was taking his medication on schedule, which was not much of a relief. This was just about all he could do. Robert spent a great deal of his time trying to figure out what might have triggered this illness. It began the very next morning after having sex with Destiny. It was unlikely that sex was the cause, considering the fact that they used a condom, even though some STDs could still be transmitted with the use of a condom. It could have very well been something he ate, or maybe he had the flu.
Four days had passed since Robert first was sick, and today as he awoke, he felt rejuvenated. It was added motivation to wake up beside the most beautiful woman in the world, having Destiny as the first image that registered in his mind. He rose out of her bed while she was still asleep. It felt great to be able finally to stand again on his own, no headache, no fever, no nauseated stomach. He felt like a brand-new man.
Looking out the window, Robert saw the colorful blooming flowers scattered throughout her garden. They were beautiful. He could not wait to go outdoors and breathe in the fresh air again, but first he went to his knees, and bowed his head, forming his hands as a triangle in front of his face. It was pathetic that the only time he went to his knees was at times like this.
“Thank you, Lord, for healing me,” Robert began his prayer.
After showering, Robert went back into the bedroom and found Destiny seated in an upright position on the bed. It was astounding how beautiful she was the first thing in the morning. He could not believe this dream was still occurring. It was a pleasure to wake up next to her every morning, even while he was sick.
“How do you feel, babe?” Destiny asked as she adjusted to the morning.
“A lot better … I’m starving though,” Robert said.
“I made baked ziti yesterday. I know you eat anything for breakfast. It’s in the fridge, I hope you want it.”
Robert salivated like a hungry pit bull. His stomach was empty. It’d been days since he had a solid meal. He needed food now, and he needed a lot. Baked ziti sounded as if it would definitely do the job. Hopefully, this healthy feeling was not just a tease, and he would not feel nauseated once he ate the food.
“You are the best, Destiny. I love you,” Robert said.
Destiny smiled. “I love you too, baby. You want me to heat it up for you?” Destiny asked.
“No, I’ll do it myself. After I eat, you want to go to the gym?” Robert asked.
Destiny sighed. Maybe Robert should have kept that thought private.
“You should rest, babe. I don’t think it’s a good idea to go to the gym so soon. Give it another day or so.” Destiny said.
She was like his mother in so many ways. His mother would have rejected the notion of going to the gym as well.
“I feel fine. I already took enough days off,” Robert said.
“So that means you could go to work then?” Destiny asked.
“Yeah right … I’ll take another sick day.”
Later on in the morning, after feasting through the entire container of baked ziti like a starving animal, he still felt like he ate nothing. The ziti was amazingly delicious, but for some reason, it did not fill him. It had to be expected since he went days without a meal. He needed to eat more, but this would have to do for now. He could not wait to get home and see his mother. Maybe Destiny could take him to buy a pizza on the way to his house.
Destiny drove him back to his mother’s house about an hour later. He could not help but reflect on how much of a privilege it was to be with her, a woman that cared enough to cater to him while he was sick. Although they only been together for little bit over a month, the past week, she erased many of the negative and immature perceptions he stored in his heart of women from his disheartening past relationships. He trusted and loved her a lot more than he intended on ever loving a woman again. He could not help himself because she truly did deserve all of his heart. Now for the first time, he accepted the fact that this was not a dream; it was reality that he was dating the girl of his dreams. Just like his mother, Destiny was far superior to the average woman. She was a true friend, his best friend and lover. He had very little time to think of it because of his illness, but the intimacy they shared the night before was one of the greatest moments of his life. Was it the cause of his illness? At least he felt fine now.
“What are you going to do for the day?” Robert asked as Destiny pulled in front of his house.
Mom and Destiny were in competition, as it appeared, with their gardens. Mom’s garden was also filled with many flower petals of various colors.
“Run some errands, then shop. You want to go with me to the mall?” Destiny asked.
Robert had his mind locked in on going to the gym, and Destiny not wanting him to go would not stop him.
“I wanted to hang out with my friends today,” Robert lied. “You could get me after.”
“OK,” Destiny said.
After kissing Destiny goodbye, Robert went inside his house to see his mother, whom he missed a lot. His mother showed him a great deal of love, embracing him after not seeing him in four days. Eventually, he told her about his plan to move in with Destiny.
