I live in the spaces between the knurling. Where chalk collects and where my blood dries and flakes and eventually wears away, leaving behind a residue like the rust of my efforts and my spirit. Even with straps, my hands are tired and starting to tear. I probably should have quit by now, but for some reason I couldn't. I was more afraid of quitting than I was of trying again. I guess I took the path of least resistance, if you think about it.
I'm not sure what attempt it was when they started goading me. I wasn't counting. I just knew I hadn't made it yet.
"You're trying again? No way you're going to make this."
I didn't make it.
"He's gonna clark this."
I didn't make it, but I sure as shit didn't clark it.
"Mental intensity, that's what you're lacking! Your problem isn't in your body, it's in between your ears!"
Fuck you, you don't know shit about me. You don't know about what's in between my ears, you don't know the beating it's already taken, you don't hear the rhythm my heart beats.
"Jacob, just call it, you're not gonna fucking make it."
"Why are you still trying?"
"No, just fucking stop. You're not going to make it."
I don't know if they believed what they were saying, or if it was just their way of encouraging me. But in that moment, it didn't matter. I believed that they believed it, and I believe that if you tell me I cannot do something that is within the realm of physical possibility, I am going to do it or die fucking trying.
"You had one shot, and that shot was about three attempts ago. It's not going to happen."
It didn't happen.
I've been yelling back. In Russian and in English. I was getting in their faces, I was ready to fight. I tried again, missed again. My knees hurt way more than they normally do when I snatch. The shoulder that's been giving me trouble is pissed at me, screaming in my ear after every attempt. I ignore it.
"Is he seriously trying again?"
"You've got nothing left in the tank, nothing!"
I'd calmed down. Composed myself. Changed the music. Timed my attempt with it.
I waited about thirty seconds, and got back down. I heard someone yell across the gym, "you're a loser!"
That word is familiar. "Loser."
I smiled. Real big. I can't explain it. I knew I had the rep before I even got into my start position. I smiled like I'd been keeping a secret and I was finally able to tell the world. Pull, hit, retreat. Ass-to-grass. Bar in the slot. There was never a chance that I was going to miss that attempt. If predestination is God's will, and in this world there is only me and the barbell, then one of us has to be God, and it wasn't going to be that fucking piece of knurled steel. Not today.
In weightlifting, the bar always wins. No matter what. It's not like other sports. You PRed? Go to a meet. Won the meet? Go to a bigger one. Won Nationals? Go to the Olympics. Take gold? Beat the all time record. Beat the record? Fuck you, add one more kilo, and then another, and then another. The bar always ends up being God, and I'm certainly never going to the Olympics, and I'm never going to win Nationals. But I'll struggle every day like I think I'm going for gold. I will put one more kilo on the bar, and I will miss, and I will miss, and I will miss, and the bar will always win more matches than I do, but I will fucking win when it counts, because to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift (Prefontaine.)
I will be here, leaving the rust of my efforts and my spirit in the spaces between the knurling, where the chalk collects and I lay down to sleep. I'll wake up kicking and screaming, ready to go again, roaring like a bear, yelling in both of my languages, and my soul will bounce off the walls in the echo of the plates hitting the platform.
Can you hear me yet?
Am I loud enough?