October 08 2009
By rights, Michiko should be the happiest girl in finance. On the outside, the power headhunter may seem as meek as a mouse, but scratch the surface and pent-up rage forges though her veins. No one can explain where Michiko’s aura of anger comes from, but everyone agrees that she won’t get anywhere until she does something about it. So when a leaflet lands in her gym locker promoting Body Combat, she sees her chance. Michiko may only be 4ft 10in but in the heart of her Muji unitard lurks the soul of a Samurai, so she might just be able to turn things round by releasing a little aggression in a safe and controlled environment.
According to the leaflet, a Body Combat workout uses a combination of moves taken from karate, kick boxing, tae kwon do and t’ai chi, choreographs them into a series of balletic yet powerful moves, then sets them to a pumping soundtrack. If anything’s going to unleash the beast that burdens Michiko, it’s the chance to do a few high kicks, chop her arms about and indulge in some silent screaming.
Mario is the man in charge today – fresh in from Rio. Michiko can’t decide if it’s the neon leggings and matching trainers combo, the ponytail or the smouldering Latin demeanour that so offends her Zen sensitivities. The rest of the class isn’t much better. To Michiko’s right, a burly great lump of a man – a 6ft-tall, thick-shouldered, thunder-thighed wall of aggression – catches her eye. And winks. Somewhere deep inside, Michiko’s safety valve starts to hiss.
To her left, a spike-haired bleach blonde is jogging on the spot, pumping her arms in the air as if preparing for a prize fight. If she came looking for work at the agency, Michiko isn’t sure where she’d place her. The loading bay, perhaps.
Before she can pass further judgment, Mario’s got them all warming up. Soon, hearts are racing, limbs are loosened and bodies are working a carefully executed routine that involves them all stomping, striking, punching and kicking out to a heavy-metal beat. Step, turn, kick; shimmy, shimmy, punch; side, together, pow! Michiko has to admit she’s enjoying herself.
With every beat of the pumping soundtrack, she lashes out longer, kicks up higher, punches through the air harder. Out of the corner of one eye, she notices that The Winker has stopped and is watching her, open-mouthed. She catches his eye, then stops mid-stomp. Something about The Winker’s stare looks familiar. She thought she’d blocked it all out, but his oily glare takes her straight back to the time she took a wrong turn down a dark, dank alley, straight into an aggressive eyeballing. It was the night she lost both her dignity and a Louis Vuitton handbag. She’d always vowed she’d get one of them back. “All right, darlin?” he leers.
Michiko’s safety valve can take no more. She struts, she hops, she shimmies. She takes off, sailing through the air, arms flying, fists flailing, legs kicking. Wham! She makes contact, smack in the heart of the Winker’s dark, dank alley. Within seconds, he’s on the floor, curled in agony.
Mario swoops in to survey the damage, reminding Michiko that the class provides a safe zone and she must do her best to avoid personal contact at all time. Only he doesn’t call her Michiko. He calls her Mosquito.
Nobody calls Michiko Mosquito, and the fiery glare she flashes should have warned Mario to back off. Instead, he steps towards her with the same caution that he’d employ when approaching a rabid dog. Michiko corkscrews on the spot, lashing out with one leg as she uncoils. With perfect timing and exemplary aim, she manages to fell Mario in a swoop.
Loading Bay Girl, who assumes that this is the second phase of the routine, steps forward to try her luck. Kerpow! And is sent spinning through the air. Another instructor appears. Ha-cha! Michiko leaves him for dust (and quite a bit of dribble). Security is called. And swiftly dispatched.
Michiko has hunted down more heads in the past half hour than she has all year. With no more obvious candidates to conquer, she heads for the showers, feeling good about herself for the first time in ages. She hasn’t got her Vuitton bag back, but she feels she’s retained a bit of dignity. Though it’s safe to say she won’t be coming back.