Chapter 32



“Thatsa me!”

“It’s Stuke.”

“Aloha, what are you up to?”

“Calling you.”

“Are you enjoying the experience so far?”

“I can’t complain.”

“She’s happy to hear that.”

“Good. Anyway, I was wondering if you’d like to go out again.”

“For more burgers and beer?!”

“I was thinking something a little nicer…”

“What’s nicer than burgers and beer?”

“Sushi and sake. There’s this awesome spot in Santa Monica that’s great for a date and I was thinking that-“

“Date? As in me going on a date…with you?”

“I’m not asking on someone else’s behalf. Is there a problem with you going on a date with me?”   

“I don’t think so.”

“You don’t think so as in you don’t wanna go or you don’t think so as in it’s not a problem to go?”

“That one.”

“Which one?”

“The last one.”

“It’s not a problem to go?”


“Yes it is a problem to go?”

“No, it’s not a problem.”

“To go?”

“Yes…I mean yes to the no, it’s not a problem.”

“To go?”

“To go.”

“Ok, cool.”

“There’s just one thing.”

“You mean that last thing wasn’t enough?”

“What thing?”

“That thing we just…never mind. What’d you wanna tell me?”

“Uh…I forgot now. I’m confused.”  

“You’re not alone.”

“Oh wait! I remember what it is!”

“I’m listening.”

“I’ve never been on a date before.”

“Did I just hear you correctly?”

“If you heard the words ‘Mairena has never been on a date before then yes, you heard me correctly, your ears weren’t lying.”         

“You’re a quarter of a century old, how could you have never been on a date before?”

“I dunno, no one has ever taken me on one or asked me on one. Is that weird?”

“Super weird. What kind of people have you gone out with?”

“Apparently the kind that don’t believe in going on dates.”

“But you’ve been in at least one relationship during your life, right?”

“Two actually.”   

“Then how…you know what, we can talk about it later. Why don’t I pick you up at 7 on Saturday.”

“A.m. or p.m.?”

“Unless you want sushi for breakfast I’d say 7 p.m.

“Okay it’s a date! Wow…I’ve never said that before. Can I say it again?”

“Knock yourself out.”

“It’s a date! It’s a date! It’s a date! Weeeee, this is fun! Ok, I’ll see you tomorrow at school, by-eee.”

Even though I’d broken my promise to Kaleb by texting Justine earlier in the evening I felt I could atone for it by following his advice on asking Myday out on a bonafide date afterwards. I figured one misdeed followed by one good deed amounted to total equilibrium on the morality scales.

And while I was 90% Myday and 10% Justine I couldn’t help but feel there was this fog of ambiguity that surrounded Myday when it came to how she thought and felt. It was clear that she spoke a love language so foreign to me that I could neither understand nor decipher it.      

Justine on the other hand, was the polar opposite (and according to Kaleb, just plain bi-polar). Because within the timespan of our brief texting she had asked me out tonight (which I declined) and then followed it up by asking me out tomorrow night (which I accepted).

If Myday was this haze of confusing vagueness then Justine was a bright, blaring light of certainty. The only problem was this light could be attached to a freight train barreling towards me at top speed.

So on one side of the barbed wire fence was a woman who had the propensity for being cold, calculative and malicious and on the other side was a woman who had the propensity for being aloof, unclear and puzzling. My job, as I saw it, was to stay balanced atop this razor-sharp fence without slipping and slicing my nutsack open.   

But never been on a date before?

What planet did Myday come from and how many light-years was it away from the one the rest of us inhabited?


“You talked to Justine last night didn’t you?” Kaleb asks with a conviction as icy as his blue eyes.

“What makes you say that?” I respond, pretending to peruse the Starbucks menu while we wait in line so I can avoid the accusatory look on his face.  

“Because while you were working on your client she kept looking at you like a dog in heat from the row over.”  

“Really?!” I say, facing him.   

“Dude. You promised.” he groans while shaking his head of shaggy hair.

“I know! But if there’s one thing I can promise it’s that I’m horrible at keeping promises.”

“You know, I’ve given you every warning I can that she’s a 10-ton twat, you’re just gonna have to find out on your own when she squashes you like an ant. When are you gonna hang out with her?”


“I guess the sooner you jump into that quicksand the sooner it’ll all be over. I take it this means no more Myday?”



“We’re going out on Saturday.”

“Jesus Karen Carpenter Christ! It’s dodgy enough to shit where you sleep but shitting AND pissing where you sleep? That’s just E.coli waiting to happen. Did you hear NOTHING I said about dating more than one woman in the same ecosystem?”

“I did! I just thought that-”

“NO! NO, NO! That’s your problem, you’re not thinking when it comes to your dating life!”

“Oh I’m the one that’s not thinking?”

“Yes YOU.”

“Don’t you think that’s the Negro calling the ghetto black right now?”

“The Negro calling the–what in the five-star fuck are you talking about?”

“There’s a rumor going around that you might be involved with a student by the name of Kaylie which, if true, would be a HUGE non-thinking crime on your part wouldn’t you say?”

“Who’d you hear that from?” He asks with a petrified look as we reach the counter.


“Hi fellas, what can I get for you today?” our barista Shorty asks full of bright-eyed cheer.

“For starters you can get this son of a bitch to say who ‘they’ are!” Kaleb yells.

“I’m sorry, Kaleb but employees aren’t allowed to interfere with the relationships of our customers.”

“You’ll have to excuse him today, Shorty, he’s on his period and a little sensitive.”    

“No problem, we have feminine products in the bathroom for your convenience.”

“Shorty, I come in here every day, you know I’m a man, why would I need a tampon?”

“Because they’re also good at soaking up tears and right now you look like you’re about to cry.” Shorty says straight-faced. “So would you like your usual venti upside down caramel macchiato with three extra shots of espresso, extra whipped cream and half and half instead of milk to make you feel better?”

“He will because if you can’t tell already, health is his #1 concern. Add a black coffee to that and I’ll pay for both.”  

“That’s nice of you, Stuke. Should I put it under your name or just ‘Son of a Bitch’?”

“Dealer’s choice.” I tell him as Kaleb and I grab a seat.

“Don’t think that just because you bought me a coffee-“

“An 8 dollar coffee.”

“That you’re off the hook, little worm. I want you to tell me who you heard this ‘rumor’ from.”

Now I had heard this rumor from three different people in the last two days who, as far as I knew, weren’t in the business of baking bullshit which lent credibility to their story. The real litmus test, however, was gauging Kaleb’s reaction to this news which based on his current state of agitation pointed towards the allegations being true.

But knowing Kaleb and how much he was apt to act like, well…Kaleb, I knew I had to handle this thing with care in order to keep his anxiety at bay. Because if that anxiety got out of hand (which it would) it would lead him to doing something irrational which would lead him to losing his job at Paul Mitchell which would lead him to blaming me for everything.         

So I did the best thing I could do to diffuse the situation.   

“Relax, I was just making it up, no one is talking about you guys.”

I lied to his face.

“I don’t believe you, young grasshopper. Give me names.”

“Ok, what’s with all the bug references today? I’ve been an ant, a worm and now I’m a fucking grasshopper. Have you been getting high and watching Microcosmos again?”

“You know the insect world fascinates me, but what we’re talking about right now is-“

“I swear on my mother’s grave no one is talking about you.”

“Is your mom dead?”

“I haven’t heard from her in a while so…maybe?”  

“Maybe doesn’t count.”

“Fine. But I promise I was just fucking with you, you’re safe.”

“You just said you were horrible at promises.”

“That’s only when it involves my own welfare.”

“So you’re being honest? No one’s talking? Because I could get fired for a rumor like that.”

“No one has said anything. Just chill out before you give yourself an aneurism.”

“It’s bad enough I’ve got a heart murmur…”

“Which is why you drink a gallon of coffee and smoke a pack of cigarettes every day.”  

“That shit keeps me calm.”

“But you have to admit…”


“Son of a Bitch your order is ready!”

“There IS something going on between you and Kaylie isn’t there?”   

“Alright, Poindexter, why do you think there’s something going on?” he asks as we grab our coffees and head outside.  

“Well, aside from you looking like you were pissing razors when I said people were talking about you two, I noticed you guys have been talking a lot at school.”

“SO? You and I talk a lot at school and that doesn’t mean anything. Besides, I talk to a lot of girls at school because as a teacher that’s my job and most of the students, as you know, are female.”

“And most of those females have a shit look on their face within seconds of talking to you because you’re as charming as a broken septic tank. But not Kaylie. She’s always laughing, smiling and babbling around you non-stop which is super strange because I’ve never seen her talk to anyone at school. So much so that I thought she was a mute for the longest time.”

Kaleb remains mute himself as he laps at his drink and gives me a blank stare while we walk back to school with all the other students on break.

“Are you gonna tell me or not?” I beg, hoping that he comes clean before we reach our destination.

“If I tell you and you repeat it to anyone, there’s gonna be hell to pay. Not just for me but for what I’ll do to you.”

“Sounds sexy.”

He takes a deep breath in anticipation of spilling his guts and then…

“Ok…so for the past two weeks we’ve-“

“Stukeeeeeee.” a voice beckons from behind us at the most inopportune time, prompting us to turn around and see Justine and her friend Leslie striding towards us. 

“Mother of all fuckers.” I mumble to Kaleb.  

“And with that I bid you ado.” he says with a whipped cream smile bigger than the great state of Texas, fleeing the scene at a speed I had no idea his ramshackle of a body could create.

“What’s up, Justine?” I ask while trying to hide my annoyance.   

“Do you think after we do dinner tonight we could go back to your place for a couple of drinks?” she asks while twirling her hair and making Leslie’s eyes roll.

“I don’t see why not.”

“I was hoping you’d say that.” she says as her phone rings. “One sec.” she tells me with a wink and then steps away to answer the call.

“So you two are going out tonight?” Leslie asks with a face full of suspicion.


“And then back to your place where you’ll contribute to a minor?”


“Uh-huh. How old are you?”

“Why? Are you writing a book?”  

“You’re not interesting enough to write about.” she chortles. 

“I agree.”  

“So what is it, 29? 30? 105?”

“Just turned 38.”

“Wow, that’s like super old…and gross.”

“Doesn’t seem to bother your friend.”

“That’s because she’s always in search of a father figure since hers left.”

“Well I’d say she’s found that in you.”

“Aren’t you funny.”

“Depends on your sense of humor. Is there any reason you’re being so awesome today?”

“Yeah. I think it’s shady that a 38yr old man wants to go out with a 19yr old girl.”

“Why is that?”

“Because all you’re interested in is fucking her.”

