“That was complete discrimination,” Cris said the moment Nelson left the exam room. The manager stared at the swimmer, shaking his head with an angry expression.
“Are you really gonna keep saying that?” Nelson tried to keep his face straight as he walked beside Cris, but it was hard. The manager’s indignation was too funny.
“Yes. I’ll keep saying until this world is rid of injustice like those. It was discrimination against me,” Cris said again, emphasizing every word. “Everything was going fine with your physical evaluation. You said I could stay inside, but then, out of nowhere, my aunt kicked me out of the room. I repeat, out of nowhere. Just because you took your shirt off and I was kinda staring a little. If I wasn’t ‘asked to leave’ ‘cause I’m gay, then I don’t know why.”
“Are you really gonna keep saying that you did nothing?” Nelson asked, not bothering to hide his smile anymore.
“Yes. I did nothing wrong.”
“You were taking photos of me the moment I took my shirt off,” Nelson said slowly, savoring the words. He wasn’t mad about it. In fact, the change from indignation to surprise on Cris’ face right now was too amusing for him. But he did his best to keep his face serious.
“I… ah…” The swimmer opened his mouth, but couldn’t for a sentence. He scratched his neck and looked around, not meeting Nelson’s eyes. After a while, he licked his lips. “I… didn’t realize you noticed that…” His voice was full of guilt.
“Yeah… you took the sound of your phone, but you forgot the flash.” Nelson tried to suppress his laugh, but it was getting harder and harder with all the expressions Cris made. “Did you or did you not take photos of me when I took my shirt off?”
Cris covered his mouth with a hand and coughed. “I have the right to remain in silent,” he said in a serious voice, trying his best to suppress his smile.
“I’ll let you stay in and even film all my physical evaluation if you show me your phone right now.”
Cris quickly hid his phone behind his back. “As much as I’d like to take that tempting offer, I mean, not that I’m that interested in seeing you shirtless. But showing you my phone would be an invasion of my privacy.”
Nelson stared at Cris for a long while. “Let me see it,” he said suddenly, jumping on Cris.
The manager turned around and tried to put the phone out of the swimmer’s reach, but he was too tall for Cris.
After a quick struggle, the phone was in Nelson’s hand.
“You’ll…erh… you’ll… yes! You’ll regret for the rest of your life if you see the things on that phone,” Cris almost screamed, still reaching out his hand to get the phone back.
“Oh yeah? And why is that?”
“’cause… erh…” Cris bit his lips and looked around, desperately trying to find any reason.
“You know you’re only making me more and more curious with all that, right?” Nelson couldn’t stop laughing at Cris’ despair.
“Nudes!” Cris screamed, his face lighting up as if he had finally got the answer. “Yes! There’re lots of nudes! Nudes and so many photos of dicks and ball and naked guys even a gay guy would feel ashamed. So, for your sake, not mine, you better don’t look at that phone!”
“Is that so?”
“Yes! Trust me!”
Nelson looked between the phone and the desperate face before his eyes. With a sly smile, he slid to unlock the device and checked the latest photo. “Then could you please tell why is there a photo of me among all that?”
“I… ah…” Cris blushed and averted his eyes. “I… a selfie! Yes! I never meant to take a photo of you shirtless! I wanted to take a selfie, but apparently I didn’t use the front camera and somehow ended up taking a photo of you.”
“Are you really gonna use that excuse?” Nelson stared at him in disbelief.
“You mean the truth? Yes, I’ll stick to the truth!”
Nelson tried, but he couldn’t keep within him any longer and burst into laugh.
Their conversation had been attracting some stares, but now the people around looked at them bluntly. Cris flushed and hid his mouth with a hand, but then even he couldn’t hold his laugh anymore.
“That made me feel better,” Nelson said after he was done laughing.
“Glad my shame is amusing.”
“Is that what you said when we met?”
Cris opened his mouth to reply, but let out a chuckle. “Fine, fine. You won this round.”
“Yeah.” Nelson closed his fist in victory, getting more laughs from his manager. “So where next? The nutritionist?”
“Before that, the personal trainer,” Cris said without checking anything.
Nelson bit his lips as he stared one of the gymnasiums containing the indoor pools. He closed his eyes and let out a huge sigh.
“I know, I know…” Nelson tried, but couldn’t take his eyes off the door. “It’s just…”
“How long it’s been since you entered that gym?” Cris asked in a low voice, watching the swimmer’s reactions.
“Not that long,” Nelson answered after a few moments watching the huge double doors in silence. “I’ve entered once or twice…”
“Per day?” Cris asked with his eyebrow raised.
