Mister Muscles

Por Mario Vargas Llosa

 

It has cost me blood, sweat, and tears to build these biceps and pectorals. By that I mean hour and hours of working out in the gym, following a strict diet, and giving up cigarettes and alcohol. If you want a physique like this, worthy of a body-building contest, you have to have an iron will and absolute discipline. Fortunately, I have both.

 

I’ve promised myself to keep in trim and some day go to the States, where a man with a body like mine can have a career. Show my muscles in a nightclub, work as an extra in the movies, enter Body Beautiful contests, open a health club, or pose for body shots and advertisements. I have no doubt that there in the United States, a guy with muscles like mine can make money hand over fist.

 

Here, on the other hand, a man like me is wasted. The kids here in the barrio are the only ones who know enough to appreciate the effort and the sacrifice that having a body like mine demands. When I take off my shirt and demonstrate for them, their eyes get wide with envy. “Can I touch?” they ask me. And I tell them yes, and they can’t believe how hard my muscles are. “Like a rock,” they say.

 

The jobs I’ve been offered here are ridiculous. The first was in a traveling circus that came here for the national holidays. My act was called “Can You Beat The Strong Man?” That consisted of challenging any spectator to arm wrestle with me, and see whose arm went down first. I always won, naturally. That was a joke. But there was another act where I came out with the clowns, and they made people laugh by playing jokes on me and making me look like an idiot. When the circus left town they asked me to go with them, but I told them no way.

 

My other job was even more depressing. That was bouncer in a whorehouse bar. I had to break up fights, put troublemakers in their place, and throw guys out who got too drunk. All very depressing. The one good thing about the job was the girls. The ones who dance in the show and the ones who shill customers into buying them drinks. Really nice chicks, some of them very loving. But I didn’t like the business of spending all my time with night owls, breathing alcohol and smoke–both poison for my muscles.

 

So that’s why I need to go to California or Miami. I’ll come back when I’m rich and famous, and have had my picture in the newspapers. Then the mayor will give me a medal and point to me and tell the kids: “A healthy mind in a healthy body. Learn from this man’s example.”