“Is that so?”

“Well I don’t think you’re hanging out with her because of her conversational abilities or award winning personality.”  

“And here I thought you two were friends.”

“We are.”

“Doesn’t seem like it.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Because I think you’d say nicer things about her if you were friends.”    

“What in the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“Well, so far you’ve said she has daddy issues, can’t hold an intelligent conversation and is so lame that the only thing she has of value is what’s in-between her legs.”  

“I never said any of that!”

“No, but you implied it with everything you did say.”

 “Sorry about that.” Justine chimes as she comes back over while Leslie mad dogs me. “What part of town are you in, Stuke?”

“Valley Village.”

“Where’s the restaurant?”

“Sherman Oaks.”

“Ok. I’m in Woodland Hills so why don’t we meet at the restaurant?”  

“Works for me. I’ll text you the name and address of the place in a minute.”

“Purrrrfect…by the way, what kind of food is it?”


“Oh my god I love Italian!”

“Right? Who doesn’t?”

“So. Fucking. Cliché’!” Leslie roars before storming off.”

“Except for your friend I guess.”

“I’m sorry she’s just a little-“

“It’s ok, Kaleb is on his period too. They must be synched up.”

“You’re so bad!” she laughs. “I’ll see you in specialty class…and then later on tonight.” she says as she squeezes my arm and then runs to catch up with Leslie.

As she sprints away the enormity of what I’ve put into play smacks me upside the head leaving me with one question burning inside of it like a funeral pyre.

What the fuck have I gotten myself into?

Yesterday when I was arguing with Kaleb about dating more than one woman in the same ecosystem it seemed like a good idea because none of it was real. So of course I was looking at it through the lens of it being something fun and easy.

But now that it was real carrying with it real-world consequences I no longer felt I was looking through the lens of fun and easy but instead looking into the barrel of a gun and playing Russian roulette with two bullets as opposed to one.

But as sobering as this realization was it in no way persuaded me to put the gun down. Because even though I knew this act of carelessness was sure to bring about catastrophic results I was still dead-set on doing it. Nothing was going to stop me from spinning the gun’s chamber and pulling the trigger regardless of who might get hurt.

I didn’t know why I felt the urge to stomp on the gas instead of the brake and put people’s hearts at risk. All I did know was there was a huge hole in my own heart from when Gums had left and instead of doing the work to fill it myself I chose to have others try to fill it for me which only served to dig the hole deeper.        

I told myself I should feel bad for what I was doing but most of my feelings (including remorse, respect and regret) had been hacked away and cauterized by Gums, leaving me only with the feeling of wanting to be wanted by as many people who would want me despite whatever costs may come with that.

I wanted to feel whole again and that would become the sole driving force behind all my actions romantically, even if that drive was on a collision-course with a brick wall.      

This is Wonderland

Chapter 31

Tuesday 11:30 a.m.

“What do you mean you and Myday didn’t make out at all?” Kaleb yells over the roar of my dryer as I
finish blowing out a client named Jan. “That’s like first date criteria.”

“I know, but we didn’t and it was the weirdest thing.”

“Did you even try?”

“Of course I tried. We were standing in the parking lot and I was leaning into her with my hands on her
hips and a smile on my face. You know, the universal sign for ‘let’s stick our tongues in each other’s

“And nothing?”

“Nope. She just looked at me and then gave me a hug and said ‘Okay, by-eee.’ Then got in her truck and

“She drives a truck?”


“Why doesn’t this surprise me? What kind of truck?”

“The pick-up kind.”

“What brand?”

“I don’t know. All l know is that it’s red and has a name.”

“Like, she named her truck the way you name a kid or a pet?”

“Yes, and his name is-“

“It’s a he?”

“Apparently so because his name is Vladimir.”

“Vladimir? They don’t make trucks in Russia, why would she name him that?”

“Fuck if I know, nothing about this girl makes sense.”

“I’m beginning to see that.” Kaleb says as he twists the ends of his molestache. “Are you sure she knew
you were trying to make-out with her?”

“How could she not? Anyone else would’ve gotten the hint, the memo, the vibe and acted accordingly.”

“Yeah but clearly she’s not just anyone else. She drives a truck named Vladimir for God’s sake. But-“

“But what?”

“Maybe she doesn’t think you like her in that way, maybe she didn’t even know it was a date date.

“Why would she think that? I don’t take out girls for burgers and beers just for the fuck of it.”

“Now if that doesn’t scream romance I don’t know what does.” Jan chimes in with sarcasm.

“I’ve gotta agree with Jan on this one. Plus, it took you like three weeks to call her after you got her

“THREE WEEKS?” Jan screams.

“Yeah, so?”

“Waiting that long probably made her think you weren’t interested in being anything other than

“Again, Jan for the win.” Kaleb says as I turn off my dryer and run my fingers through Jan’s hair.

“Here’s the thing, every other girl I’ve dated, hooked-up with, whatever, there was a mutual attraction
and we both knew it and acted on it. But with Myday it’s like she’s running on a different operating
system and it confuses the shit outta me.”

“Oh blame the girl.” Jan says as I take her cape off and she inspects her new do in the mirror.

“I’m not blaming her, I’m just saying that-“

“Hey Kaleb, sorry to bother you but can you sign off on my task sheet for the haircut I just did?” says
Justine, a fellow Future Professional with curvy hips, terrific boobs and long, mahogany hair.

“If you’re sorry for bothering me then why are you doing it?” Kaleb asks in a voice full of snoot, snot and

“You don’t have to be a horse’s ass about it.” she snarls back, shoving her pen and paper in his face.

“But I’m thoroughly bred that way. Get it?”

“Get what?”

“That’s a hard no.” he sighs as he scribbles his initials on her paper.

“How was your weekend, Justine?” I ask in an attempt to diffuse the tension between the two.

“You always ask me that at the beginning of each week.” she says as Kaleb hands her back her pen and
paper with a look of disdain.

“I do?”

“Yeah. And I’m wondering if that’s because you’d like to take me out sometime. Would you like to do

Both Kaleb and Jan look at me as a seductive smile stretches across Justine’s starlet face.


“Good.” she says, writing her number down on the corner of her paper, tearing it off and shoving it into
the front pocket of my pants. “Text me tonight.” she purrs and then saunters off.

“What the fuck was THAT all about.” Kaleb asks with a strange look of concern on his face.

“It would appear that Justine just asked me to ask her out, which I did, and to be honest, I did not see
any of that coming.”

“Boy…” Jan says, picking up her purse. “You’re about to screw yourself in so many ways and none of
them are of the sexual nature.”

“For real, dude. You don’t wanna mess with Justine, she’s all drama.”

“C’mon, she can’t be that bad.” I counter.

“No? How about that shit she started with Shawna that day I was teaching specialty class?”

“When she said it figured that Shawna lived in Watts?”

“Yeah. That’s not something a tiny white girl says to a 200 pound black girl with prison tattoos. Shawna’s
friends had to step in to keep her from shanking Justine with her sheers.”

“That whole thing was a misunderstanding about residential statistics in urban areas.”

“Residential statistics in urban- did you just pull that out of your ass?”


“It’s amazing the things a man can say when the head between his legs is doing all the thinking.” Jan

“Preach.” Kaleb says to Jan as he holds one of his color stained hands up in the air. “And speaking of
dickheads, do you remember that guy Vin who used to go here?”

“Squirrely gutter-punk dude that was always name dropping?”

“Yeah. He dated Justine and after they broke up she went around telling everyone he was a closet-cased
homo who had a fetish for watching gay porn with old men in it.”

“You know, it was common knowledge Vin was sending dick pics to every gay guy here at school
because they were either telling me or showing me. And is there really such a thing as senior-men gay

“Now how the fuck would I know? The thing is nothing good will come of you getting involved with
Justine. She’s unpredictable, reckless and vindictive.”

“All traits that most of the women I’ve been with have in common, soooo?”

“Soooooo she’s also 19.”

“Really? She looks so…mature.”

“Don’t mistake tits and ass for sophistication and sagacity.” Jan interjects.

“Exactamundo.” Kaleb adds. “Not to mention, all the time I’ve spent working with 18 and 19yr old girls I
can honestly say that they’re all basket cases and you wanna know what’s inside Justine’s basket?”

“Oh I give up, what?”

“A fucking cobra that’s gonna sink it’s fangs into you. Plus, what about Myday?”

“Yeah, what about Myday?” Jan asks. “How old is she?”


“That’s the safer bet.” Jan says as her and Kaleb both nod their heads.

“Yeah but I don’t even know if she likes me and it’s obvious that Justine does. Besides, can’t I go on
dates with more than one person?”

“You can, it’s just not smart to date people within the same ecosystem, especially as small as the one
here at school. It’s even less smart to be doing that with someone like Justine who’s more toxic than
Chernobyl 1986.”

“Kaleb, it’s not like I’m gonna end up sleeping with the both of them and then Justine finds out and goes
DEFCON 1 on me.”

“And why don’t you think that could happen?” he asks.

“Because shit like that doesn’t happen to me in the real world ok? Girls only seem to like me one at a
time, not multiple girls at once. So I’m certain that I’m safe from any sort of radioactive fallout,

“Listen, I know from experience that you’re a slow learner and can be super dense…”

“I don’t even know you and can tell you’re those things.” Jan says with a wink.

“You’re both just a never-ending stream of feel-good aren’t you?”

“Anyway, you may not have realized this yet but since the day you started here, you, just like Alice, fell
down a rabbit-hole and ended up in Wonderland.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Things are different in here than they are out there…” Kaleb says, pointing towards Ventura Boulevard.

“Out there women are pursued by men but in here it’s the other way around. This is because straight
men are scarce and scarcity creates value which makes it easy for you to hook up with a bunch of
women, get caught in a spider web of those hook-ups and then get eaten alive. I’ve seen it happen
before and it’s not a pretty sight.”

Kaleb’s words remind of something Rene had said to me the day I enrolled but I couldn’t for the life of
me remember what it was.

“Why do you look constipated?” Kaleb asks.

“Because I’m trying to remember something Rene told me.”

“What’s that? That she’s hungry? Allergic to soap? Wrestles rhinos?”

“No, I remember it being something like a warning and it had to do with ummmm…a unicorn?”

“Now all I can see is a unicorn with a naked Rene on top of it. Thanks, I’m gonna be sick.”

“That’s it!” I yell. “She told me that there’s not many straight guys here which makes me a unicorn and
that every girl at school is gonna wanna ride my sparkly dick to freedom.”

Kaleb and Jan look at me with total bewilderment.

“What? I didn’t say it was sparkly, Rene did.”

