An American Werewolf Inspired by French Bodybuilders Trades in the Dream for a Cubicle

bodyboysHe told us the key to getting girls in Geneva, Switzerland, was to flash the keys to a sports car. My Gremlin was impounded at the Kremlin, and my Huffy had a flat.



My associates and I were staying at the Swiss Prince's chateau, sitting poolside with some French bodybuilders who were inspecting their nipples and discussing their daily caloric intake. It was a typical day.

trench_bodybuildThe smallest of the body builders confided to us that he wasn't as lucky as the rest of them. He had to work much harder to look as good as he did, which is why he didn't eat food, except for maybe on Saturday when he splurged on a piece of fish. Otherwise, he just drank a protein shake every three hours and shot steroids into his chiseled hiney. Trust me, though, it was worth it, because this guy looked good. Like really good. Like really, really good.

Nicky Boy, Yaqi, Mongo, and I were looking pretty good ourselves: pale, hairy, and soft from drinking a monthly caloric intake daily. We were more concerned with the experience of the whole charade than the appearance of it, but I guess that is what ugly people would say. Still, we couldn't compete with these guys, as much as we wanted to have a flex off. They had nice tans and sweet manicures and cool muscles, and to top it off, they were rich. A muscle-y aristocracy, and we had no business being there. Luckily, we had the good graces of the Swiss Prince and his grandmother, who was kind enough to wring out Seth "Teaneck, New Jersey" Klein's mercilessly stained underwear. Without them, those inspiring muscle-heads might have used their broken English to break our soft, porous skulls.

Santo—a 45-year-old bodybuilder who showed up in his Mustang with a Chihuahua riding shotgun, wearing a fanny pack and cut-off overalls—was the kind of guy I could look up to. He told us the key to getting girls in Geneva, Switzerland, was to flash the keys to a sports car. My Gremlin was impounded at the Kremlin, and my Huffy had a flat. In addition, I had a mullet, a scumstache, and had not fully beaten puberty even though I was 22. Suddenly, I found myself with the monthly realization that, as incredibly amazing as I was, as far as the girls in Geneva, Switzerland, were concerned, I was a loser.

Santo had a high-paying corporate job, muscles, a spike haircut, a fanny pack, a Mustang, and a Chihuahua. What did I have? A hairy stomach and a delusion of "living the dream." The dream didn't exist. It wasn't safe and tangible, like a steroid needle wrapped in rabbit fur and shoved down the front of your pants so you could shoot up in a night club. It didn't guarantee you a sports car that would itself procure a pretty Swiss girl who would lead to a happy family and a happy life. "Living the dream," which is a synonym for "delaying the inevitable," did not guarantee that I would have a lot of stuff to remember me when I had gone the way of the buffalo. If I didn't own enough toaster ovens, I was as good as dead, because how would I ever prove that I had been alive if I didn't leave behind a lot of immortal toaster ovens? That makes perfect sense, right?

On a similar note, America is criticized for being materialistic. It is a success-motivated land, where success is measured by financial success, which is measured by sports cars. Ironically, in Switzerland, hanging loose with some tubular French bodybuilders, I was in a supposedly morally motivated land, but it was guilty of the same superficiality and materialism for which it criticized America. I had my own expectations of berets and peaceable, hot chocolate drinking, maybe a chance of scattered chicken fights and limbo contests in bike shorts. Instead, I got gored by the horns of harsh reality.

The voice of reason whispered to me through its chapped lips: "This is the way the world works. We like it this way. don't live the dream. The dream is not safe. Security, 401(k), be like Santo, mortgage, dental, dental, dental…" I stabbed myself in the ear with a pencil. The voice of reason sounded strangely like the voice of Fran Drescher, but I couldn't ignore it anymore.

As the blood from my eardrum matted in my mullet, I had to believe that if reason wanted me to be like Santo, I had to be like Santo. However, no mere mortal can just be like Santo. That's like saying be Hercules and Puff Daddy at the same time while dancing. I decided to aim a little lower in order to start somewhere.

