I was living with my parents and finishing my education. No matter what I did, it always seemed like gravity was pulling me backwards. I needed a better job, I needed to lose weight, I needed my own place, but time, money, and energy got sucked into a black hole I couldn’t understand. Women were running my life and I needed to escape into a den of masculinity, so I looked at the real estate adds. I found a house with some acreage and called on the place.
“Yeah, we have a vacancy,” the voice said over the phone. “You can check out the place today if you want to.”
“I’ll be right over,” I said.
“Ian, where are you going? You need to do your laundry and clean up the kitchen.”
“I’m going out mom.” I held my breath when I left. This was my last chance.
I found the place, easy enough. It was at the end of a long drive. Muscle cars and motorcycles were parked out front. My pickup truck had previously belonged to my 80-year-old aunt and didn’t fit in.
“You called about the rental?” A bald man asked.
My name’s Richard.” He shook my hand and crushed it. It was like he could tell how desperate I was. I walked inside. There were half-empty beer bottles lying everywhere. A poker game was going-on in the corner and it looked like the players were trying to stay awake.
“More coffee,” a guy shouted. A kid that looked like me brought a tray of steaming espresso shots to the group. Most of the furniture was adjustable weight equipment and the testosterone in the air was palpable.
“How much is the rent?” I asked.
I looked at the room. There was a boxing bag in the corner and an army cot next to it.
“I’ll take it,” I said.
“It’ll cost you 50 bucks to use the weight equipment.”
With that, I moved in.
I noticed the guys were eating bachelor food every day, but they never gained any weight. There were pizza boxes and Chinese food containers stuffed to the brim in the trash cans out back. Being around so much fast food added another inch to my waistline.
“Richard, why do these guys stay so muscular and cut?” I asked.
“Well, we don’t normally tell new residents. It’s a big secret and to tell you the truth, not fully understood. The guys here all eat the cucumbers out back. They were here when we got here. There’s something unnatural about them. They suppress the appetite and cause us to put on muscle. They may even make you smarter.”
I thought he was pulling my leg, but he was too serious about it. When I went into the garden, it was full of cucumbers. They grew everywhere. They even grew outside of the garden. It was like a testosterone cucumber paradise.
As the days wore on, the guys let me try one of the cucumbers and sure enough, my body started to morph. I got muscles and lost all of my fat. My last college classes were easy. Everything in my life began to change. I met a great girl and she wanted us to get a place together.
So, I told Richard about it and he said, “Okay.”
I packed my stuff and picked a cucumber.
“I’m afraid you can’t take that with you,” Richard said.
“Why?” I asked.
“This place is special and it continues to be special because the cucumbers grow here and only here. If they get out into the larger world, what we have here is just a bunch of bachelors who can’t move on with their lives.”
“I understand,” I said. I got my duffel together and said goodbye to the guys. They looked at me like I was a traitor, but I felt like I escaped another trap.
“Once you leave, you can’t come back,” Richard said. I shook his hand and crushed it.
I moved in with my girlfriend who looked at me like she had pinned down a Greek god. I looked like one, but I knew it wouldn’t last very long. So, in the dead of night, I went back to the bachelor pad. I snuck over the fence into the garden and cut myself a cucumber.
One of the strong men walked amongst the vegetables to take a leak and I wondered if there was some kind of masculine symbiotic relationship between the guys and the cucumbers.
“Stop, cucumber thief!” He shouted. But I was gone. I potted my cucumber in my apartment and it quickly grew into more.
My girlfriend wondered why I had such an obsession growing cucumbers. “They smell funny,” she said.
The next evening, I noticed my potted plant was missing. “What happened to it?” I demanded.
“Threw ’em in the yard waste.”
I ran to the trash bins.
“It’s too late,” she said. “The guy came by and picked ’em up this morning.”
I couldn’t go back to the bachelor pad; security was too tight. Masculinity had slipped through my fingers once again.
“Ian, can you take your laundry out and clean the kitchen?” My girlfriend asked.
“Yesss,” I said. I had traded one mother for another and I longed for the world between worlds where I felt like a man.