“Who’s Rene?”

“You’re better off not knowing.” Kaleb tells Jan. “Listen, I never agree with Rene but on this subject I do.
And like I said, this is Wonderland and Justine…well, she’s the Queen of Hearts around here and if you
fuck her over or she thinks you did then it’s-“

“Off with his head!” Jan yells with glee as she brings her arm down on the back of my neck like it’s an

“No that didn’t hurt at all.” I tell Jan while I rub my injured neck.

“Sorry, I get excited about impending tragedies that don’t involve me. What was your name again,


“Ok. When I pay am I able to book with you in another six weeks?”

“Absolutely!” I say, stoked that this is the first time a client has ever asked to see me again. “Do you like
your cut?”

“Sure. But what I’m really gonna like to see are all the 3rd degree burns you get from playing with fire.”
she says, handing me a five dollar tip and then walking to the front desk.

“Stuke, as much as I think drama is the greatest spectator sport on Earth I’d hate to see you as a player
in that game with Justine because when it ends it will end badly.”

“What could she possibly do that hasn’t been done to me already?”

“Who knows? That’s what makes her dangerous. Take Myday out again, kiss her and make things
happen in that category.”

“Are you all the sudden Team Myday now?”

“Well, other than the fact that she’s a fucking weirdo.” He says, looking two rows over where Myday is
pretending to ice skate around her station while a Learning Leader checks a cut she did. “She seems
pretty chill. Justine on the other hand is zero chill and all kill which is why-“

“Fine, fine, fine, fine, fine! You’ve proven your point, I won’t fuck with Justine, ok?”

“Promise me.”

“Seriously, dude?”


“Alright I promise.”

Tuesday 8:47 p.m.

I’m so glad you texted me Stuke. Are you free to get together tonight?

It would appear that I’m horrible at keeping promises, especially those that are meant to keep me out of harm’s way.

The End is the Beginning

Chapter 30

“Can you draw me an abstract octopus?”

“What does one even look like?”

“How should I know?” she says with a giant smile handing me a pen and paper “It’s abstract!”     

It was Thursday afternoon, Theory class was about to start and I was in my usual spot, a two-person table second row from the stage and off to the side. It’s where Bode and I always sat but since he’d made the full transition from aspiring hair stylist to bonafide rockstar it had been just me and a revolving cast of students filling-in the chair he’d once occupied.

Today’s filler-in was a girl who with her long, jet black hair and striking facial features reminded me of Kat Von D if Ms. D was free of ink.

I’d always noticed her walking around at school and would at times, catch her dancing by herself in some random spot when she thought no one was looking. Other times I’d seen her hovering near my station watching me cut, color and curse my way through a client while she munched on a bag of Hot Cheetos.     

Still, for all the times we were in proximity of one another we’d never exchanged words until today.                        

“Sure.” I tell her, figuring that if she didn’t know what an Octopoda of the abstract variety looked like then anything I came up with would be sufficient.

So I sketched something that took all of ten seconds that had a square head and eight extensions protruding from it that resembled scythes, brooms and toilet-plungers.  

“Here ya go.” I say, presenting her with my masterpiece.

“Ooooooo very nice.” she purrs.

“What’s its name?”

“The octopus?”

“No, yours.”

“Oh, I’m Mairena*.” she says, spitting out a three-syllable word that’s impossible to pronounce unless you’re A. real Latin (which I am not) or B. dialect gifted (again, which I am not).

“Mah- what?”

“Mairena.” she repeats while looking at the drawing and tracing her finger over it.     

“What kind of name is that?”

“The kind that’s hard to say.” she says, beaming up at me with pride.  

“Is it Spanish?”

“Si senor. It means where the ocean meets the shore.

“How poetic. Are you Spanish?”

“I’m Rican but-


“Puerto Rican, but my ancestors are Spanish. Hernan Cortes was my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great uncle.”

“As in Cortes the Conquistador?”

“So you’ve heard of him?”

“Who hasn’t? But how do you know you’re related?”

“Because we have the same last name.”

“That doesn’t mean anything.”

“Uh, excuse me, I think that means everything.”

“Well, Mah-blah-blah, your name isn’t gonna work for me. Anything else I can call you?”



“Yeah. When I was younger my mom used to call me Myday for short and all my friends thought she was saying Mighty so it just stuck.”

“That’s as gay as a rainbow flag. Can I just call you Myday instead?”


“I’m Stuke.”

“I know.”  

“How did you know?”

“Cuz you’re sexual.”

“I’m what?”

“Nothing! English is my second language and I get confused sometimes! Disregard!” she says with a simmering giggle while squirming in her seat and hiding behind her hair.

“Awkward much?”

“Lil bit…but she likes it that way.”

“Who’s she?”

“Meeeee!” she yells as the giggling explodes into laughter causing her eyes to water. “Oh god, my eyeballs are juicing!” she says as she wipes away the tears with her shirt just as our Theory teacher Christine walks onstage.

Christine takes us through a riveting hour-long lecture on hair and skin which keeps getting interrupted with her having to yell at Future Professionals to quit talking, quit looking at their phones and in the case of one narcoleptic student, quit snoring.   

I glance over at Myday who’s paying less attention to the lecture and more attention to the strand of hair she has balanced between her upper lip and nose.  

“It’s my moose-stache” she says when she notices me gawking at her.

There’s no doubt that this girl is fucking weird but it’s the type of weird that’s enchanting and intriguing like a Tim Burton movie. And although she has a somewhat intimidating exterior with the pitch black hair and fierce face there’s a whimsical nature to her that’s disarming and playful.   

At the end of the hour we’re given a practice test that’s supposed to help us prepare for the written part of our state board exam that for me is still a million miles away and it’s a good thing it’s that far off because I fail the practice test in spectacular fashion.

Once theory is over we’re given a 15min break before our specialty class begins so everyone bolts for the nearest exit to make the most of their time.

“Where are you off to?” I ask Myday.  

“Coffee and snacks!” she says, pulling a bag of Hot Cheetos from her purse. “But first I gotta get rid of this pee-belly.”

“What the fuck is a pee-belly?”

“This thing.” she says, lifting up her shirt and showing me a perfectly round pooch protruding from her otherwise toned and muscular core.

“That’s…impressive.” I tell her because I don’t know what the proper response is to someone who’s showing me their stomach that has a piss-balloon in the middle of it.

“What are you gonna do?” she asks.   

“Kill myself slowly.”


“I’m gonna have a cigarette.”

“You smoke?”

“Yes and no. I’m trying to quit so I stopped buying and started bumming which has reduced my access to them and in turn, made me cut down.”

“Oh-ho-ho. Look at you with all the big ideas.” she says as we go our separate ways.        

When I get to the smoking area I come across Jimbo and her new girlfriend Laura who are courageously defying their purity contracts with their aggressive form of PDA. It’s an odd sight to see because Laura is this timid, sophisticated, stylish young woman while Jimbo looks like a garbage truck driver who bare-knuckle boxes and spits chewing tobacco.

Speaking of tobacco…

“Hey Jimmy, can I get a smoke from you?”  

“Motherfucker again? Don’t you have any money?”

“I do, I just can’t commit to a whole pack.”

“Well you’ve bummed an entire pack from me this week already. This is the last one, Fucker.” she gripes as she tosses me a cancer stick then goes back to groping Laura with the ferocity of a lion feeding on a lamb.    

“Can I get a light?”

“Oh for fucks sake.” she moans, stopping her molestation of Laura long enough to light me up and then waving her hand in my face with a sinister smile. “Smell anything fun?”  

“I do and it’s far from fun.”

“And here I thought you liked pussy.” she says as she turns to Laura. “You’re still on my fingers from earlier, babe.” she coos as she sucks on her chubby tatted digits and Laura’s pale face turns a bright beet red.

As I try to enjoy my free cigarette that came at a steep price Kaleb comes from out of nowhere and pulls on my arm to follow him. “We need to talk.” he says in a hurried voice.   

He’d been shitty all morning while helping me with a client but each time I asked him what was wrong he brushed it aside so I was hoping this ‘talk’ would shed some light on whatever gerbil was burrowing up inside his ass.

“What’s up?” I ask when we’re far enough away from the group of future cancer patients to have a one-on-one.  

“****and I broke up last night.” he says, yanking the cigarette out of my mouth and claiming it as his own.  


“I need this more than you. Besides, you’re trying to quit so this is my contribution to your health.”

“Whatever. Why’d you guys break-up?”

“She was cheating.”

“Cheating? As in having sex with someone else?”

“That’s usually what the definition of cheating is.”

“Yeah but I’m just wondering how it would be considered cheating since…”

“She does porn?”

“In a word; Yes.”

“Ugh, it’s like I said before, that’s just a job. But this was different because it was a betrayal of my trust.”

“Well then I’m sorry to hear that, dude.”  

“You know, I saw this whole thing coming, I really did. I saw every red flag but I decided to color them green because that’s her favorite color. Fuck my life I’m such a fucking idiot.”    

“You gonna be ok?”

“Do I look ok?”

“Do you ever?”

“Thanks, asshole.”


I watch Kaleb standing there, puffing on my cigarette and staring at the ground as if it’s going to offer him some sort of advice to alleviate his pain. I’d done this for weeks after Gums had left and for all the time I spent looking at the ground not once did it offer me any words of relief.

That relief would only be found on the other side of all the pain I had to work through. It was a long, arduous journey and one I knew I still hadn’t completed but I couldn’t deny that I was much better now than before and I knew that eventually Kaleb would be too.

But in the meantime I figured I should try to be there for him the best I could.    

“Was it someone she works with?”  

“Someone she…god damn dude, what’s with you and your fucking questions?”

I’d like the record to state that I never claimed my best was any good.  

“What difference does it make if it was someone she works with?” he complains.  

“I don’t know…you know…a lot of affairs start at the workplace so…”

“You’re saying if it was with a co-worker how could it be considered cheating since she’s probably already had sex with them?”

“Your words not mine.”  

“It wasn’t someone she works with, it was her therapist ok?”

“Like her therapist therapist?” I ask, pointing towards my head.

“Yes her therapist therapist.” he says, tapping hard on his temple.  

“How’d you find out?”

“I’d been feeling like something was off for the past month. She was canceling on me with lame excuses, being more sporadic than usual and just treating me like I was a nuisance. So when she came over last night and fell asleep I got into her phone and came across some texts between the two of them.”

“And then what?”

“I woke her up and confronted her about it and she came clean right away.”

“At least that’s good.”  

“No, that’s not good, that was the most insulting part.”

“How’s that again?”

“Because she didn’t even try to lie which means I wasn’t worth the time or effort of making up a story to try to keep me around.”

