Gym Hero #3 – "Z"

If you haven’t read Gym Heros 1 and Two, go back and do so now.  Especially if it makes you late to work, stay up too late at night, or miss spending time with your family.  You owe yourself.

According to something I read once, when you first go to college you tend to hang out with people you have a prior connection with – acquaintances from high school, your parents’ friend’s son who’s a junior (and a total tool, but they insist that you call him), or the handful of people that you met at summer orientation.

Later these temporary friends are replaced by those with which you actually have something in common – either interests (sports, classes, clubs, frat) or location (your roommate/other dormmates).

Anyway it was one of the first weeks of my freshman year, and I was hanging out with these hipsters every night in some other dorm.  This was before “hipster” was a word, but they were all from trendy neighborhoods in NYC, had long hair, and were too ironically detached for things like frat parties or sports.  I’d met them at orientation and they were friendly enough.

One of these guys was of Pakistani descent.  We’ll call him “H”.  He was a weird bug-eyed dude who only lasted one semester because he got addicted to hard drugs, got a 0.0 GPA, and his parents refused to pay for any more school.  (I think he became a club promoter, whatever that is).  A funny story about H is that his roommate never showed up, so he had a single.  H never unpacked his bag.  His room was a sleeping bag on a mattress, a large gym bag with clothes in it, and a book or two on the desk.  College.

H said to me one night “Hey man, you should meet my friend ‘Z’.  We went to the same mosque back home.  He likes to lift weights too.”

So I forget the first time we hung out but Z and I started working out at the same time in the ghetto free gym on campus (there was also a massive “fitness” center where all the bros and girls went – but this cost money).

Z was incredibly large (5’10” and about 260-270 lbs).  He was not ripped nor obese(probably 18-20% bodyfat).  He easily – easily – had 20 inch arms and the biggest legs I’ve (still) ever seen in real life.

Was he juicing?  The obvious answer would be yes, but I think not. He stayed the same size the entire time I knew him. He entered college as a 260-270 lb heavyweight on the wrestling team. When he graduated, he was slightly larger, but still about 260-270 lbs.  All the other guys I knew who juiced in college went from skinny/ripped athletic builds to freakish bodybuilder development – and then back down.

I mean sure, he could have just taken the same shit for 4 years.  Whatever. I think that he just had incredible genetics.  He also trained and ate with monkish discipline (with some notable exceptions as I will detail below).  He did not eat at the dining hall ever.  He would carry a tupperware full of chicken that he’d prepared at home and a gallon of water everywhere he went on campus.  If we ate at the dining hall, he’d have his chicken.  He would drink the milk on these occasions.

One amusing thing about Z was that he was actually a terrible wrestler in part because he was so slow.  He was recruited to wrestle because in high school he was decent on paper.  But he was from NYC, and the competition there is laughable (everyone is playing hoops instead).  He started on varsity his freshman year and had a terrible season.  He quit early his sophomore year when it became apparent that he was going to lose his starting spot (to my 240 lb hairy, sloppy fat Armenian buddy – who was later replaced by a 6’4, 215 lb transfer student – size isn’t everything)

This was almost 20 years ago, and the only exercise I remember Z doing was squatting.  And man, he could squat.  He’d load the bar to 585 and do deep squats in sets of 8.  He would work heavier too.  I just remember 6 plates for 8.

He’d squat in the half rack and have me “spot” him. I weighed 140 lbs.  Usually he made it but about once a week, he’d go to failure and miss a rep.  When this happened, he’d get stuck in the hole, a few inches above the rack, and grunt, “HELP.”  I’d underhook my arms around his chest in the way I was taught and do my best to help, but seriously?  He and the bar together weighed almost half a ton.  So he’d let it drop to the rack with a bang that made basketball players in the gym next door miss their dunks and shit their pants.  The shock wave would send me flying through the air and I’d land 30* feet away, dust myself off, and find Z staring at me with a disappointed look on his face.  “You were supposed to spot me, man.”

* exaggeration – more like 15

Despite this occurring with some regularity, he continued to use me – and only me – as his spotter.  Z was not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he was loyal.

Z attributed his training and nutritional discipline to several things.  He also spent every free hour studying, so despite some natural dullness, he had great grades.  “My parents would be very disappointed in me if I failed.” and “I can’t do that (date loose women, eat mayonaise, drink beer) because it’s against my religion.”  (H had no qualms about taking handfuls of dubious pills and smoking weed all day long)

But there was one loophole in Z’s regimen.  Once per month – never more – Z would have what he called a “cheat day.”

This is the story of one of those cheat days.

It was a Friday night and we were partying in one of the hipster’s dorm rooms when Z arrived.  He immediately began consuming every substance available.  He drank about six beers, ate several dozen vodka jello jigglers, and, when passed a joint, inhaled it in one puff down to the roach. (bad etiquette – you can tell him, if you want)

The other hipsters wanted to go hear some band play at a bar, but Z, H, and I took a cab to some fraternity party where Z said the brothers “were great guys” and “would hook us up”.

This turned out to be true.  It was an “around the world” party where a different mixed drink was served in each room.  Z took us to the first station, where a frat brother was making screwdrivers.

“This is for my boys,” he said.  “Let me make it – I want to hook them up!”

