Flora squints at me.

“Is that even possible?”

I nod.

“I knew a guy in my high school who did it. He came out looking like Popeye, and even worse, he had track marks on his arms because he was always injecting himself. It’s not addictive, or at least not in the way that you think. You don’t get “high” from this stuff. You merely get addicted to the look, and then you can’t stop injecting yourself because you love the attention it brings.”

Flora stares at me, her mouth dropping open with shock.

“So how big were his arms then?”

“Jared’s, or the guy in high school?”


I shrug.

“The guy in high school looked like he had biceps the size of small cats. I’d say that Jared had biceps the size of small dogs.”

Flora makes a gagging noise.

“Eew, that’s gross.”

I sigh.

“I know, right? Why would guys do this to themselves? Why would you want to look like Popeye on steroids, with biceps so big that they’re bursting through your sleeves? Who knows?”

Flora shakes her head.

“It’s like those people who are addicted to plastic surgery. They always think one more procedure is going to make them perfect, even though there’s no such thing as perfect.”

“That’s it,” I say, seizing upon the comparison. “It’s some type of mental illness, I tell you. There’s no explaining it because the image in the mirror is a caricature. They literally look like a cartoon. And to be honest, I was embarrassed to be seen with Jared. Everyone in the café kept staring at him because his biceps were ridiculously huge, and the muscles kept twitching on their own. It was strange.”

Flora nods, sitting back on the small twin bed.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. That doesn’t sound good. Ugh, sorry girlfriend. I didn’t think your experience would be that weird. Well, onto the next one then!” she adds cheerily. “Who else are you going to meet from BeefyCuts? Any other dates lined up?”

I shake my head, astonished by how fast my buddy’s moving.

“No way. I’m not going back on there. Not after this last date.”

Flora makes a psst! sound and swishes her hand at me.

“Don’t be so close-minded Cindy. The last guy was a nightmare, but they can’t all be like that. There have to be some normal dudes, right? So who else do you have lined up, seriously?”

I shake my head again.

“No, I’m not going out on any more on-line dates. It’s just too strange, and it wasn’t just Jared. All of my dating history lately has been absolutely wretched, if you recall. There was that guy Paul, who drank a muscle-building milkshake while we were out at dinner. He literally ordered a glass of milk, whipped out a can of the powder, and made himself a shake while I watched in astonishment. No, thank you very much. And there was Monty, who wanted to show me his bodybuilding scrapbook, and Junior, who’s descended from a Samoan sumo wrestler.”

“That can’t be so bad, can it?” muses Flora. “Junior sounds okay.”

“Yeah, he was nice,” I say wryly. “But I couldn’t stop seeing him dressed in white underwear in my mind’s eye because that’s what sumo wrestlers wear. It was terrible.”

Flora giggles.

“Okay, so maybe Junior’s not the one, but that doesn’t mean you should stop dating. You have to broaden your horizons, Cindy. Come on, it’s senior year and you’ve never even had a boyfriend! Plus, BeefyCuts isn’t the only on-line service out there. You could also try HookMeUp, TattleTorso or DrunkBehindTheWheel. It could be fun!”

I shake my head.

“No, I think I’m done with dating altogether, at least for now. That last encounter with Jared was just too strange, and honestly, it made me wonder if our college town is populated by freaks. I mean, what are the chances? Synthol? Really? I think I’m going to sit out meeting new guys until graduation. Maybe after I get a job, my prospects will improve because I’ll be meeting professional men. Maybe they’re desk jockeys, but they certainly couldn’t be worse than the men I’m meeting now.”

Flora clucks.

“You can’t give up. Seriously Cindy, are you ready to die a virgin? Because that’s what’s going to happen if you don’t put yourself out there.”

I stare at the bubbly brunette.

“Hey, I told you I was a virgin in secret. You can’t go repeating it.”

Flora’s eyes go wide.

“Of course not. I wouldn’t share your secrets. But seriously, Cindy, you’re twenty-two, and it’s too early to give up dating. In fact, it’s pathetic if you give up. Quitters never prosper.”

I shoot her a droll look.

“Isn’t it cheaters never prosper, and not quitters never prosper? But thanks for your support,” is my wry reply. “I’m glad you have my back.”

Flora throws her hands up in the air, making her brown ponytail bounce.

“No, it’s not that. You know me, Cindy-pooh. I totally have your back, and you’re too young and pretty to give up. If you give up now, it bodes ill for your dating future.”

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