The Wall of Winnipeg and Me(17)

by Mariana Zapata

With a work ethic like his, it wasn’t a surprise.

After his seclusion in the middle of nowhere—I’d gone with him twice because apparently he couldn’t live without a chef and housekeeper—he, we, flew back to Dallas, and his high school coach went back to Winnipeg. Aiden then worked on other aspects of his role with another trainer until the Three Hundreds called him in for team camp in July.

In a couple of weeks, official practices would begin and the insanity that surrounded an NFO season with one of the highest caliber players in the organization would start all over again. But this time, I wouldn’t be part of it. I wouldn’t have to wake up at four o’clock in the morning, or have to drive around like a crazy person doing the hundreds of things that seemed to pop up when he was busy.

This August, instead of dealing with planning meals around two-a-day practices and preseason games, I’d be in my apartment, waking up whenever the hell I wanted, and not having to cater to anyone else’s needs but mine.

But that was a party I could throw in the near future, when I wasn’t busy looking for Aiden while my hands were full.

Past the cardio machines and through two swinging double doors was the main part of the training ground. At a cavernous, ten-thousand-square-foot size, red-and-black décor swam in front of my eyes. Half of the floor looked like turf and the other half had lightly cushioned black flooring for a weight training section. Scattered around the building at six o’clock in the morning, were only about ten other people. Half of them looked like football players and the other half looked like some other sort of athlete.

I just had to look for the largest one of them all, and it only took a second to spot the big head on the turf section by one of the eleven-hundred-pound tires. Yeah, 1100-pound tires.

And I thought I was badass when I managed to carry all of my grocery bags to my apartment in one trip.

A few feet away, a familiar-looking man stood by watching The Wall of Winnipeg. Finding a spot out of the way but still close enough to take a decent picture, I sat cross-legged at the edge of the mats perpendicular to Aiden and his current trainer, pulling out the DSLR camera I’d suggested he should buy specifically for this purpose a year ago. One of my duties was to update his social media pages and engage his fans; his sponsors and fans enjoyed seeing live shots of him working out.

No one paid me any attention as I settled in; they were all too busy to look around. With the equipment out of the bag, I waited for the perfect shot.

Through the lens, Aiden’s features were smaller; his muscles seemed not as detailed as they were when you saw them in person. He’d been cutting his calories for the last two weeks, aiming to drop ten pounds before the start of the season. The striations on his shoulders popped as he maneuvered around the massive tractor tire, squatting in front of it, making the full muscles of his hamstrings look even more impressive than they usually did. I could even see the cleft that formed along the back of his thigh from how developed his hammies were.

Then there were those biceps and triceps that some people seemed to think had gotten the size they were due to steroids, when I knew firsthand that Aiden’s body was fueled by massive amounts of a plant-based diet. He didn’t even like taking over-the-counter medications. The last time he’d gotten sick, the stubborn-ass had even refused to take the antibiotics the doctor had prescribed. I hadn’t even bothered to fill the painkiller prescription he’d been given after his surgery, which might have been why he’d been so grumpy for so long. I wouldn’t even get started on his aversion to sodium laurel sulfates, preservatives, or parabens.

Steroids? Give me a break.

I snapped a few pictures, trying to get a really good one. His female fans always went nuts over the shots that showcased the power contained within that great body. And when he had tight compression shorts on while he was bent over? “BAM. I’M PREGNANT,” one of his fans had written last week when I posted a picture of Aiden doing squats. I’d almost spat water out of my mouth.