“I don’t know what that girl sees in you,” Mom said, joking. “She seems to be an amazing person. I’m happy for you, and I hope you treat her good.”
“You don’t think I’m good enough for her?” Robert asked, mildly offended.
“I love you, but you’re very childish, and she’s a grown woman. How old is she?”
“Yeah, she’s a grown woman and you still act like a child, but talking to her, I think she sincerely loves you. You need to get a better job and help her with the bills around the house! You’re a man now! I hope she does not accept your untidiness, I really do! I hope she beats you if you keep her house a mess!”
Robert could not disagree with his mother at all. She was right, and he very much deserved this lecture, even though it numbed his brain. His untidiness, immaturity, and lack of responsibility were all factors in why he could never sustain a relationship. Now he had something good in Destiny, and she was worth changing his bad habits for. She was worth improving for. She was worth proving to himself that he could be a man and make responsible decisions. Hopefully, he was not going too fast and investing too much in this relationship.
Later, Robert could not fight his temptation for going to the gym. Against Destiny’s wish, he packed his gym bag and walked from his house to Goliath Fitness. Walking to the gym from his house took about fifteen minutes on average. Today, as he timed himself with his stopwatch, he smashed his average time at ten minutes and thirteen seconds with a speed walk. He felt healthy. His cardio was in good form. He knew for sure that today would be a great workout. Today would be the first time in about a month that he would be working out by himself and not with Destiny. He would make the best of it. There would be no need to stare at sexy women working out today because he had one of his own now, but if they walked by, he would still take a quick glimpse. Today he would primarily focus on his workout, doing three sets of chest, and three sets of triceps. Hopefully, he was not too tired for abs and cardio after.
Robert exited the locker room after changing into his gym clothing, then he headed for the bench-press area. There were four benches: two flats, one decline, and one incline. Luckily, there was one flat bench available as the three others were occupied. As he walked over, he briefly looked at himself in the mirror, putting on his headphones that Destiny bought for him as a gift, then he played his favorite song he loved to hear while bench pressing, “Monster” by Kanye West. He then took time to position himself on the bench. Above was a barbell stacked with a forty-five-pound plate on each side for a warm-up set. He grabbed ahold of the barbell and benched twelve easy repetitions.
It was light and easy. Everything felt great as Robert added ten-pound plates to each side. Again, it was easy up, easy down, twelve more repetitions. The second set felt easier than the first set ironically. Usually by now, his pectoral muscle would begin to get a little tight, but there was no tightness at all today.
Now feeling confident enough to lift weights today, Robert threw on a twenty-five-pound plate on each side, which was probably the maximum he felt comfortable to do without a spotter. He lay under the barbell, mentally preparing himself with “Monster” pounding on repeat through his headphones. He then took a firm grip of the barbell, forcing the weight up into the air, full extension, and then he gracefully allowed it back down all the way to his chest, continuing for eleven more repetitions. Still no tightness or muscle fatigue. He felt great. It felt as if he had enough strength to do two forty-five-pound plates on each side.
While arranging and adding the weights, Robert thought of asking for a spotter for safety, but he had a fear of asking people for help. He was scared of rejection. Most of the time, he felt people did not want to be bothered by him. He felt confident enough to get at least one repetition up on his own with the increased weight. Hopefully, he would not embarrass himself by dropping the weight on his chest or more seriously, by injury.
On the bench now, Robert lifted the barbell as it dropped down suddenly to his chest. He forced the weight up past the rack with all his strength. One …
Surprisingly it was not difficult at all. Robert continued until he could do no more. The only problem was that point never came—no arm fatigue or muscle tightness. He was now amazed by his strength when he passed six repetitions. He surely felt the gravity pulling the barbell to his chest, but it required a minimal amount of force to push the weight away. Upon completing the twelve repetitions, he still felt as if he had enough strength to lift more or even add more weight, but he wisely placed the barbell back on the rack.
The guys using the bench press nearby appeared to be impressed. Robert could not believe it himself. Just a day ago, he could barely lift his arms from the bed; now he had the ability to lift heavy weights effortlessly with no muscle fatigue—weight that he was not accustomed to lifting alone, before he was sick.
“You need spot, my dude?” the diesel man asked using the bench nearby.