“That’s a weird way of looking at the truth but ok. Can therapists go to jail for sleeping with their patients?”

“Only if their patients are underage, otherwise it’s just bad customer service.”

“I guess that depends on who’s getting serviced.”

“Jesus man, how far do you plan on driving this knife into my back?”

“I’m sorry. But in all honesty she’s the one that put it there, I’m just kind of wiggling it around at this point.”

“Can you be a little more compassionate and sensitive?”

“Sure, I just never thought those two words were something I’d ever associate with you.”

“I’m not some retard on the spectrum. I have feelings and emotions you know…”

“Ok, ok.  I’ll be more compassionate and sensitive.”

“Thank you.” he sighs.

“So what does he look like?”

“God damn, dude! Why did I even think it was a good idea to come to you in my time of need?”

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m just…curious. And maybe you’ll feel better if you talk through it. You know, get it out in the open and out of your system.”

“FINE. It’s not a he, it’s a she.”

“Ohhhh. That makes sense.”

“It does?”

“Of course. She’s doin’ men at work and then has to come home and do you. All day long it’s nothing but dick, dick, dick, dick, dick. She probably just got tired of all that male genitalia and wanted to pound the pink for a while. You really shouldn’t take any of this personally.”   

“Is this supposed to make me feel better?”

“I get the feeling it’s not.”

“It isn’t.” he says with his trademark scowl. “You know, right before we started dating I was talking to this really cute girl that was nice, level-headed and had even donated a kidney to a family member. But did I end up choosing her? Fuck no, I chose the girl that gets bonuses for getting gang-banged. I swear to god there’s a part of me that’s addicted to the worst kind of chaos. I need to get my head examined.”    

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, we like who we like. I mean, just look at Jimbo and Laura over there dry humping one another. Who would’ve thought that in a gazillion years ANYONE would wanna be with Jimbo? Yet there’s Laura, scissoring her right in front of our fucking faces.”  

Kaleb glances over at them then turns back with a sour-milk look.

“Can you imagine Jimbo riding your face…while on her period?”

“Dude, that’s such a disgusting picture in my mind that it should be considered mental assault.”

“Payback for your poor friendship skills.” he says, taking a long drag off the smoke and then stomping it into oblivion. “I got handed specialty class duties today so I’ll see you back inside.” he groans then turns and leaves.

As he scoots away with his head hung low I can’t help but identify with his comment about being addicted to chaos. 

Throughout my life I’d been drawn to people that possessed that chaos factor that I knew weren’t good for me yet I still ran towards them as if I had no control over it. It was like an out-of-body experience where I saw myself strapped into a car that I knew was destined to go off a cliff but the only thing I had the power to do was to press down harder on the gas.

And if by some miraculous chance the person I was drawn to wasn’t a source of chaos then I in-turn became the chaos. Wreaking mental and emotional havoc on an unsuspecting victim that had made the cardinal mistake of just wanting to love me.

But as long as I could remember things were always chaotic on my insides. My thoughts and emotions that would manifest into actions, causing harm to myself and those around me. It seemed to be a never-ending inner tempest that no matter how many times I’d sought help from a therapist none of them could teach me how to quell it.

Which is why I think I was always attracted to other people that had the chaos or why I would conjure it up if they didn’t. The mania, the uncertainty, the anxiety, the disarray and devastation that it brought.

It felt like it was an integral part of me and it all felt so…familiar.   

And it’s the familiar that lures us in because it’s in the familiar where we find comfort no matter how destructive or painful that comfort might be.

But maybe that part of me had been exorcised when Gums walked out. She’d broken all of the good inside of me but maybe that break had also destroyed the bad and I could start afresh on a clean, new slate. Be something to someone and with someone in a normal, healthy way…whatever the fuck that looked like.

From the vantage point of the smoking area I could see The Floor and one of the entrances to the Theory room where our specialty class was about to begin.

And there dancing by the entrance was Myday. Swaying and spinning, off in her own little world with a bag of Hot Cheetos in one hand and a Starbucks in the other.

She was without a doubt her own person. Bold and secure, strange and unusual.

She looked dangerous but felt safe. Really safe…and warm, like a special place one goes to seek shelter from a storm, whether that storm was produced by Mother Nature or one’s own inner-nature.

She was different and that different was attractive and magnetic. So much so that as soon as I went back in I was going to ask her out.

*pronounced Mah-dane-uh 

Chapter 29

When the Past Becomes Your Future

 Of all the supportive people in my circle who could’ve given me a morale boost it turned out to be Jay, the crusher of dreams, the fucker of dads and the sultan of snark, who, with his patented blend of insulting inspiration, put my heart and my head in the right place.      

His tough talk about aspiring to be a better stylist, paying the price for one’s goals and remembering  that the sting of failure is always temporary, was the moment of clarity I’d needed that I didn’t know I was in need of. It had lifted my spirits, sharpened my vision and stirred in me a resolve that had me feeling bulletproof…which didn’t go unnoticed.   

“What’s with you today?” Kaleb whispers in my ear, his breath smelling of a Nicotine Frappuccino.

“What do you mean?” I ask as I comb out my client’s long, wet hair.

“Something’s different about you, you don’t seem like…yourself.”

“How do I normally seem?”

“Like someone who’s walking around with an IED jammed up his ass like that guy in Man on Fire* but today…”he trails off while rubbing his scruffy chin. “Hey Bode.”  

“Yeah?” he responds without looking over because he’s focused on a cut he’s doing. 

“Would you say Stuke seems different today?”

“I dunno. Does he still have black hair and tattoos?” he asks while keeping his eyes on his work. 


“Then no, he doesn’t seem any different today than he does any other day.”

“Whatever.” Kaleb gripes. “Do you know what you’re doing on your client?” he asks me.

“One length, round shape.” I tell him as I start to section her off.

“AH HA! There IS something different about you today because normally you would have ME section your client’s hair for you! Are you on drugs? You know, other than the ones we do together where I have to drive your car home because you’re too stoned.”


“Are you breaking up with me then is that it? You want me to feel the pang of rejection and beg you to beg me for my help?”

“Not at all. I just wanna get better at this and the only way to do that is to stand on my own two feet and when I fall, learn to get back up and not feel shitty about it.”   

“Speechless.” Kaleb says in disbelief.

“Good for you, Stu.” Bode chimes in, still focused on his work.

“Are you sure you’re not on drugs because-“ 

“Yo, Kaleb!” J.P. Dreama shouts as he comes galloping towards us high on his sheriff’s horse.

“Oh fuck me with a roto-rooter.” Kaleb sighs. “What is it, Jermaine, something?”

“I need a volunteer for beach day giveaway and you’re that person.”

“Jermaine, a volunteer is someone who offers to do something they wanna do, not someone who’s told they’re doing something they have no interest in doing.”

“You don’t wanna help students give out free haircuts on Venice beach?” Dreama asks with a nefarious smile.

“To people that bathe in public restrooms and don’t have a mailing address? No.”

“Well Rene put me in charge of beach day this year so I’m choosing volunteers since no one is stepping-up on their own.”  

“No one is stepping-up because the whole thing is dumber than a dick diaper.”    

“You know what your problem is?”

“Beach day giveaway is for starters.”

“You have a negative outlook, that’s your problem.”

“Trust me, if you were me and had to deal with you then I promise you that you’d have the same problem as me.”    

“You need a come to Jesus moment.”

“I don’t think he’d want me to get that all over him.”

“That’s disgusting and offensive.”

“So is working with the homeless which is why I’m giving beach day a hard pass.”  

“Ok.” Dreama says as he adjusts his bowtie and then struts off.   

“That was easy.” Kaleb says congratulating himself while he attempts to smooth out the wrinkles in his shirt.    

“Maybe too easy.” Bode says as he runs his fingers through his client’s hair and motions for Kaleb to come check it.

“Yeah Dreama isn’t the type of person to just walk away unless it’s to go get a knife.” I add as I start to cut the back of my client’s hair.

“Listen, things like beach day aren’t mandatory for anyone. So if he thinks he can force me into doing it then he’s crazier than he is stupid.”  Kaleb says as he analyzes Bode’s cut.

Seconds later Dreama returns to the scene with Rene as backup.  

“Kaleb.” She bellows out in her deep, foreboding voice.

“This job is such a Judas Chair*.” Kaleb mutters with a shake of his head. “Yes?”

“Jermaine tells me you’re refusing to volunteer for beach day because you think it’s ‘dumber than a dick diaper’. That true?”

“It’s not a lie.”  

“You know that Paul Mitchell prides itself on giving back to the community-“

“Yeah but this part of the community is riddled with lice-“




“And scurvy. It’s like taking care of a bunch of land wandering pirates.”

“Shut up and listen to me!” she roars, causing the usual din of The Floor to go quiet. “Taking care of the less fortunate is one of the ways this school makes a difference.”

“Then wouldn’t it make a bigger difference to give them free shopping carts instead of free haircuts? I mean, it’s not like they own mirrors or anything.”  

“One more fucked-up comment outta your mouth and you’ll be out of a job. Do I make myself clear?”

It wasn’t often that someone had Kaleb by the balls to the point of submission but if there was one thing Rene excelled at (other than calorie consumption) it was the squeezing of one’s testicles in the pursuit of gaining one’s compliance. And judging by the lack of color in his face it would appear that Rene had an excruciating grip on Kaleb’s chin knockers.   

“Crystal.” he utters as Dreama watches on with a look of smug satisfaction.  

“Good. Now you’re gonna go with Jermaine and help him figure out the details for beach day since it’s next week.”

“Right now?”

“I’m not talking about tomorrow.”

“I’m kinda in the middle of supervising a row.” Kaleb says, trying to press a point and definitely his luck.

“It’s slow today, I’ll have one of the other Learning Leaders cover your row while you’re assisting Jermaine.”

And with that Dreama led Kaleb off with his head held high, gloating over the fact that he was able to weaponize the homeless in such a way that it scored him huge points in his on-going game with Kaleb of I Hate Your Fucking Guts.    

As for me I was left without any supervision because Jake, the Learning Leader put in charge of us, was busy in the next row over with Bree, the waif-thin girl from our Core class who had just married the fiancé she’d professed her incorruptible love for on the first day of school.

Although going by the looks of how she was interacting with Jake, rubbing her ass up on his crotch and fawning all over him, it appeared that the honeymoon was over, at least in her great big blow job eyes. So I was forced to figure things out on my own which meant…

“Hey Bode, can you help me for a sec?”   

“Sure what’s up?”

“I’m getting ready to move into the front quadrant and I’m wondering which way I need to connect it.”

