In hindsight, it’s painfully clear that the men’s sauna at the local gym is not the place to voice an opinion, especially one that might get you into a heated altercation, not that there can be any other type of altercation in the men’s sauna. There are several key arguments that support this premise. For one thing, the men in the sauna tend to be in great shape, strong, aggressive, and not always members of the local MENSA chapter. For another, the physical space of the sauna is quite restrictive, with a single exit and therefore no viable option for an expedient retreat. And finally, and perhaps not the least significant, everyone is naked.
Naked arguments rarely end well.
I had no intention of firing up a conversation or voicing an opinion of any kind when I walked into the sauna the other day, though I did immediately notice the barely over 5 foot tall, very square and swarthy guy talking up a storm to the other three listeners in the room. His name was Nicky, which I knew because of the huge gold chain hanging around his neck with the gold cursive word “NICKY” strung on it. I assume he wore it so that in the event he misplaced his head, someone would know where to return it. His audience sat on the second and third benches above him. They wore towels and were listening while Nicky held court.
Nicky stood with his right foot on the ground and his left leg resting high up on the first bench. He leaned his left shoulder against the wall and wore no towel. In sign language, this pose translates universally to the sentence, “can everyone see my dick?” He was shaving as he spoke, gesturing occasionally in between strokes of the razor, and touching himself fairly frequently to make sure everyone was keeping their eyes on the ball.
It wasn’t his exhibitionist pose that prompted me to speak, and there was nothing about his middling shortcomings that merited a comment outside of a shrug or a yawn. I wasn’t even listening to whatever drivel he was spewing to the other guys on the bench. But a few sentences in, and after shaving half of the right side of his face, he leaned forward and banged his razor on the seat, leaving a frothing little mound of shaving cream and stubble where one of us was bound to sit. Little rivulets of whiskers and Gillett shaving gel melted and slipped off the edge of the bench and into the seams of the wood.
And without really intending it, the word “HEY!” slipped out of my mouth.
Nicky stopped talking, and with palms out about groin level, as if I had somehow insulted his manhood, said, “What!?”
The obvious response at that point, would have been to reply “nothing.” But what came out instead were several rapid sentences that went into a little too much detail about how he had no business distributing his stubble all over the bench where people sit.
At that point, Nicky and his dangling trio took several steps to where I was perched on the lower bench. He stopped about a foot away from me and propped his left leg back up on the bench so he, his balls and I could settle this head to head. Adding disgusting to awkward, he was sweating like a pig, and the shaving cream remaining on the ¾’s of his face that he hadn’t yet shaved had formed little beads and began dripping off his face as he leaned forward, landing dangerously close to my right thigh. Then he read me the riot act about how it was none of my fucking business what he did and, furthermore, was my “sweaty ass on the bench any better than the shit coming off of his razor.”
I did have the sense not to respond to what I assumed to be a rhetorical question, at which point he – he of “look at my dick” fame – settled back to his corner pose calling me a “fucking queer.”
The seminal point in our discourse, however, came several moments later. He was blathering on about something, accenting his oratory every so often by glaring at me while he banged his razor clean on the wooden slats. I had tuned him out and had no intention of reengaging, when I caught a phrase about “some bitch” followed by the statement to the men on the bench of, “…I’m divorced, you know.”
Before I could think, the words “imagine that!” just kind of slipped out, far more loudly than I had intended. The silence that followed was broken by someone else entering the sauna, and I took advantage of the moment to slip out quietly and uninjured before too many thoughts could coalesce in Nicky’s head.
I saw him again several days later in the parking lot. He drove a bright red convertible Mercedes. He had the top down, and took the short route out of the lot, leaving the wrong way on a one way, flipping off the incoming right of way driver on his way out.
Though I’m sure it’s not in the context that Nicky had intended, when the world sees him, the consensus is unanimous. What a dick.