“Can you? I would appreciate that,” Robert said.
Just one, Robert thought on the bench. Above him was a barbell with three forty-five-pound plates on each side. He felt he could do it, but he was scared of failing and embarrassing himself in front of the onlookers. This was obviously the first he attracted so many people by lifting weights. He felt like Ronnie Coleman now.
“You ready?” the spotter asked.
“Yeah,” Robert said.
“One, two, three …”
Robert lifted the weight with all his strength. Initially it felt as if he were lifting the entire world as he forced the barbell off the rack. After completing the first straining push, he no longer needed the spotter. Each repetition was lighter. As he completed the twelfth, he felt as if he were lifting pillows. He was just as wowed, if not even more than all who watched him lift the incredibly heavy weight. This had to be a dream. Having this kind of power was inconceivable. The strangest part of it all was that he felt he could lift even more.
Following the heavy weightlifting, Robert received a great deal of admiration from some of the fellow gym members and Goliath Fitness staff members. Robert took about two hours to complete a heavy chest and triceps workout. Still no muscle fatigue or tightness at all, just a very light burn over his chest and triceps.
When Robert finished, he sat on the bench in the locker room, trying to make sense of this newfound strength. There was no way he could just accept that he was getting stronger naturally. This was either supernatural strength, or Destiny injected him with steroids while he was sick. He felt as if he could do four forty-five-pound plates on each side easily if he wanted now! He felt as if he could compete in the World’s Strongest Man competition and win, but when he looked in the mirror, he saw a six-foot-tall man with premature muscle mass. It made no sense at all. He did not want to doubt his own ability, but it was way too hard to accept.
“Why do you doubt yourself?”
Robert dropped to the floor, startled by the voice. There was nobody else in the locker room with him, but he heard a voice. Where did it come from? Was it just a voice in his head? It was so clear and distinct.
“Get up! Why are you scared?” the male voice asked again.
It sounded so familiar. It sounded like his voice.
Cautiously, Robert rose to his feet and looked at himself in the mirror. He could not understand what he was viewing. His mirror reflection stood in a stance that was contrary to his stance.
“Four angry guys will enter the locker room shortly. They are jealous you did something that they could never do. Be prepared to fight! You can take them all!” his reflection assured him.
Suddenly, the locker-room door exploded open. Robert did not have a split second to digest the actuality of his own mirror reflection speaking to him before the revelation came true. Four colossal-size men stormed in the locker room, all appearing to be angered. Each of them was twice Robert’s size. He was very much intimidated by the men. He wanted to run, but he was blocked in.
“Who the fuck are you?” one of the men asked, entering Robert’s personal space.
“Look, I don’t want any problems,” Robert pleaded.
“You come in our gym, showing off? I don’t know shit about you! Who the fuck are you?” he yelled.
Saliva particles flew onto Robert’s face. This guy was making Robert very uncomfortable. He was terrified of the men, especially the one who stood in front of him.
“Robert Smith. I live in Freeport,” Robert answered.
“So what the fuck are you doing in Merrick? In my gym showing off!” he said.
“I wasn’t showing off. I was just working out.”
He grabbed Robert by his shirt and slammed him back onto the locker. His head bouncing off the metal bounced him back to the days when he got bullied in high school. So far in his life post high school, he had been fortunate enough to avoid physical bullying, but in the back of his head, he knew the day would come when he had to stand up for himself, opposite of what he did in high school. Hopefully, he could get out of this without getting hurt.
“What’s the name of that girl with the fine ass you come in here with?” he asked.
Robert did not want to fight. Even if he did take out this guy who held him by the shirt, which was highly unlikely, there were three others. All were double Robert’s size. He stood no chance against these men despite what his reflection said. He needed to find a way to escape, and quickly, even if it was without his gym bag.
“Can you let me go? I won’t come back to this gym. I promise,” Robert pleaded.
“Yeah, ’cause if you do, I will beat the shit out of you and then fuck your girl, nigger!” he said.
He crossed the line now: one by suggesting sex with Destiny, and two by being a white man referring to Robert as a nigger. He was honestly more offended by the man threatening to have sex with Destiny than being called a nigger.