Nelson opened his mouth and then smiled. “I have the right to remain in silence.”
“That’s annoying, you know?” Cris muttered under his breath.
“But today’s is different ‘cause…” Nelson went on as if not interrupted.
“It’s kinda like your comeback,” Cris completed the sentence.
The swimmer nodded. “Aren’t you gonna tell me something like ‘don’t worry. You’ll hardly swim today! So don’t fret about that!’ with a smile or something?”
“It’s no fun if you already know what I’m gonna say,” Cris said, trying and failing to suppress his smile. “And is that how you see me?”
“Kinda,” Nelson shrugged and answered with a tiny smile.
“I’ll decide later if that’s a good or a bad thing.” Cris walked a few paces ahead and turned around with a smile. “Come, you have a lot to do before you talk to your coach.”
Drawing courage from that smile, Nelson followed.
The personal trainer and the nutritionist were faster than they expected.
“Guess there wasn’t a lot to talk about, since they already have your results,” Cris said, checking the training program the personal trainer had set for the swimmer. “There’s a lot of this muscle regeneration…”
“Yes… Despite training, it wasn’t anywhere near what I did before. Of course I lost a lot of muscle…”
“But at least you kept the best part,” Cris said, bending down to look at Nelson’s belly closely. He stared at it with a serious expression and then poked a couple times, nodding in approval. “The six pack is still firm, I see. Good, good.”
Nelson rubbed his belly. “Yes, thank you. I needed a boost of self-esteem before talking with the coach.”
“That’s what I wanted. Now let’s go.” Cris grabbed Nelson’s hand and pulled the swimmer through the double doors.
“Wait, my heart’s not ready—”
“Nelson! It’s been too long, son,” the coach said the moment he saw Nelson. He walked to the swimmer and gave him a strong hug. “I’ll tell you, we lost a lot without you. Our team in London wasn’t the same without your presence. Everyone’s saying.”
Nelson let out an awkward laugh. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” he said, scratching his chin.
“I knew you’d say that. Always humble, you. Though I’m not sure this is something good for a professional athlete.” The coach’s smile broadened. After a few friendly slaps on the swimmer’s shoulder, the coach’s smile was replaced by a serious expression as someone on the pool called him. He nodded and turned to Nelson. “I still have this class. We can catch up later. Show me your physical evaluation and training program.”
“Here.” Cris handed the papers to the coach.
The coach studied the papers for a while. He nodded and kept quiet, except a few hums here and there. Nelson and Cris kept their silence too, neither wanting to break his concentration. The swimmer stared at his coach and waited, not realizing he was holding his breath.
“For an accident as bad as yours, your condition is just as you’d expect. But don’t worry. It’s not as bad as I’d feared,” he quickly added when he saw Nelson’s dejected expression. He wrote something in the papers. “You need a lot of muscle regeneration. Gym in the morning and hydrotherapy in the afternoon. Hopefully you can get back in a week or so. Cris?”
“Yes!” the manager took a step forward and fixed his posture, as if he was a soldier waiting for an order.
“Bring the exam to the MD. They’ll organize a specific regime for him,” the coach said, handing the exams back to Cris. Then he turned to the swimmer and lost all sign of friendliness. “Nelson, I know you. You’re already thinking about making up the time by working hard. But that will hurt you and won’t help your comeback. So I need you to promise you won’t overdo.”
“Yes, coach. Of course,” Nelson said at once, nodding as best he could with his stiffed neck.
“He didn’t believe you,” Cris said after they left the gym.
“What do you mean?”
“When you promised you wouldn’t overdo.” Cris looked into Nelson’s eyes. “It was written all over your face.”
Nelson sustained Cris look for a while. “You don’t need to worry,” he said in a low voice. “I know my body better than anyone. I only work hard within my limit.”
“For the record, I don’t believe in you either.” Cris had a serious expression. “That’s why I’ll keep a very close look on you. I’ll feel bad if you got hurt again.”
“Don’t worry, I—”
“I’ll worry.” Cris let out a sigh. “But since for the future. Now you need to focus on the interview.”
Nelson winced. “I had forgotten about that,” he said, scratching his head. He pulled his phone to check the time. “But isn’t that after lunch. There’s still like, an hour.”
“Yes, but there’s something you need to do first.”
“It’s a secret.” Cris’ sly smile broadened as he walked away.
The swimmer went after his manager. “What is it?”
“Let’s have lunch,” Cris said, completely ignoring Nelson’s question.