I didn't want to miss the opportunity to poison the planet with my future progeny, and as you know, steroids make testicles explode. So, I opted out on the steroids. Sadly, no steroids meant no muscles, because what's the point of working out if you are not going to be freakishly enormous and able to rip the head off a horse? (An important need, should such an occasion become necessary for survival.) Also, without being freakishly enormous, there was no point in having a tiny Chihuahua as a hilarious and ironic foil to my enormousness. And without a tiny Chihuahua to ride shotgun, there was no point in having a Mustang, for obvious reasons. As a result, I decided that to be like Santo, I had to get a corporate job, and in order to get the corporate job like Santo would, I would have to wear cutoff overall jean shorts and a fanny pack to my interview.

trench_cubeFast-forward two weeks and I am in my very own cubicle! Important job ahead of me, I'm throwing out paper…professionally! Hooray! There is a kitten hanging from a clothesline poster tacked on my corkboard, right next to an underlined company dress code that says, "Absolutely no cutoff overall jean shorts!" Yippee!

As a side note, bear in mind that when I say "corporate job," I mean office job for someone with a very narrow and weak skill set. No offense to my coworkers, but there's a reason none of us were at Microsoft. Regardless of the company, however, there comes a point in any office job-and almost any job, for that matter-when you get to a certain point and hating yourself becomes a lot easier.

And that's where the beauty of routine comes in. Routine is the best way to weather the unfulfilling monotony of life on the bottom of the corporate pig pile. And that's where I was. In the course of two months, I had gone from college parties and impressing chicks with air guitar, to dividing my day with bathroom breaks every 15minutes. Pretty normal, right?

What I soon discovered is that every office setting is the same, and they're all a lot like the jungle. There's a food chain in the office, and bottom-rung herbivores have no chance or desire to be on the top. We know it's impossible, so as long as we're efficient enough and fast enough to not be the slowest employee, we won't get mauled by a cheetah. For this very reason, I always check the tall grasses and behind the ficus whenever I am in the open plain using the copy machine.

As an office herbivore, your job is so boring that you make it a game to work as little as possible, so as to not go crazy-wacky-bonkers. Heartbreakingly, you know your paycheck is going toward car insurance, not a flame thrower or a bounce house, and either you work really fast and sit around with nothing to do, or the endless, mind-numbing sea of files continue coming in, and you realize your job might as well be emptying a swimming pool with a tablespoon.

I was sitting in my cubicle, staring at the kitten on a clotheslines poster and waiting for his last claw to SNAP…off. Had Santo led me astray? Had getting an office job not put me as close to being a 44-year-old French bodybuilder as I had thought it would?

As I was daydreaming, wishing I had the Internet to waste some time perusing chaise lounges I would never buy, I heard the shrill voice of the office Jerald coming my way. Every office has an office Jerald. The office Jerald enjoys buying his wife dresses, always has something to say about your shoes, and spends his entire day gossiping, a fruitless and lame attempt to add some WB-style "drama" to the workplace.

I crossed my fingers, put a trash can over my head, and prayed the office Jerald would not come and talk to me, or at least not see me if he tried to. I focused as hard as I could on becoming invisible. I heard his scuffling feet pause outside of my cubicle. I held my breath, I played dead, I looked as much like an inedible carcass as possible.

"You workin' hard, or hardly workin'?" Jerald asked, amused with himself. My blood started to boil and drip out my ear. This was my opportunity to snap and never come back. I had gone corporate; two weeks was enough. I could get some steroids and still be like Santo; maybe I'd start playing baseball or something and no one would question the fact that I was a fully grown and had somehow gained 40 pounds of muscle in one season. I could reclaim the dream and go back to wandering, I mean, it's not like I wasn't a loser in my corporate job; I might as well be a loser with a dream of good times.

But I couldn't do that. I was sort of a sub-adult now. I had to work forever, so I might as well forget the possibility of having fun and enjoying my life. That wasn't safe. Without a dental plan, my teeth might fall out of my head, and without health insurance, my testicles might explode.

"A little bit of both, office Jerald," I said, easing the wastebasket off of my head.

"Ha," he squealed and scuffled off, the beginnings of a paperclip-stealing rumor already forming in his 13-year-old, girlish mind. And with that, I had become a man-a broken man, but still. In the Masai tribe, to become a man, a boy must pull on the tail of a lion. In lower corporate America, a boy becomes a man by hiding from lions and assimilating into the herd. The more ambitious among us have the hope of driving a Mustang in 22 years, with all unpractical dreams drowned one teaspoon at a time in a swimming pool. I took a sip from my protein shake and marveled at how far I'd come in such a short but seemingly long time. Not that I'd arrived anywhere fantastic, but I guess it was somewhere. I guess it was right here.

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