With all his strength, Robert grabbed the man to thrust him back all the way across to the wall on the other side of the locker room. The man cried out in pain as his back slammed into the wall. Robert then turned to the three men standing, ready to fight.
“I don’t want to fight! Can I please grab my stuff and go? You will never see me here again,” Robert said.
“You threw the first blow, and now you don’t want to fight?” one of the men said as they all surrounded Robert.
Three giants against one average-size man—the equivalent of three Goliaths versus one David. If Robert could not defuse their anger soon, he probably would not be able to walk home. He could already feel the bruises they would inflict upon him. He put his guard up to protect himself, although he knew it would not be much help. The first man grabbed him by the head and swung an uppercut to his midsection. Immediately, the man dropped to the floor, crying out in pain from his fist. It appeared to be broken. Robert felt the impact, but no pain. It was as if the man hit a brick wall.
“Please let me go!” Robert begged again.
His brain was in a whirlwind. Simultaneously, the two men standing inched in on him. It was now two against one. The first two men who attacked him still seemed to be in a lot of pain on the floor. Robert stood his ground against the two men, the first swinging two hooks, which he was able to evade easily. The punches seemed to swing by him in slow motion. The other man punched Robert from the back in the middle of his spine, and then he heard a crack. He too also appeared to have broken his arm, as he descended to the floor in severe pain. Now there was only one man left standing. Still after being attacked multiple times, Robert did not want to fight.
“You got it,” the man said, holding his hands up in surrender.
This was not the outcome Robert expected, even though his mirror reflection predicted it. It was a blessing to be still standing. This might have been easier and quicker if he believed in his reflection. He grabbed his gym bag and ran out of the locker room and gym.
Later on, now home, Robert was still in utter disbelief of everything that occurred earlier in the gym, from the lifting of the heavy weights, to battling the four men in the locker room, and the most bizarre, the ability to interact with his own mirror reflection. It was scary but, at the same time, an incredulous and empowering feeling. Where did this power and ability come from, and what was its purpose?
Initially, being home, Robert was scared to face himself in the mirror, but eventually, he built up enough courage to lock himself in the bathroom. He stared in the mirror for a few seconds, waiting for something to happen, waiting for his reflection to come to life like it did earlier, but maybe it was all just a dream.
“Boo!” his reflection eventually said as Robert fell to the ground, and then his reflection started laughing. “You are such a chicken. What are you scared of?”
Robert did not know what to say. Talking to his reflection was not normal. It had to show hints of insanity.
“How is this possible?” Robert eventually asked.
“Why didn’t you want to fight those guys in the locker room? You could have beaten all four of them with just your pinky,” his reflection said.
“I don’t like to fight. I don’t know how to, and I don’t want to.”
“You have to fight, Robert! No matter what your fight is, if you don’t stand up for yourself, people will stand on you! Do you want to be bullied forever?”
“Then fight back! Don’t allow anyone to walk over you ever again! A coward is not a man who loses a fight, it’s a man who does not defend himself and take what’s his!”
Robert was inspired. Even though it was a strange experience, this was a privilege, having a mirror reflection to give him such great words of wisdom. All of Robert’s life, he was a coward, from his days in elementary school up until today. If it were not for his mirror reflection, he would not have the courage to stand up to the men in the locker room. He probably would have eventually submitted to them in fetal position. Never again would he play the victim of a bully. Hopefully, he would not have to fight anyone anytime soon.
Robert needed answers. The supernatural strength and ability to interact with his mirror reflection was not normal. His reflection had to have some answers.
“How am I able to do this?” Robert asked.
“Those are questions that I’m not permitted to answer, but I’m here to guide you in the right direction of discovering on your own. All I can say is that you’re a unique individual, Robert Smith, and you haven’t been able to discover it because of your fears. I am here to help you and bring out the best in you,” his reflection said.
There was only one direction in Robert’s head that stored the right answers: Destiny. But how would he approach her with everything that was occurring with him? It was a big risk because there was a possibility that she had nothing to do with his illness and his new supernatural ability.
“Is there a limit to my power?” Robert eventually asked.
His reflection smiled. It was amazing how all his features were identical to Robert, but his reflection could control his own actions. Suddenly, this was a blessing, to have his mirror reflection as an inspirational friend.
“Yeah, the limitations you place upon yourself. Other than that, no,” his reflection answered.