“Like this.” he says, drawing an invisible line with his tatted hand along the perimeter of my client’s hair.  

“Got it, thanks.”

“Of course. Also, I know we haven’t hung out much since Zahra and I started dating…”

“Dude, don’t even worry about it.”    

“I know but I do worry about it and miss you, so if you aren’t doing anything tonight Za and I were gonna go to Big Wangs in NoHo if you’d like to come, you know, if it won’t make you feel like a third-wheel or anything.”

“Not at all, plus, it’s Tuesday which means 25 cent wings and dollar drafts. And with the money we save we can hit The Star Garden* afterwards since it’s down the street from Wangs.”

“Yeah that’s not gonna happen.”  

Even though The Star didn’t happen the three of us made a night of it and from that point on morphed into a little family that would spend days after school doing each other’s hair, hitting the bars or just watching old Brando movies and eating cereal (a favorite pastime of Bode’s).

Spending all that time with them made me feel like a part of something warm and accepting which not only gave me a sense of belonging but also helped to thaw out the icy cynicism I’d had towards the idea of love ever since Gums had walked out on me.     

After she split I came to view love as nothing more than a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the heart. A gamble that when given a long enough timeline would leave you broke as fuck in more ways than one.      

But in the company of Bode and Zahra I was able to see it as something safe and nurturing that could enrich your life instead of destroying it and I began to think that somewhere in this brave new world of mine I might be able to have what they had.

My mistake in thinking this, however, wasn’t that I had overestimated my ability to love again, it was that I had underestimated just how much Gums had fucked me up and damaged me on the inside. A damage that, left untreated, would one day turn me into an emotional switchblade that would injure, maim and scar another human being for the rest of her life.


It was Thursday, I was setting up my station and listening to Kaleb bitch and complain about some rash he said he’d gotten from working with the homeless on beach day when I’d noticed that Bode hadn’t arrived yet.

Bode had never missed a day of school nor was he ever late so I tried calling and texting. When that led me nowhere my feet led me to the front desk where Zahra was checking-in clients.

“Have you heard from your man?”

“He texted me last night saying something had come up and that he’d tell me more about it today but that was it.”

“Did it seem like something was wrong?”

“Nah I didn’t get that from him otherwise he would’ve said something, you know?”

“Yeah that makes sense.”

Right before Theory class was supposed to start at 1pm Bode burst through the doors looking like he’d just won the cosmic lottery.  

“Dude, what the fuck is up?”

“Dude…” he blurts out while doing the pee-pants dance. “The guy that used to manage my old band hit me up last night about a bass playing gig, like a BIG one that involves a record deal, a paycheck and a national tour.”

“Seriously? With who?”

“You ever watch American Idol?”

“Fuck no.”

“Samesies. But there was a finalist this season named James Durbin and even though he didn’t win he did get a record deal with Wind-Up Records.”

“You mean the same record company responsible for shitting out audible diarrhea like Creed and Evanescence?”  

“That’s the one. They signed him a couple months back and his album drops next week so they want him on the road ASAP.”

“That’s cool but how did he know about you?”

“I guess he’d come see my band play whenever we’d do a hometown show in Santa Cruz and he liked my style so when the label started putting together a touring band for him he asked his manager to hunt me down to see if I’d want the gig.”

Bode didn’t have to tell me what his answer was because I already knew it.

We had both wanted nothing more from life than to become rockstars and we’d chased that dream over countless years and thousands of miles. Spilling blood, sweat and tears and sacrificing everything imaginable just to come within reach of grasping that dream.  

But that dream had eluded us both. It was like that one lover you become enamored with, obsess over and follow to the ends of the earth only to find out they’ve chosen to be held in the arms of another.        

But now that evasive lover had come back to Bode, telling him that things would be different this time. That he could have her and she wouldn’t stray, she’d remain monogamous and to prove it she’d put it in writing in the form of a record deal, promising him money, fulfillment and the chance to do what he’d always wanted to do; be a fucking rockstar.  

So I knew that his answer would be yes because that’s what mine would’ve been. And it wouldn’t have mattered what I was currently doing or how much money I’d paid to do it. I would’ve instantly answered the siren call of that dream and abandoned all that I had worked for to be reunited with it despite how much it had tortured or taunted me in the past.

You can leave a lot of things in life but the one thing you can’t walk away from is a dream that has become so embedded in you that it’s infused into your DNA.

“So when do you start?” I ask, not so much feeling the pinprick of envy as much as the pain of knowing that my best friend would be leaving soon.

“I was in meetings all morning, did a mini-audition and signed contracts. The tour kicks off next week so starting tomorrow I’m doing 12 hour day rehearsals.”

“What are you gonna do about school?”

“I’m gonna go talk, plead and beg with Rene right now to see if there’s any way I can pause my enrollment so when I do come back I won’t have to pay all over and start all over.”

“Fuck, man. Good luck with that and I’m so happy that this happened to you.”

“Thanks, brother and I want you to know something.”

“What’s that?”

“I tried to get you hired on as the drummer for the band because nothing would’ve made this better than to be doing it alongside you but they already have a guy. Just know that I tried because it would’ve been awesome being in a legit band with you.”  

If ever there was a time that someone’s thoughtfulness took me to the edge of breaking the fuck down then this was it and that made the cut of Bode leaving run so much deeper.

In reaching his long-fought moment of being served his dream his first thought wasn’t to bask in the excitement and glory of it all but to try and share it with someone else, to try and share it with me.

It was one of the most heartfelt and selfless things anyone had ever attempted to do on my behalf and it broke my heart into a million pieces with gratitude.  

“I really appreciate that.” I say, giving him a hug and trying to keep the tears at bay. “But this is all you, go out and fucking kill it.”

“Thanks, I’ll keep you posted on when we have an L.A. show and when I have a break in the tour so we can hang out.” he tells me then grabs his backpack and walks out the door to his new life where he’ll be wide awake in his dream.  

I settle into my seat to get ready for my hour of Theory and notice the empty chair next to me where Bode would normally sit and I can’t help but feel empty myself.

Bode had been here for me in so many ways since day one. A never-ending source of encouragement, stability and love. And his demeanor, always being as calm as a still pond, helped quell the emotional tides and waves that were forever crashing around inside of me. He was a buoy I’d had come to trust that I could hold onto when my inner storms were threatening to drown me.  

And now he was gone, off to do the one thing he had longed to do more than anything else and I was now on my own. Sure, I had Kaleb around but he when it came to anything deeper than a superficial friendship he was about as useful as a condom machine in the Vatican.

So it was up to me to be my own source of calm, reassurance and encouragement. It was something that I’d seemed to struggle with over the past few months but I was stuck here with me so I figured I might as well try my best to be the best person I could be to myself.

*You can watch Bode tearing it the fuck up onstage right here. He’s the gent with short, dark hair stage right with the white bass guitar. It should also come as no surprise that he did the entire band’s hair as well as customized their stage clothes.

*Man on Fire is a 2004 movie starring Denzel Washington, Christopher Walken, Marc Anthony, Mickey Rourke and a very young Dakota Fanning. The story is about an alcoholic, ex-CIA operative (Washington) who’s hired by the father of a wealthy family (Anthony) to be a bodyguard to his daughter (Fanning) in Mexico City which is a hot bed of kidnappings for ransoms.

Everything is fine and dandy until Fanning is kidnapped and when the ransom drop for her goes sideways, the kidnappers kill her as punishment.

This, as you can imagine, sparks Denzel into doing what Denzel does best; fuck people up in the most vicious ways possible. During his campaign of retribution and revenge he utilizes rocket-launchers, an arsenal of guns and even gets creative by shoving a small, homemade bomb up one unlucky kidnapper’s fat, hairy ass under a freeway overpass.

And speaking of cars, he tapes one dude’s hands to a steering wheel and while he interrogates the guy slices off most of the guy’s fingers making it virtually impossible for him to ever flip somebody off in traffic again.

The film is directed by the late, great Tony Scott who’s able to portray grit, grime and violence in such a raw and sexy way that it makes you wanna go out and choke your partner during sex.  The flick is highly recommended as is establishing a safe word with your significant other so you don’t accidentally kill them and end up with a manslaughter charge.

*A Judas Chair was a medieval pyramid shaped and sharpened device on which a naked victim was lowered onto via ropes and as the victim was lowered the device would slowly tear open their anus and split them in two.

While the chair isn’t something you can order from West Elm you can experience the pain of one by ordering anything else from West Elm and then enduring their months’ long parade of excuses and incompetency when it comes to you never getting the furniture you ordered and then once you finally do get your order, it’s not the fucking furniture you ordered.

*The Star Garden is without a doubt L.A.’s sleaziest, seediest and scuzziest strip club. Located just north of Victory Blvd on Lankershim the club hosts an array of fresh off the bus girls from small towns, girls in abusive relationships who are dancing topless to support their aspiring musician boyfriends and girls that claim to be actresses, models and musicians but who really are just crystal meth-heads driving around their Ford Probe with a broken headlight.

And if crystal meth is your thing then you can always score an 8 ball from a Mexican dude named Miguel who has a fake leg and will take you into the bathroom to do the deal where at which time he’ll take off his fake leg (which is where he keeps his stash) and dispense the drugs accordingly.

But The Star isn’t all shit stains and pock marks and actually boasts the success story of one dancer who was able to swing herself off the pole and become a semi well-known frontwoman of a metal band back in the day.        

Chapter 28 Pt. II

Bloodstains and Battle Scars

 I figured in order to illustrate to Jay just how much of an impact Kelly’s speech had on me earlier in the day I first needed to tell him about the god-awful time I’d been having at school every day up until today.

And now that he had promised not to say anything while I filled him in on how my life had been going (especially the words I told you so) I felt like I could tell him everything.   

So I ran down my shit-stained laundry list of experiences at Paul Mitchell, informing him of all the heads I’d butchered, colors I’d botched, and all the demoralizing bullshit I felt because of it. When I was finally finished he just sat quietly across the table while sucking the salt off a deflated edamame skin.


“Well what?”

“What do you think?”       

“I think it all sounds so…”  

“So what?”  

“Horrible.” he says with a voice full of surprising concern.

“It’s been one big butt-plug and up until today I was convinced you’d been right all along.”

“About what?”

“That my decision to do hair was a big mistake.”

“You know, after hearing all that I’ll just go easy on you and call your decision a gross miscalculation.”


“Yeah, like that time I was with that guy I nicknamed Spartacus. You remember him don’t you?”

“Six foot ten Nubian dude that had a wife and kid?”

