Sunday – 12:30pm
I’m standing at the security gate outside of Kaleb’s apartment complex waiting for him to let me in. He’d told me to be here at exactly 12pm because he hates waiting on people. So when I rolled up at noon on the dot I texted him to let him know I’d arrived.
He texted back saying he’d be right out which clearly was not the case because thirty minutes later I was still waiting on him with my hands full of gear and two giant bags of food from Casa Vega.
Casa Vega was a Mexican restaurant / cultural staple of The Valley famous for its dim-lit environment, sadistic bartenders and overpriced food made in a kitchen where rodents were known to congregate. Its patrons were a mish-mash of C-list actors, masochistic day drinkers and up and coming pornstars (no pun).
Still, for all its pock-marks and public health hazards the establishment held a certain amount of charm and allure and I’d spent many an afternoon drinking myself stupid at the bar which is what I wished I was doing now instead of waiting around on a person who detests waiting around on other people.
I text him again in ALL CAPS reminding him I was still at the front gate and had food that was getting colder by the second.
As I continue to wait I take stock of the immense amount of cuisine he insisted I bring for his girlfriend in exchange for her allowing me to practice blow drys on her all day.
Taking it all in I begin to wonder just how obese this woman must be because there was enough food here to feed an entire zoo for a week.
Two burrito dinners, a Mexican pizza, a lobster quesadilla, 3 orders of taquitos, a shrimp enchilada, a chicken enchilada, a cheese enchilada, 2 orders of chips and guac, a nacho supreme, 3 chicken tacos, 3 beef tacos, 2 orders of chicken mole’, 5 churros and a large horchata.
There was no doubt in my mind that this girl had to be the size of a two-ton truck because there was at least one ton of food in my possession.
“Dude, what the fuck?” I ask as he finally waddles out wearing a dirty t-shirt, crusty jeans and socks.
“What?” he asks in total aloofness, opening the gate to let me in.
“I’ve been out here for a half-hour.”
“Oh, I got side-tracked.” he says, leading me through the courtyard.
“I can’t remember.”
“How can you not remember, you were just doing it!”
“My brain gets foggy when I don’t take my meds.”
“Then why didn’t you take them?”
“Don’t worry, I just did.”
“Well a lot of good that does me now.”
“Did you bring the food from Casa Vega?”
“What do you think are in these bags with the words ‘Casa Vega’ on them?”
“Did you order everything I told you to?”
“It was a king’s ransom but yeah.”
“Good, because when my girlfriend doesn’t get everything she wants it can be an explosive situation.”
“I think eating this much food from Casa Vega can be an explosive situation.” I say as we get to his door and he ushers me in.
“Take your shoes off so the carpet doesn’t get dirty.”
I look at his carpet and wonder why he’s worried about getting something dirty that’s already the color of chimney soot. Then I look around the rest of his place and realize the carpet should be the least of his concerns.
Strewn throughout his living room are piles of clothes, boots and shoes. On his warped coffee table sits a dirty bong, crumbled up fast-food bags, used dental floss, an overflowing ashtray and a dead plant.
A show about World War II is playing on his big screen TV and on his oversized, soiled couch lay a pair of chewed-on PS3 controllers, scattered tools, snowboarding gear and a cat that looks over at me and meows.
“That’s Calvin.” he says, grabbing the food and steering his way through the living room and up two steps that lead into his kitchen / dining area where a motorcycle rests on a stand with half its mechanical guts spilled out beneath it.
Every light is on exposing all the dents, scuffs and smoke stains on the walls and the entire unit smells like a musky army surplus store.
I reluctantly take my shoes off and with great apprehension ask him where the bathroom is so I can pee.
“First door on the right.” he says, nodding towards the hallway behind him.
I carefully walk to the bathroom making sure I don’t step on anything that could infect me with tetanus or hepatitis.
Since its door is closed I prepare myself for whatever terrors lie beyond it thinking that everything I’ve just experienced has primed me for what’s about to come next.
