“Thirteen,” Rich grunted, before dropping the dumbbells on the ground, staring at his tri’s and letting out a “sweet” in self-admiration. Having achieved maximum pump, he flexed once again. Brows furrowed in concentration, as if performing to a binocular clad-observer on a nearby rooftop. But today, he remained unobserved. He relaxed and picked up his blender bottle, drinking the protein shake moments before his anabolic window closed.

Prevented from going to his sanctuary, Gold’s Gym–the one in Santa Monica, since the bodybuilders at the Venice location had quickly grown tired of his incessant live streaming–Rich has been forced to work out in his home gym. Or rather, it was the small lot behind the complex housing his studio, which he shared with the other tenants. A clever move, considering that for them to scold him for blocking their cars, they must bear witness to his full physicality. This would be Rich’s only audience, his live streams now barren, held captive to behold him in awe.

“The work begins when you want to give up. Everything worth achieving in life is hard and there will always be people trying to drag you down, telling you that you can’t do it. You can achieve anything through persistence, determination, and never giving up!” He finished typing the caption and posted the photo of his to Instagram. It was a good photo. The early afternoon sun had bathed him, contouring all eight of his abdominals. Rich watched his phone, waiting for a response. People needed to see his hard work; what he had overcome; what he had achieved, so that they could be inspired by him.

Rich reflected on his childhood in the suburbs of Pennsylvania. He had grown up skinny, though not alarmingly so. He had stared longingly at his Lionheart movie poster featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme. The two would often hold eye contact during Rich’s teenage years and Jean-Claude would beckon to him in his thick Belgian accent, “join me, Rich. I, Jean-Claude Van Damme, believe in you. Train hard, and one day we will splash water at each other on the beach in the South of France.” But now he was ripped. And maybe one day through continued diligent training he might become jacked or even swole, though he had moved on from Jean-Claude, who would now be left waiting on those beaches without closure.

“OmarLikesCats has liked your photo.” Rich smiled at his screen, knowing he had touched someone.

By Bartow Weiss