“That’s him. Anyway, we were fucking one day at his house, I mean really going at it, and then all the sudden his wife and kid came home earlier than we had expected them to. A total gross miscalculation on our part…it got even grosser when his daughter threw-up all over herself. I’m sure she’s still in therapy to this day.”

“Jay, I don’t know how that’s even remotely comparable to my ‘miscalculation’ but-“

“Like you were saying, up until today your experience with hair and school has been more fucked up than Jim Carrey on acid.”

“Right. And then-“

“You heard this Kelly guy talk and you were miraculously bestowed with all the wisdom and confidence to go forth and succeed.”   

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

“Neither would I because it was a fucking joke. But I wanna know what it is he said that made you go from wanting to jam your shears in your jugular to making you as joyful as a pride parade in June.”

“If I’m being honest, it wasn’t what he had to say as much as it was how he was saying it.”

“Just like a neutered dog, I’m not getting it.”

“Alright, so he gave the usual spiel about starting off as a nobody and ending up as a somebody…”

“Cliché to the nth degree.”

“And now he owns a bunch of salons, offers cutting classes and speaks at entrepreneurial seminars. And while-“

“What’s his rate for the cutting classes?”

“I dunno, three hundred bucks or something?  There was an advertisement for it on his merch table.”

 “He has merch?”

“Yeah, t-shirts and shit.”

 “So this guy owns salons, sells merch, offers classes and talks at unemployment seminars.” 

 “Entrepreneurial seminars.”  

“Same fucking difference. And you said nothing in his speech was any good?”

“No. I mean, it was ok. He talked about the value of persistence, having principals, your attitude your altitude blah-blah-fucking-blah. None of it was bad but none of it was life changing either.”

“So then what struck a chord with you?”

“Like I said, it was the way he said what he was saying. He was able to hold the room’s attention with his charisma and body language and was one part comedian and one part rockstar. It was all performance and that’s what resonated with me and got me thinking hey, this is something I could do.”        

“Which is what?”

“Go from school to school and talk to students like Kelly does.”

“What on God’s gangrene earth would you have to talk about?”

“My own journey.”

“Uh, my handsome prince, might I remind you that your ‘journey’ has only gone a couple miles so far and by the sounds of it it’s been so shitty that it probably won’t go much further.”

“But don’t you see? Now I have a reason to keep going! I’m inspired about school again because when I graduate I can just do what Kelly does and not have to worry about doing hair since I suck at it anyway.”  

“Ok, setting aside the fact that this is the most hair-brained idea ever, pun intended, how would you earn a living this way?”

“By selling merch.”

“T-shirts and shit?”


“You’ve just got it all figured out, don’t’ you?”

“It seems to work for Kelly.”

“Yes, but in regard to all of the things you’re not thinking about, the most important one is that YOU’RE NOT KELLY. You’re a nobody and nobody is gonna buy from a fellow nobody. People will only buy from a somebody and in order for you to be a somebody you’ve gotta have-“

“Most of the people today didn’t know who Kelly was and that didn’t stop them from buying t-shirts with his name on them for twenty-five bucks a pop.”

“I get that and the reason they did that was because unlike you Kelly has-“

“And in addition to t-shirts I thought maybe I could write a book and sell that as well.”

“What did you say?”

“I thought I could write a book and sell that.”

“That’s what I thought you said. Christ smoking crack this gets dumber and dumber.”

“Hey! Don’t hate on it! I thought it could be a memoir or self-help book. Something like that.”

“You need A LOT of self-help if you think you can write a book of any type.”

“That’s not true! I’ve always been ok at writing, I even had that website a few years ago remember?”

“The one where’d you’d post about all your horrible dates and sexual exploits?”

“Yeah. People seemed to like it. You said you liked it. Your uncle Frank loved it.”

“Uncle Frank just wanted to bury his bone in you so he enjoyed reading about all the insidious places you were burying yours.”

“Still, the site went over well and you wanna know what I heard from people over and over again?”

“That you shouldn’t fuck bartenders from The Rainbow whose vagina is a bed and breakfast for every rockstar in town?”

“Ummmm, no.”

“But you did fuck that bartender and she was in one of your stories, right?”

“Yes and yes, Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“What was that decrepit woman’s name again? Jada? Sheena?”


“That’s it. She still alive?”

“Last I heard she got a new liver so she could keep drinking, so, maybe?”

“Sounds like an extraordinary woman, you must be so proud of your-“

“Like I was trying to say, even though the subject matter may have been lewd and vulgar, people kept coming back to it because the writing was good.”

“Okay, I’ll admit that the prose was decent. But compiling a book is totally different than writing little stories about having sex on a buffet table during a Halloween party.”

“I understand that, and-“

“Or having to go to the ER while you were in Colorado because you were pissing razors.”

“That really was a horrible trip to Denver, but-“

“Or how your girlfriend punched you in the face when you came home with a cum stain on your pants and tried to play it off by saying you spilled mashed potatoes all over yourself.”   

“I’ll admit that wasn’t one of my more admirable moments, however-“

“You know what? I don’t think you should write a book about anything…ever…so long as you live.”

“Always the supportive friend.”

“Oh like you’d listen to me anyway. So let’s say you graduate Paul Mitchell and instead of doing hair you decide to go from school to school talking to students and trying to sell your book and t-shirts with your name on it. Have you put any thought into what your qualifying factor might be in all of this?”

“What’s that?”

“The fact that you don’t know what it is means you don’t have one. And if you don’t have one that means you won’t sell anything and if you don’t sell anything that means you’ll be homeless and if you’re homeless you’ll wanna move in with me and I won’t do it, Stuke, I just won’t. You know Edward and Randolph don’t do well with long term guests.”

“Then for the love of all roosters big and small, as well as your dogs, tell me, what the fuck is a qualifying factor?” 

“Well…” he says, stretching his sun soaked arms, locking his fingers and cracking his knuckles. “The reason Kelly can do what he does is because he has a stamp of legitimacy that signals he’s seen a lot, done a lot and paid his dues in this industry. Hence, his qualifying factor. It lends authority to what he says and gives value to what he’s selling. You with me so far?”  

“Yeah, you’re saying he’s put in the manpower and the mileage for his career.”

“Exactly. Now if you were to come fresh out of hair school and try to do what Kelly does, what sort of knowledge or experience are you bringing to the table to validate your worth? What sort of insights would you have to offer in this book of yours that you’re selling? Why would people pay $25 for a t-shirt with your name on it?”


“Do you own a salon? Nope. Will you be offering classes? Nope. Will you have spent any time in the industry whatsoever? Nope, nope and nope. The only thing you’ll have under your studded belt is the fact that you survived hair school and graduated.”

“Isn’t that enough considering how hard it’s been for me?”

“Fuck no. Hair school is hard yet most people survive it and end up graduating. And if that’s the case, what’s gonna make you stand out to a group of people that will soon be accomplishing the only thing that you’ve accomplished in a few months’ time?”

“I hadn’t thought about it like that up until now.”

“That’s because you haven’t thought about this at all. If you had then you’d know that it’s crucial to put in the time and torture that’s necessary to establish yourself as someone who’s worth listening to. You’ll need to have gone places and done things that your audience has only dreamt of doing or didn’t know was even possible. You getting me?”

 “You’re saying I need to have some skin in the game.”   

“Not some skin, all of it. And it needs to be tattooed with welts and wounds to give your words weight. People don’t want survivors ok? They pity survivors. People want fighters who are covered in bloodstains and battle scars because it shows they were willing to do whatever it took to get to where they wanted to be.” 

“So what you’re getting at is-“

“That you have to aspire to do more than just graduate school if you’re serious about doing what Kelly does. You’ve gotta commit to wanting to succeed in this industry and be prepared to pay whatever price it is to do so.”

“Of course I wanna succeed, I just don’t think I can do it the way most people do it which is why I like the idea of following Kelly’s path. It just seems more attainable.”

“It is attainable but if you’re gonna follow his path then you have to follow it the right way, no shortcuts. Make yourself become a better hairstylist. Put in the time, effort and energy. Put in the blood and sweat this industry requires for a few years and then you’ll be able to talk about it to a group of hair students and your words will be worth listening to and your book worth buying because you’ll have your qualifying factor.”  

“Fuuuuuck! Why can’t anything be easy?” I groan as I drop my head to the table.

“Because true steel is forged in the fire.”

“Is that a Confucius saying or something?” I ask, lifting it back up.

“Fuck if I know. It’s in a frame on the wall over there.” he says. “Listen, I think you’re on to something with this idea of yours. You just need to apply yourself, spend time in the industry and not allow the failures to stop you.”

“I know. They’re just so discouraging though.”

“Yes and they’re also temporary. Plus, and this is really important so I want you to remember it, especially when you’re down, the industry we’re in, is the only industry in the world where you can have some far-out, fuck-faced idea and still succeed with it.”


“One thousand percent. For instance, just the other day a client of mine was talking about some goofball that claims he’s made something better for your hair than shampoo. It’s called Ten or Fin or Ben or something ridiculous like that. Ever heard of it?”

“No. Paul Mitchell wants me to believe that they’re the only company in the world that makes hair care products.”    

“Ok, well, I guess he calls it a cleaning conditioner or something preposterous like that. Anyway, my point being, as long as you have the vision and the willingness to go the distance, pay the price and make the sacrifices, then even the most bat shit craziest of ideas can catch fire.”

“Like this guy and his no shampoo thing probably will?”

“Absolutely. God help us all.”

Sushi Rolls, Grindr Tolls & Career Goals

Chapter 28

Wait, wait, wait…” Jay says, interrupting me in his gaysally voice while pulling apart his chopsticks and using them to shovel a wad of wasabi into his soy sauce. “You’re telling me that your entire life was changed by listening to some homeless guy give a speech at school today?”

“I never said he was homeless.”

“Well the way you describe him makes him sound homeless. Nappy dreads, goatee…”

“You have a goatee.”

“Yeah but I also have a home, one that’s not made of cardboard boxes and milk crates.” he says, mixing his wasabi and soy sauce with such fervor that it ends up all over the table and me.     

“A little restraint.” I ask as I wipe my soy splattered shirt with a napkin.

“Oh don’t be a queen, your shirt is black anyway, it’ll blend right in.” he chides, dipping a piece of rainbow roll in his sauce and then stuffing it in his mouth while continuing to talk. “So the way you said this guy looked…Courtney? Kerry?”


“Sure. It just made me think of your typical transient trash troll, that’s all. No need to get your pubes tied up in a knot about it.”

“I never said my pubes-you know what? Can I just get back to what I was saying before you interrupted me?”