I say my prayers, hold my breath and then fling the door open.
My eyes can’t believe what they’re seeing.
The bathroom is immaculate.
Where I expected to see a mirror splattered with toothpaste there’s instead a crisp, unsullied reflection in it.
The sink is spotless and free of any debris or random shit piled on its countertop.
The walls are a bright white as are the towels that hang from a polished towel bar.
The glass doors on the shower are crystal clear and its inside is cleaner than a nun’s thoughts, no sign of rot or decay.
I stand here feeling like I’ve come across a pristine island after floating in a sea of garbage and wonder how someone as grimy as Kaleb can have a bathroom as spotless as this.
And then it hits me…he must not ever use it which is why it looks so sanitary and he looks like he crawled out of a dumpster.
That was the only explanation.
That or there was a secondary bathroom he used which was the real horror show.
I walk over to the toilet recalling a rumor I’d heard at school about Kaleb being the one responsible for leaving disgusting, unflushed dumps in the men’s bathroom as some sort of vile joke.
So as I lift the lid I brace myself to see a glob of human waste sitting in the bowl like a pile of wet mud surrounded by a rim speckled with urine and pube flakes.
But to my surprise it’s empty, the toilet bowl and its water look fresh enough to wash my face in and its rim is a cool, sparkling ivory.
“One question…actually two.” I say coming out. “Why is your bathroom so clean?”
“What’s your other question?” he asks, taking out the last of the food and hunting for a place to put it as Calvin leaps up on the counter to inspect it all with his nose.
“Where’s your girlfriend?”
“On her way.” he says, taking a bite out of one of the churros and then tossing it back in its bag. “And the bathroom is clean because I bathe in it and anything I bathe in has to be as sterile as a hospital.”
“Why is that?”
“Because I’m a germaphobe.”
He’s a germaphobe.
I look at him and wonder if he has any idea just how much of a walking contradiction he is as he chomps into the hard shell of a taco and its contents free-fall onto his gummy floor.
“Whatever you say, man. Where would you like me to set-up?”
“Here.” he says, shuffling over to the motorcycle and kicking its discarded parts to the side, remembering the hard way that he’s not wearing shoes.
“Motherfucker!” he yells, jumping around on his uninjured foot with his taco still in hand.
He jumps down the hall then jumps back with a folded up lawn chair and hands it to me. I set it up along with my gear while he continues to eat.
“I still can’t believe Charlie never showed you how to do a proper blow dry.”
“I mean, she showed us how, maybe it just didn’t click with me you know?”
“Don’t make excuses for her. As a Core instructor she should’ve made sure everyone could do something as rudimentary as a blow dry and it’s a disgrace that she didn’t. She should be ashamed of herself but she’s too high and mighty to do that.”
“Wow man you’ve really got a grudge against her.”
“No. I just think she’s a phony. She puts on this goody-two shoes act at school and everyone loves her but I know she’s not like that.”
“And how do you know that?”
He stares at me, chewing his food with his mouth open.
“You guys dated didn’t you?”
“If you even wanna call it that.” he says in between crunches.
“I fucking knew it!”
“Yeah, well, keep it to yourself or I’ll deny I ever told you.”
“Fine, fine. So what happened?”
“Hardly anything. She was dating some guy and they broke-up right before I started working at Paul Mitchell. We started hooking-up and then one day she just quit talking to me. I found out later she’d gotten back with her ex who’s just one big mountain of a man-child.”
As he wipes his hands on his grubby t-shirt the way a toddler would I wonder if he sees the irony in referring to another person as a man-child.
And while picturing someone as elegant and sophisticated as Charlie being with someone as crass and foul as Kaleb was unsettling it also wasn’t that surprising because I could attest firsthand that Charlie had a soft-spot for damaged men.
Remember, she could have failed me on my Practical Exam in Core for being shitfaced but instead allowed me to pass, putting faith in me that I’d get myself straightened out before going onto The Floor.
