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You’ve changed, Dwayne.
Dear The Rock,
I’ve written those words a lot in the past four years, never asking you for anything but more inspiration to lift heavier, work harder, and keep my eye on the prize. That prize could have been anything—from having bigger muscles to running faster; from the pure joy of pumping iron to simply feeling confident. Every rep, every pound I’ve lifted, I’ve thought, “What would the Rock think of me now?”
Having been super chill about our friendship so far, I figured it’d be cool to invite you to my birthday party this year. I’d written to you long enough. Nothing special, just a casual hangout over bourbon with some close friends—you being among the top ten. Unfortunately, I never got an answer.
“He’s super busy,” I told myself. I understand that churning out five blockbusters a year is no easy feat, and you can’t just drop everything to attend some random gym rat’s birthday party, let alone make the commitment to becoming his best bro. No hard feelings.
But then, this week, I turn on my computer, check my Internet channels, and what do I see? You officiating some guy’s wedding. I was jealous but didn’t want to take it personally. Then I looked a little bit closer: According to the Houston Chronicle, the wedding was on May 16th, the same day as my birthday party.
Look, a simple “can’t make it” would have been plenty.
Who is this guy, even? A writer for Conan who stars alongside a former colleague of yours, Chris Jericho, in a Comedy Central webseries. Sounds like he’s pretty well-connected. Me? I’m just a regular schmoe, a member of the general public, down here in the trenches, wiping my own sweat off my own bench. I feel like I’ve been lifting all this weight all these years for nothing. You always said you were “the people’s champion,” but if you ask me, you’re just the checkbook’s champion.
Nothing’s changed since high school. It’s all just one big cool kids’ club, isn’t it? And you’re the star quarterback. When I lifted my first barbell, I thought about how excellent it’d be to build up my muscles and drive fast cars, just like you do on your Instagram. Then I found your philosophy seeping into the creative side of my brain, manifesting through haikus and short essays.
My attitude changed—for the better, I thought. Every time I flipped a tire, I imagined it was a jabroni, that I was toppling a pillar of the system. Strength became an idea, a symbol.
I don’t know what else I have to do to get you to be my pal, to wish me a happy birthday. I guess have no other choice but to become you, to look in the mirror and stop seeing myself. You will be the face that stares back at me, eyebrow raised.
It’s only a matter of time until I surpass you, Mr. Johnson. With each rep I lift and mile I run, I become more and more like The Rock the world came to know. I will be the the brahma on your arm, my septum pierced, puffing smoke from my nostrils. I will be the smell of what you were cooking all along.
You made a big mistake skipping my birthday, Dwayne Johnson. Big mistake. Next time I see you, it’ll be in the ring… or Hell.
Editor’s note: The author of this letter is on extended medical leave after finding himself stuck beneath a barbell wearing a “Team Bring It” shirt, his head freshly shaved.
Illustration by J. Longo
Feliks Garcia was a reporter and essayist whose work for the Daily Dot focused on social justice issues, internet culture, and the Rock. He was a staff writer for the Independent when he passed away in February 2017 after suffering a heart attack. He was 33.