“By all means.” he says, cramming another piece of sushi in his mouth. “Tell me all about this awakening you had today, this moment of clarity, this-“

“Is making me think you’re being a jack-off right now.”


“Yes you. Who else is in this dump besides us?”

He scans the restaurant and realizes it’s just the two of us, our waitress and the unkempt sushi chef who’s licking something off the very knife he used to prepare our food with.  

“This is not a dump.” he protests. “It’s an authentic dining experience modeled after the iconic Akachochins I love to visit in Japan.”

“Well we’re not in Japan, Jay, we’re in Van Nuys, which makes this place nothing more than a dark, dingy shithole where the only thing more dangerous than the gangbangers loitering in the parking lot is the “C” rated food sitting on our plates.” 

“Well, your majesty, since this place offends your sensibilities so much I’ll be sure to never invite you here again.”

“I really hope you mean that.” I say, hunching over to sniff my Philly roll to make sure it’s safe for consumption.

“Jesus Helen Keller Christ, I don’t see you for three months and in that time you’ve become Gwyneth Paltrow sitting high atop your throne and judging us all.” He complains as he takes a slurp of his Sapporo beer.

“Is there any reason you’re being saltier than the soy sauce tonight?” I ask.

He takes another swig, glares at me, belches and then softens up.

“I’m sorry I’m just really upset and being a total hag about it, you don’t deserve my ire.” he confesses.   

“Anything you wanna talk about?”

“No, go on with your personal transformation story.”

“You sure?”

“Yes I’m sure.  It’s far too traumatizing for me to talk about right now so let’s focus on you.”

“Ok then, like I was saying-“

“FINE! If you’re gonna keep hounding me about it then I guess I have no other choice but to tell you!”

“Lucky me.” I say with a long sigh. “So what horrible tragedy has befallen you, my friend?”

“It’s Matlin.”

“The Latin guy you’ve been dating for a while?”

“Past tense, was dating. We broke up yesterday.”

“Really? Why? I thought you said he might be the one.”

“I know and I really thought so too but he uh…”


“He…ummmm…sheesh how do I say it?”

“Oh cut the shit. You’ve never had a problem with anything coming out of your mouth or going into it for that matter. So just say what it is you need to say before the suspense bores me to death.”

“Ugh! He caught me trying to cheat on him!”

“He did? With who? How?”

The adulterer lets out a long, dramatic moan while fanning his Botox filled face then goes on.

“It all started a couple weeks ago when he saw the Grindr app on my phone and asked me why I needed that since I had him.”

“And what’d you say?”

“I told him I’d had it long before I’d met him and had forgotten it was there. Then he asked So you don’t use it anymore to meet random guys to fuck? And I told him no.”

“Were you lying?”

“NO!!! I hadn’t been on it that day so technically I wasn’t lying but he still didn’t believe me, can you believe that?!”

“Easily.” I say as I take a gamble with my health and start eating.

“You know, I can’t decide if you’re my best enemy or my worst friend sometimes.”

“Probably both.”   

“Anyhow, in an attempt to smooth things over I deleted the app in front of him and at the time that fixed everything.”

“But let me guess, in true Jay fashion you went and reinstalled it behind his back didn’t you?”

“Maybe.” he says while looking away and gnawing on his chopsticks.

“Didn’t you?”

“Ok yes, I probably did!”

“Why would you do that if you liked him so much?”

“Because I get bored when I’m alone and drinking Patron, Ok?!”

“So take up a hobby! One that doesn’t involve tequila and fucking strangers on the internet!”

“Are you here to listen or lecture?”

“Oh I’m sorry, are my observations pissing on your penis parade?”

“They’re a torrential downpour.” he whines as he rubs his temples.

“My bad. Please continue with your tales of woe.”

“Thank you, Judge Judas. So like I was saying, I reinstalled it because I suffer from acute boredom and do you know what that sneaky little Matlin did?”

“I have no idea.”

“He entrapped me!”

“How, pray tell me, did he do this?”

“He went and made a profile on Grindr using a different name and only posted a picture of his backside. So the other night I’m on the site and come across his page-“

“And you hit him up not knowing it was him…”  

“And I hit him up not knowing it was him.” he confirms.   

“How do you NOT recognize the backside of your own fucking boyfriend?”

“I don’t know! But it was very captivating because never in my life have I propositioned anyone on Grindr before without seeing their face first.”

“That last part is a hard one to buy but whatever. So I take it he called you out on it?”

“You bet he did, called me right away yelling and screaming that I was a liar and a cheater…and a lousy cook…that one really stung.”

“This guy really knows where to stick the knife doesn’t he?”

“Right in my fucking heart.” he says, clutching his chest. “But since he’s never had my pork tenderloin he obviously has no idea what he’s talking about.”

“Obviously. So what ridiculous defense did you try and mount against his empirical evidence?”

“I asked him how it was considered cheating if the guy I wanted to cheat on him with was him. I said if anything he should feel good about it because it’s apparent that the only person I wanna fuck is him…even when I don’t know that it’s him who it is I wanna fuck.”

“Wow, dude, how do you ever find pants big enough to fit those gigantic balls of yours in?”

“I don’t know but in the end he didn’t go for any of it.”

“I’m not surprised.”

“And he told me he never wants to see me again.”

“Still not surprised.”

“I’m such a flawed individual.” he says, wiping away an imaginary teardrop from his face.

“Welcome to the club, Buttercup.”

“Do you have any idea how many gay men don’t care about monogamy and I get stuck with the ONE gay who does? I’ve been bamboozled I tell you! BAMBOOZLED!” he yells while slamming his hand down on the table, causing our waitress to scream something at him in Japanese.

“Oh pipe down, Konnichiwa, you’re lucky I didn’t wear my Godzilla mask in here tonight.” he snaps back. “Anyway, what was I saying?”

“Something about you being the victim in all of this.”

“Oh that’s right, I ended up getting stuck with the one monogamized gay in L.A. Had it been anyone else they would’ve easily said Oh, Jay darling, I don’t care if you wanna fuck other people and if you do be sure to make them dinner afterwards because you’re such an amazing cook.”

“Do we need to find you a support group so you can heal? Maybe go to an al-anon meeting again since it’s free therapy?”

“Oh fuck off, mister. Let’s hear about this Sermon on the Mount you attended today so I can quit talking about fucking myself in ways I don’t enjoy.”  

“Ok, but now that I’m thinking about it, before I get back to it you have to promise me something.”

“Didn’t I just demonstrate that I’m horrible at keeping my word with the whole Matlin thing?”

“I have faith in you…not really…but it was fun to say aloud.”

“What do I need to promise you, Stuke?” he asks with a groan.  

“That at no point will you interject with the words I told you so.”

“I can’t promise that! It’s my favorite thing to do! And right now I could really use some cheering up so don’t ask that of me, ok?”

“Promise.” I tell him as he reaches over and grabs a piece of my roll, plops it in his mouth and chomps down on it with his arms crossed like a petulant child.  

“Ok! But only because I’m in a vulnerable place right now and you’re taking full advantage of it, you emotional rapist you.”

“Thank you.”

A Sense of Purpose

Chapter 27

Dreama was out for blood.

Because of Kaleb’s brazen accusation against him and his threat to go to corporate over it Rene had been forced to yank on Dreama’s leash as an act of self-preservation. However, that yank hadn’t been hard enough to choke Dreama out, just piss him off to the point of declaring war on Kaleb and vowing to have him fired by any means necessary.

This meant Dreama had been working overtime in an effort to take him down, attempting to dig up whatever dirt he could find on Kaleb as well as watching his every move for any infraction that could aid him in his campaign to have Kaleb ousted. And although Dreama kept coming up empty handed time and time again, this didn’t deter his lust for payback but only strengthened his determination to destroy Kaleb once and for all.  

“So what do you think about Dreama’s crusade against you?” I ask Kaleb while setting up my station.

“I don’t.” he says with indifference as he cleans the crud from his fingernails with my shears.  

“You’re not the least bit worried that he’s named you Public Enema #1?”

“Not at all. If anything I’m proud of it.”

“You are?”

“Yeah, because in all the time that I’ve known Dreama I’ve never seen him work as hard as he has these past few weeks at trying to get me fired. In fact, I’d say I’ve done what nobody else, including himself, has been able to do.”

“And what’s that?”

“Motivate him.”

“You’re serious aren’t you?”  

“Dead serious, and to be honest, I’m so impressed with what I’ve done that I’m thinking I should quit hair altogether and become a life coach. Although if I quit that would make him happy and giving him any sort of happiness is not on my to-do list.”

“Maybe you could just bill him for your services then.”

“You never have ‘em but that’s a great idea.”

Still, despite his blasé attitude toward Dreama’s vengeful vendetta this didn’t mean Kaleb had been gallivanting around with the usual impunity he’d grown accustomed to, especially when it came to being at work on time.

In the past he’d meander into school ten to fifteen minutes late as if his schedule was more of a suggestion than a command and by the grace of God he’d always go unnoticed and unpunished for it. But now that he was walking around with a giant bull’s eye on his back he could no longer afford to waltz in at his leisure.  

And even though Kaleb was one of those people who didn’t give a single, solitary fuck when it came to 99.9% of things in life, the one thing he did care about was losing to someone like Dreama and so he was determined not to hand him an easy victory by way of tardiness.

This meant that ever since Kaleb had a price put on his head he’d been making sure to raise that head (along with the rest of his ramshackle of a body) at the butt-crack of dawn to ensure that he made it into work on time, which in and of itself was a HUGE life-improvement on his own part. 

So who knew, maybe Kaleb had a future in life-coaching after all.

As for me I’d been trying to follow his advice on not caring about the quality of my work and instead just focus on making it to school every day, not losing my shit and of course, not becoming a part of The 90%.

However, telling myself to not care about my work was easier said than done because it went against everything I’d held sacred about being a creative. As an artist I had always labored under the belief that whatever I created should be done with the utmost of care and held to the highest of standards.  

Now, though, I’d been told to abandon that belief in exchange for wholesale apathy which meant that even when I made someone’s hair look like it’d been gang-raped by a pack of chimpanzees hopped up on Viagra and methamphetamines my only response could be complete and total irrelevance.      

Which sucked because I’d always felt a responsibility and attachment to whatever I did or made. It was an extension of myself into the world and if I was gonna be someone who didn’t care about what they were bringing into the world then that didn’t make me any better of a person than Mary Jo Campbell*.      

