Pumping Iron!


At my local 24 Hour Fitness, I discretely listen to music that glorifies violence and preaches misogyny. The goal is that by listening to teenagers from Chi-raq shout about murder, I’ll be motivated to do, like, one more set.

This morning, while laying on the mat half-napping, half-studiously listening to what it’s like to be a young black male living on Chicago’s Southside, I spot Ricky. He’s carrying a basketball, and is flanked by a small entourage of big Armenian men.

Ricky is in his late twenties, has short dreds and he’s built like a guy who spends all day at the gym. After hi-fiving his way through all the forty-year-old men in stringger tanks doing concentration curls and incline bench, Ricky gets beckoned over to more men in tank tops doing lat pull-downs, twirling kettle bells, grabbing each other’s biceps.

roid gut

At this point, I realize I’ve been laying on the ground for a bit too long, listening to a song that consists of gunshots and Chief Keef in autotune declaring that all he cares about is money. Which is a little much, even for me. I proceed to finish whatever exercise I was in the middle of not doing, and then hit the showers.

It’s a joyous locker room. As it turns out, Armenian men love to sing in the shower. It’s also not uncommon to see a man standing in front of the mirror blow drying his balls in the middle of the locker room at say, 11:30 in the morning.

“My man,” I turn around to see the most popular man in the gym standing behind me. “You interested in a personal training session?”

“No,” I say.

“You looking for gear?”

While I google search “gear” in my brain, Ricky ushers me to the other side of the locker room, which doesn’t seem any more discreet. “I mean, you’re a fit dude. Kind of small, on the weakside, a little flabby but with some assistance, I’m talking about high quality, pro shit, you’ll be putting up big plates. You could go from zero to hero. Tell you what, it’s your first time, I’ll cut you a deal.”

At this point, three men walk over to Ricky and shake his hand, smiling, proud to know the man. Proud to be associated with him.

“Not that I’m interested in either, but are we talking about personal training or the other thing?” I ask.

“The other thing. And I want you to know this: there’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not the lazy way out, you’ll still have to work hard, watch your calorie in-take. You’ll have to be accountable if you want to reach your goals—”


“I’ll make sure you’re pushing your limits. I’m here for you, bro.”


“Let me dispel facts: one, your dick isn’t going to shrink. Your testicles, yes, probably, but as soon as you’re off it’s reversible. Two, no one has ever died from taking steroids. Three, the results are real and that can’t be disputed. Also, roid rage isn’t a real thing and your sex drive will go through the roof.” Ricky puts his hand on my shoulder, looks around then says, “Sometimes, I’ll fuck my girlfriend like thirty or forty times a day. No joke. No exaggeration.”

If there was an appropriate response, I didn’t have it.


“So,” Ricky spins around his fanny pack, “we can do this with cash, Paypal or I’m actually using Venmo now. It’s pretty dope. You use it?”

“I do.”

“Cool. I fucking love technology. Do you watch that show Silicon Valley?”

“I do.”

“Awesome. So we’ll use Venmo.”

“Sounds good.”

“Pills? You seem like a pill guy. It’s your first time. Let’s go with D-Bols. You should be able to gain like four to six pounds of muscle a week. Minimum. Although, I should warn you that pills are for pussies and they’re mainly water-weight so when you’re ready for the real shit, you just say the word.”

“I will.”

Ricky looks around then hands me a small bottle that’s been stripped of its label. “This is going to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship, my man.”

“Great. Thanks, Ricky.”

He pulls out a piece of paper and hand writes a receipt. He keeps the carbon copy for himself. “Uncle Sam was on my back last year.”

“I totally get it. Thanks a lot.”

“Anytime, or in six weeks!” Ricky laughs. “By the way, you might experience some male pattern baldness, oily skin, backne, and after the initial increase in libido, a gradual decrease.”

With that, we shake hands. Ricky turns on his heels, slaps the guy next to him on the shoulder and says, “My man, you looking to get serious about your fitness?”

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