Stephen Metcalfe Words


  • ORANGUTAN     


    (From 2015) So there I am the other day, sitting on a stationary bike at “Rehab United” trying, slowly, with great pain and no success, to get my surgically repaired knee to go 360 degrees around on the bike pedal, all the while watching young athletes and trainers and the seriously in shape,  dip and bend and stretch and flex.  Yes, there are some old people there but like me, they are watching the young people too, all of us wondering what the fuck happened?  We got old.

    Really, there is nothing like a sculpted-from-marble, twenty-something blond physical therapist in a banana colored sports bra and a grey leotard, doing effortless, jaw dropping lunges with 25 pound barbells, to make you feel like an orangutan at the zoo, sitting on a ragged blanket, with stomach folds like a dress and an itchy ass, chewing on a piece of limp grass, sticking your finger up your nose and occasionally scratching your pits for want of something better to do.

    And there is nothing that makes you more wistful for your lost youth than watching a piece of steel in a UCSD basketball shirt, bench press his own weight 28 times and then leap up and roar and slap palms and act as if he doesn’t notice the admiring glances of the ladies.  The pheromones are flying around here.   Unfortunately they wrinkle, crash and burn as soon as they get near me.

    Perhaps this is because since 1980 I’ve gained and lost about ten pounds a decade.   Hard to believe, I know (!), but true.   In 1980, I weighed about 175.  In 1990, I checked in at 185.  In 2000, yes, around 195.  In 2010, I went back to 180 but only because I started working out with a personal trainer two to three times a week.  It was boring, exhausting and painful and after two years of it, I decided I’d rather spend the money on good wine.  Now, in 2015, I hover close to 185.

    It goes without saying the lovely wife hasn’t gained an oz. in the 30 years I’ve known her.   Call it a combination of good genetics, discipline and a vegetarian diet but if anything, she’s lost weight.   The lovely wife can still do lunges with the best of them and with a week’s notice, would be benching her own weight and more.   The lovely wife, of course, is of German descent.  There is a reason they almost single handedly beat the world twice.  However, as I like to remind her, the English were on the winning side both times and I am of English heritage.   When I lived in London the idea of a sensible lunch was two pints of beer.   I felt very much at home.

    But back to the orangutan.

    Adult males have large cheek flaps which get larger as the ape ages. 

    What a coincidence!  

    The sagging cheeks show their dominance to other males and their readiness to mate.   My sagging cheeks show that I’m tired, hung over, constipated or all three.

    Orangutans do not swim.   I don’t either.  I occasionally allow a wave to wash gently over me.

    Orangutans eat dirt.   I only do when I’m drunk

    But back to my knee.  (Enough about my knee, let’s talk about my knee).

    My orthopedist, Dr. Stu, tells me that post op it looks pretty good.  He tells me I have good extension and only fair flexion.   I wonder if he’s talking about my knee.

    Dr. Stu saw me on a tennis court the other day, standing in one place, feeding balls to my son.  He stopped his, car, waggled a finger at me and told me that in no uncertain terms I was being a “bad boy”.    I chewed on my limp blade of grass, stuck my finger in my nose and pretended I didn’t hear him.

    Occasionally in the middle of the night, for no apparent reason, my knee locks and I howl – okay, bleat – in pain.   The lovely wife is sick of it.  It bothers her to no end that I immediately go back to sleep leaving her to worry about everything and nothing for the next hour or so.   And then, just as she begins to doze off, I do it again.  I don’t remember any of this in the morning but she does.  And to get even, she insists on cogent conversation before I’ve finished my coffee. 

    Adult male orangutans are solitary and happiest alone.   They usually have three or four eligible females in the general area with which they get together only at breeding time.  The rest of the time the females take care of the young and leave the big guy to himself.

    When the sculpted-from-marble, twenty-something blond physical therapist in a banana colored sports bra and a grey leotard, glances in my direction, I immediately go from doing lackadaisical, slow motion, uncompleted pedals to a first time, full out, 360 degree burst.  This is against Dr. Stu’s orders and after the first go-round, it feels as if I’ve ripped out every stitch, torn all the scar tissue and have pulled my new enhanced ACL from its boney socket.  But stifling my bleat, I pedal on like Greg Lemond.

    Who says human beings are smarter than apes?

    I’ll be playing tennis by December.  The sculpted-from-marble, twenty-something blond physical therapist in a banana colored sports bra and a grey leotard will remember me.

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Stephen Metcalfe is a playwright, screenwriter, and novelist. His plays have been produced Off-Broadway, regionally and internationally. His screen credits include HALF A LIFETIME, COUSINS, JACKNIFE, and BEAUTIFUL JOE as well as the production drafts of PRETTY WOMAN, ARACHNOPHOBIA, and MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS. He has worked for most major production companies in Hollywood.  He is the author of three novels.  THE TRAGIC AGE, was published by St. Martin’s Press in March of 2015. and THE PRACTICAL NAVIGATOR was published by St. Martin’s in August 2017.   His novel, ATTACHMENT PATTERNS, was released by Austin-Macauley Publishers in April, 2023.  He is an Associate Artist at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. — About Stephen Metcalfe

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