So I thought her penchant for tending to wounded puppies was an admirable trait, albeit sooner or later one of those puppies was bound to bite her, but still, it’s good to know there’s people like Charlie in the world who will take care of those of us who aren’t always good at taking care of ourselves.
And regardless of Kaleb’s opinion of her, which no doubt stemmed from his ego being bruised, I still held her in high regard thinking she was a kind and authentic person.
That being said, there was still one question burning in my mind like a California wildfire.
“What was she like in bed?”
“HA! She was-“
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
“She’s here.” Kaleb says limping towards the door.
“Who’s here? And what about Charlie?”
“My girlfriend is here. And forget about Charlie.”
“How can I forget about what it’s like to have sex with Charlie?”
“Easy, I did until you just asked me.” he says as he gets to the door and something more important than Charlie’s bedroom performance crosses my mind.
“HEY!!!” I scream.
“How’d your girlfriend get to the door without having to wait at the gate?”
“She has the code to open it.”
“Why didn’t you give me the code so I didn’t have to stand out there all day?”
“You didn’t ask.”
As he opens the door in walks a very tall, very attractive, slender lady with long, auburn red hair, milk white skin and emerald eyes that twinkle, a far cry from the sloppy, behemoth, beast of a woman I was expecting to see judging by all the food I was told to bring here on her behalf.
Upon looking at her one question gnaws at my brain:
How is Kaleb able to attract such hot women?
First Charlie and now this girl? Seriously, what was his fucking secret?
A filthy home?
If I wasn’t so dumbfounded I’d be crying at the injustice of it all.
Clad in a sports bra that shows off her hourglass tummy and a pair of yoga pants that accentuate her lean legs, she hops her way around Kaleb’s wrecked apartment like a gazelle leaping on the plains of the Serengeti.
And as she springs into the kitchen and moves around in a slinky and seductive way I ask myself how it is I know this girl because there’s an eerie familiarity about her but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Meanwhile she’s putting her fingers on every piece of food by picking and nibbling at it much to Kaleb’s dismay because he is a germaphobe after all.
“Don’t touch the food with your hands, they could be dirty!” he yells, shuffling into the kitchen.
“My hands are the cleanest thing in this landfill.” she says, grabbing the quesadilla and biting into it.
“And why didn’t you take your shoes off?”
“Because I don’t wanna get gangrene.” she says with a mouthful of tortilla, cheese and lobster.
“You know I hate it when you don’t follow the rules.”
“Your rules are goofier than a clown on acid.”
Kaleb gives her a plate and fork and she dishes a pile of food onto it commenting how happy she is that everything she loves has been ordered for her.
And as she shovels it all in her mouth like she’s a contestant in an eating contest I wonder how she’s able to keep such a lean and striking figure.
I tell myself it has to be the result of either bulimia, cocaine or obsessive exercise…or a combination of all three, commonly referred to as the L.A. diet.
“Who’re you?” she asks me while cramming half an enchilada in her mouth.
“This is Stuke, the guy from school I told you about.”
“Oh right, you’re here to learn how to do a blow-job.”
“Blow dry.” Kaleb says correcting her.
“Same difference.” she tells him.
“Huge difference, you should know.” he says, dipping a chip in guac.
“You don’t have to be rude, Hobbit.”
“Hobbit?” I ask.
“Yeah, that’s his nickname cuz he’s always hobblin’ around like one of those poorly dressed midgets in that movie about the rings.”
I burst out laughing at the pure accuracy of this.
“Fuckin’ funny isn’t it?” she chortles with a mouthful of food while Kaleb shakes his head and loads another chip with guac.
It was becoming clear that the reason these two were together had less to do with their opposite exteriors and everything to do with their synonymous interiors. Two peas in a pod gleefully pissing on one another.
“Hurry up and finish so you can wash your hair and we can get started.” he tells her.
“Fine.” she says with a roll of her eyes.
