I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. By met, I mean I hacked into my ex’s Peloton account to get a look at this Dean, the chisel-chested, side-burned Peloton instructor who enchanted her into purchasing a middle-class exercise contraption that took up our entire East Harlem flat. This con-man, albeit with ripped abs, also caused her to rethink our marriage based on my lack of physique due to my career as a writer that kept me hunched over a typewriter that I won’t bother to talk about. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the Peloton.
My ex’s Peloton fees being automatically deducted each month, I could no longer afford rent on the East Harlem flat. I was living with my Aunt in Paterson, NJ. She, too, had a Peloton and set me up with my own handle, SalCycle57, and suggested I start looking a bit more like Dean if I hoped to find a new girl. As soon as Dean’s 30-Minute Intervals & Arms class began, my ex flew to the top of the leader board, and she and Dean raced like holy lightning across the virtual be-all, merrily, sweatily. Barely able to turn the pedals, I shambled after them as I’ve been doing all my life, mad over Dean’s abs, mad over my lost ex, mad to burn, burn, burn calories, chest burning, groin burning, everything aflicker like a yellow candle across the starlit tango, or an overweight novelist who spontaneously combusts in his Aunt’s basement, igniting the entire block and everyone goes “Huhhh?"
All we did in those days was pedal while Dean shouted into the theoretical wind in an encouraging yet exasperated tone as we raced, raced, further. We were always looking for Dean’s further. “Further, you whiny brats,” Dean would shout through the screen, and off we would ramble, our maniacal herd of bourgeois health nuts, in search of Dean’s beloved further. Dean loved the imaginary and non-picturesque hills created by turning the resistance a little to the right. “Just a little further, you proletariat dweebs,” and I would try to appease Dean because I yearned for everyone’s cyber acceptance, and Dean’s real abs, the pace and haste and further and resistance annihilating breath, cleaving vision until all was a black sea of corporeal nothing. I awoke on my Aunt’s floor, having achieved my personal best Peloton time while emancipating my depths across the seat and handlebars and part of the bicycle’s screen upon which Dean led a five-minute post-ride stretch.
After the incident, I was no longer permitted to use my Aunt’s Peloton. My writing career in tatters, I took a night janitorial job at the Planet Fitness in the local shopping plaza so I could use their bikes after hours. Oh! the places I went (nowhere!), the things I saw (Dean, yelling through the screen to pedal further!), the people I met (CarloMarxGlutes, SweatyEdDunkel, OldBullLean!) One night, during Dean’s 60-minute Power Zone Endurance Ride, I thought I saw God in the phosphorescent ceiling lights in the form of sunburnt clouds that pointed a finger shouting, ‘Paradise, stop screwing around on that damn bike and mop the floors.’ It was the night security guard, Greta. We loved each other madly.
And then one day Dean was gone. He took a job as a morning show meteorologist, that toothy smile and those steel abs beneath an $800 Tom Ford dress shirt suited to reading America the weather. To think I rode hundreds of miles and lost nineteen pounds, all because of Dean. It was time to stop exercising and start living. “Old Dean’s gone,” I told Greta. “I’m ordering Chipotle,” she replied. “Want anything?” You bet I did.
So in Paterson, when the sun goes down over the shopping plaza, and I sit on the old broken-down treadmills on which gym rats wasted their day heaving and hawing, I think of Popeye’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Or maybe I’m in the mood for Shake Shake. In the immensity of these menus, nobody knows what to order for anybody since Greta and I can get anything we want delivered in minutes! I think of Dean’s weather report that day and how completely unbelievably infallibly wrong it was. I even think of Dean’s further that we never found. I think I’ll go with the chicken sandwich.