His request was granted, and the brother stepped aside. Z dropped a couple of ice cubes into three 16 oz plastic cups, filled them 3/4 of the way with vodka, and added a splash of orange juice to each one.  He chugged his own drink down in one gulp, spotted someone he knew across the room, and charged off to go talk to them.

H and I struggled to take baby sips of what was basically straight vodka.  Z returned a minute later with another brother, who he introduced to us.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but part of the reason the guys in the frat were so nice to us was because we were potential rushees the next semester.

“These are my boys!” Z announced proudly.  After the brother left, Z eyed us with displeasure.

“You two are still working on those?  Come on!  I told these guys you could drink.”

With that admonition, Z went off to search for more of his friends.  H and I looked at one another.

“I can’t drink this,” we both said almost simultaneously, and we surreptitionsly emptied our cups into a trash bucket.

It was a great party.  Z knew almost everyone – guys and girls – and seemed to be everyone’s best friend.  He continued consuming alchohol at a breakneck pace, with no visible effect.  Meanwhile, H and I struggled along behind him, trying to dispose of the cups of liquor he handed us as best we could.  Needless to say, my recollection of most of the rest of the night is somewhat hazy.

However one incident stands out in my head.  When the party ended, around 2 or 3 AM, everyone milled around outside, trying to get a space in one of the cabs.  The drivers got a flat rate of $2 per passenger, so they were motivated to pack as many people in each vehicle as possible.

Still, there is some limit.  And Z might have maybe pushed the two of us and himself into a van ahead of some other party goers who’d been waiting longer.

Two guys took issue with this and began insulting Z.  Not a smart move.  When the doors were shut, the pair continued their protests, beating on the van with the palms of their hands, cursing out Z, and challenging him to come out and fight them.

Since one of them was in front of the van, slapping the hood, the driver just folded his arms and refused to go anywhere while this was happening.

Z opened the door and the two circled around to meet him.  With one hand, Z shoved the first guy’s head into the side of the van.  He crumpled up and fell.  The other fellow saw what happened to his friend and came to his senses.  He tried to flee, but it was too late.  Z caught him by the belt, lifted him above his head, and flung him into some bushes.

At this point, the driver started to pull away

H tapped him on the shoulder.

“I wouldn’t go,” he advised. “He’ll catch you and he’ll tear apart the van.  I can’t control him when he’s like this.  And he’ll be mad at us for letting you drive away without him.”

The driver stopped, and Z got back in, dusting his hands while the other occupants of the van just stared at him.

When we got back to campus, the driver wouldn’t drop us off at our dorms. Instead he just deposited us at the Student Union.  It was a long walk from there to H’s dorm.  I also remember this part of the night well.

H and I were hungry, tired, and cold.  Z, however was filled with exuberance and suggested all manner of wicked plans which we had to talk him out of.

“Let’s find another cab and go to an afterhours club!” and “Let’s get some more of that weed – or any kind of drug!”  were the most innocuous.  His other ideas included:

“Let’s go to _____ dorm and fight the [other] frat guys there!”

“Let’s find some nerds walking around and beat them up and rob them!”

and “Let’s rape some bitches!!”

I truly believe that if, instead of dissuading him, we had encouraged – or merely condoned – these actions, he would have immediately set his plans into motion.

Z had promised his parents he would only date Muslim girls.  There were not too many Muslim students at our college, though, and most of them were guys.  One of the few potential candidates was an Egyptian RA from my dorm, “Jasmine.”  She was decent-looking: dark skin, big rack, 6/10 face.  Body unknown because she always wore one of those robes (and covered her hair).  She was a sweet, smart, friendly girl.

Occasionally Jasmine and I would talk, and she would inevitably steer the conversation to Z.  “Oh, how is Z doing?  He’s so bashful.  I try to get him to go to the Muslim Student Union socials, but he’s always busy studying or working out…”

“Oh yeah, Jasmine,” Z would say, when H or I mentioned her name.  “I would totally [random brutal, degrading – sometimes physically impossible – sex act] her. Nah, but she’s a good girl.  I could see us getting married.”

It took two years for them to finally go on a date – and by all accounts, it was a bust.  Z was extremely shy and uptight.  While Jasmine batted her eyes and asked him open-ended questions about his interests, Z mostly grunted in response. (Even though – fortunately for Jasmine – this wasn’t a cheat day, Z at least ate the restaurant food instead of bringing his tupperware of chicken.)

I haven’t seen Z since he graduated, but I know one thing about him.  He’s a dentist.  So if you go to a new dentist and it’s a 270 lb angry-looking Pakistani guy, and he tells you to OPEN.  You’d better do it.  Unless it’s a cheat day.  Then run.


5 thoughts on “Gym Hero #3 – "Z"

  1. Man your stories are great. People used to steer clear of me in high school when i was working out. It might just be that they didn’t know how to react to a awkward 180 pound guy who could squat 400 for reps and wrestled the 280 class and usually placed 2nd or 3rd. Always lost to a guy from another school in tournaments we used to call him beast machine 6 6 and 280 pounds at 7% bf. Pretty sure he juiced but he would usually slaughter/manhandle me in the first round.

    Sadly I could never be like Z, OX or White Lightning. Don’t have it in me and I guess I’m not motivated enough anymore. Plus lost all my interest for wrestling or life. All I remember from high school is people used to call me names and just hanging out with my crush (current).

  2. Pingback: Bacne Story | Coach's Blog

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