She finishes her food and then goes to the bathroom to wash her hair.
“And don’t forget to clean your hair out of the drain!” he screams.
“Blah blah fucking blah.” she yells back from behind the door.
“What a malcontent.” he complains.
“She looks really familiar.” I tell him.
“She’s an actress.”
“Yeah? Anything I would’ve seen her in?”
“Depends on what you watch.”
I tell myself I must’ve seen her in some random show on one of those worthless channels like Syfy, Lifetime or CNN.
Yet I still have that unshakable feeling I know her from somewhere else.
She comes back with a towel wrapped around her head and sits in the lawn chair. Kaleb has me take the towel off and comb through her hair while Calvin jumps up on her lap and purrs.
“Aww, Calvin, you purr as pretty as my own pussy.”
“Did you bring product?” Kaleb asks me.
“Why not? You can’t do a good blow dry without product.” he says and then goes to his hall closet.
“You didn’t tell me to bring product. You told me to bring my gear and food.”
“Thanks for doing that by the way.” his girlfriend says. “Although it’s gonna keep Kaleb on the shitter all night cuz he’s got irritable bowel syndrome.”
“Babe! What the fuck?” Kaleb says while digging around in his closet until he finds a couple bottles and tosses them at me. “You know I don’t like you talking about that to people!”
“Ugh, the big speech.” she says to Calvin as she pets him.
“Seriously, keep that shit to yourself.” he says scolding her.
“Uh that’s something you should work on doing, isn’t that right Calvin? Yeah, daddy with all his poopie problems might have to start using your litter box.”
“I’d kill myself if I didn’t have a crippling fear of pain.” he tells me. “Now put both products in her hair and make sure you disperse them evenly.”
I do what I’m told while his girlfriend continues to stroke Calvin’s back.
“Next you wanna section her hair into quadrants so whatever you’re not working on stays out of your way.” he shows me how to section the hair properly and then moves to the next part.
“Now you’re gonna take a sub-section from the quadrant you’re working on and make sure it’s no wider than the width of your brush.”
I do this and wait to hear what follows.
“Start at the root and use maximum tension because if you don’t it’ll fuck everything up, leaving you with a ball of frizz. Also make sure you keep your dryer and your brush parallel at all times.”
I place my round brush at her root and my dryer parallel to it and then start blow drying.
“That’s not enough tension. Seriously, yank the shit out of it, if it hurts the client, trust me, they’ll let you know. Otherwise, pull as hard as you can and make sure she keeps her neck stiff for resistance, that’s the key to a successful blow dry.”
“I don’t mind if you pull my hair, Stewie.” she says.
“Sure, sure. Like I said, I don’t mind, it feels good. Isn’t that right, Calvin? Yes! I love having my hair pulled.”
I pull and tug on her hair making sure I’m employing maximum tension.
“Keep spinning the brush for shine.” he says.
While keeping tension, pulling and spinning are hard to do all at the same time, I manage.
“Okay, now when you get to the ends twirl the brush away from her face.”
As I do this I have no doubt that I look as awkward as a baby horse trying to walk its first steps but I’m able to pull it off.
“Perfect.” he says as my body fills up with the joy of accomplishment and the feeling that I can be taught to do something and do it good.
“Now take another sub-section and do it all again.”
I repeat what I did, pulling, yanking, spinning and twirling, section after section, all the while trying to remember where it is I’ve seen his girlfriend before.
And as I finish the last sub-section of my first quadrant I’ve become more confident in applying tension and yanking, doing it with an almost barbaric sort of strength.
This in turn makes her head bob and as she stiffens her neck up to maintain resistance little moans escape her mouth, not ones of discomfort but as if she’s enjoying it.
And the more I pull, and yank the more she resists and moans and squiggles around in her chair.
And then…it hits me all at once.
I know how I know her. I know why she looks so familiar.
And from this point on I lose all sense of concentration and focus on the task at hand.