And while I understood Kaleb’s reasoning behind it all (don’t burn your forest for the trees, in fact, don’t even care about the trees) that didn’t make it any easier or give me any sort of relief or resolve, it had only put me in the agonizing position of being miserable if I cared and being miserable if I didn’t cafe. It had been a lateral move, not a forward one, leaving me to feel like I was the resident of a shitty neighborhood and all I’d done to change my situation was move from one side of the street to the other. Sure, I’d done something but that something had still kept me in the same shitty place.  

So I needed a way out, I needed to find some sort of purpose to embrace that would get me through school in a more positive way. Something that would help me weather all the failures, disappointments and spells of self-doubt and self-loathing I’d experience while at the same time keeping my integrity as an artist in-tact.         

The problem was, I had no idea what that purpose might be or where I could find it and until I did…

“So what am I gonna be fucking up today? A haircut? Color? Highlights?”

It was back to the business of desecrating heads like I was Jeffery Dahmer.  

“Today’s fuck-up will be brought to you by way of a blow dry.” Kaleb says as he cleans the last of his fingernails with my shears then twirls them around like a gunslinger.

“Really? Just a blow dry?”

“Yeah, everyone has to be finished with their clients by 11 today so hopefully that’s something you can manage…god help us.”   

“What’s with the early cut-off time?”

“There’s an industry guest coming in at 11:30.”

“There is?”

“Yeah, didn’t you get the email?”

“The email? From who?”

“The school.”

“The school sends out emails?”

“All the time, you didn’t know about this?”

“About the emails or the industry guest?”

“Both I suppose.”


“How could you not?”

“I barely check my regular mail so the odds of me checking my email are right up there with you cleaning your apartment.”

“That’s a low blow.”

“Maybe, but for me to drive my point home I had to shit on yours.”

“You’re becoming more like me every day, did you know that?”

“I do and that’s a scary realization.”

Kaleb has me blow dry a professional middle-aged woman in a power suit that’s come in for a blow out before her big staff meeting. By the time I’m finished she looks like a homeless person that spends her days wrestling with pigs.  

She asks me if I’m genuinely ok with sending her back into the world looking the way she does and so I give her what’s become my default, couldn’t care less reply; a shoulder shrug with a side look of whatever.   

She makes the mistake of turning to Kaleb for an explanation or support and all he gives her is the same response as mine, uniting us both in our front to not give a rat’s ass in regard to the rat’s nests I’m making on the daily.

After she leaves, swearing never to return, the call goes out for students to take a 20 min break before reporting back to the Theory Room for the industry guest.

Bode and I run to Starbucks, grab our caffeine fix and then get back with a few minutes to spare.

Kaleb waves us over to a spot in the back where according to him he had to fight tooth and nail to save us seats because in addition to the 200+ regular students in the room there’s also another 100 former students who have shown up for this guest, packing the place beyond capacity and giving it that funky, sweaty, too-many-bodies-in-a-room smell.     

“How did all these past students know about today?” I ask our fearless seat-saver.   

“They must still be on the school’s email list.”

“Did you know that the school sends out emails?” I turn and ask Bode.

“Yeah I read mine all the time, don’t you?”

“No, and I feel so left out.” I say, looking around and sensing an excitement buzzing through the dewy crowd as if this guest can walk on water or raise the dead. “So who is this person anyway?” 

“Kelly Cardenas.” Kaleb tells me.   

“She must be pretty awesome at hair if she can bring all these people out of the woodwork. I wonder if she’s hot.” I remark.

“HE.” Kaleb says.

“Who’s he?” I ask.

“Kelly. Kelly is a he.”

“Oh she is is she?”

“Yeah, and even though he has salons throughout the country he’s more known for his inspirational speaking which is what he’ll be doing today.”

“So he’s just here to talk? And all these people are just here to listen?”

“That’s about the size of it.” Kaleb says, scrolling on his phone.

“Have you seen him before?” I ask Kaleb.

“Yeah, he comes here every year.”  

“What does he talk about?”

“I dunno, life shit and how to be good at it I guess.”

“You mean like Tony Robbins?”

“Sure, like Tony Robbins, only without all the yelling and big teeth.”  

“Interesting.” I say with a sarcastic overtone, knowing full-well that most “inspirational speakers” who claim to have all the answers are nothing more than charlatans preying upon the universal uncertainties every man, woman and non-binary person experience throughout their lifetime on Earth.

“Well I guess he can’t be any worse than Dreama.” I note.

“Or that father son waxing team that came in last month.” Bode adds. “Good lord that was a massacre.”

“To put it mildly.” Kaleb chortles with his face still buried in his phone’s screen. “Did Blake ever make a full recovery?”

“I don’t think Blake ever stopped being high long enough to notice that he needed medical attention.” I tell him.  

Blake was one of the few straight male students who attended Paul Mitchell and not only was he a promising stylist but he was also high AF every single day of his young, hot life. This, one can imagine, could impact his cognitive skills from time to time and there was no time more evident of this than when a father and his son came to the school to give a presentation and peddle their brand of body hair removal wax.

At one point during their spiel they asked for a volunteer to come on stage so they could smear their revolutionary new product over a part of that person’s body to demonstrate the “amazing abilities” it had in getting rid of unwanted hair.

Without bothering to ask which part of the body they planned on removing hair from, Blake was on stage, in a chair with his shirt off, more stoned than a biblical whore and wearing a big, dumb smile across his face.

Within seconds the father and his son were on him, slathering their golden goo all over his hair infested chest. Next they proceeded to cover said chest with dozens of strips of waxing paper until his upper torso looked like a paper mache. Once that was done the ripping off of the papers commenced, each tear making the same sound a tape gun does when it’s being pulled across a moving box.

Over and over again the dad and his offspring took turns yanking paper strips off of Blake’s chest, taking with them not only his hair but also bits of his top layer of skin as well. And as every yank of paper yielded more hair, more epidermis and more screams from the audience, Blake continued to sit there with that big, dumb smile plastered across his face, unfazed and unaware that this dipshit duo were filleting him like a fucking fish.

By the time it was all said and done there was a pile of paper strips rife with blood, wax, hair and skin both littering and sticking to the stage while Blake’s chest looked like it’d been pared with a potato peeler.  

“That was a bloodbath for the ages.” Kaleb says, breaking free from his phone’s spell and shoving it in his pocket as Capitan Ron swaggers on stage to address the crowd.

“Alright, alright, I know you’re all excited for today’s guest so please make sure to give him your full and undivided attention. That means putting your phones away and keeping them away or else I’ll be taking them away, understood?”

Everyone nods their heads and mumbles ‘YES’ knowing that Ron isn’t one to make empty requests or threats.  

“Now I know some of you have seen Kelly before and the fact that you came back to see him again is a testament to his skills as a speaker.” Ron says, looking around the room to make sure all eyes are on him. “For those of you seeing him for the first time I’d suggest you open your hearts and minds to what he has to say because he truly is a visionary who wants to help people make their lives better. So without any further delay, it’s my honor to bring out Mr. Kelly Cardenas.”

At this the crowd of former students jump to their feet, cheering, clapping and whistling as if Jesus himself had returned and stopped by to see how everyone’s day at Paul Mitchell was going before continuing on with his rapture duties.

The rest of us who had yet to experience this Kelly Cardenas character didn’t know how to respond. So some joined in on the hootin’ and hollerin’ while others sat by and looked on with healthy skepticism.

I myself wasn’t sure what to think, including what this guy would look like. But whatever notion I may have had in regard to his appearance it sure as shit wasn’t what entered the room and ascended the stage.

Sporting a blonde, nappy mess of shoulder-length dreads and a dark scruffy goatee on his face, this guy did not strike me as someone who could change my life with the utterance of his words.

What he did strike me as was a burned out beach-bum who hit the bong 24/7, a third-world traveler that spent his life guzzling ayahuasca* and frolicking through the jungles of South America naked or the bass player of a Grateful Dead cover band that wasn’t above asking people for spare change at gas stations.

In fact the only thing that kept me from believing this guy played in a drum circle and sold sage sticks in Venice was his impeccable wardrobe that consisted of custom made clothes and a leather jacket that all screamed high-end rockstar chic. It was a total juxtaposition to say the least.

He stood still onstage beaming a warm, radiant smile from his round, cherubic face until the applause from his disciples died down and everyone returned their assess to their seats. Then he finally spoke, which is what we’re all here for in the first place.   

“Thank you all so much for such an incredible welcome.” he says in a voice that sounds just like Wayne Newton. “You know, I get to go to all the Paul Mitchell schools around the country and Sherman Oaks never fails to bring the love.”

This remark lights the crowd up again and gives way to another round of standing, yelling, clapping and cheering, making my tinnitus ring a little louder and my patience grow a little thinner.

I was already under the impression that this guy was full of shit and that the only thing of value he’d have to say would be ‘That’s all the time I have, thanks for being a great audience.’  

So I was hoping for a quick end to all this inspirational nonsense. Seriously, dude, let’s hurry up and get to changing some lives so the rest of us can get on with ours and go to lunch.  

Little did I know that the biggest life that was about to change was my own.  

*Mary Jo Campbell is the mother of Kris Jenner. Kris Jenner is responsible for giving birth to not only the Kardashian / Jenner kids but also spawning a reality TV franchise and product brand. Those two business entities not only celebrate her children’s status-driven narcissism but are also responsible for convincing a generation  of young women that their bodies aren’t good enough because they don’t compare to the plasticized, photo-shopped images of Jenner’s superficial offspring, prompting teenage girls as young as 13 to ask their parents for nose, breast and butt jobs in a sad and futile attempt to keep up with the Kardashians.

Had Mary Jo Campbell been a little more birth-controlling and a little less pro-creating when it came to the act of bearing children then the world might have been spared the damaging effects of having Kris Jenner and her descendants in it.     

* Ayahuasca (hi-uh-wah-ska) is a South American hallucinogenic tea that when consumed is believed to give people not only a beautiful and spiritual experience but also offer them unique clarity about their lives and bestow them with an enhanced sense of personal direction.

While the plant isn’t illegal in the U.S. per se, its active ingredient, known as D.M.T. is banned as a Schedule I Drug, the same category as heroin and ecstasy so the only way to slurp up some of this spiritualized soup is to travel to Brazil, Costa Rica or Peru for a retreat or if you’re in the States you can take part in an underground ceremony led by a Shaman at the tune of $250 a pop.

Which if you think about it isn’t a lot money when it comes to having profound realizations that the miserable job or relationship you’re in isn’t the right thing for you, thereby empowering you to seek out a path that gives you total happiness and fulfillment and in turn making you a better person and the world a better place.

The 90%

Chapter 26


“You did this on purpose didn’t you?” Kaleb asks while inspecting the gruesome bald spot I’d managed to cut into Trevor’s hair while attempting to do the scissor over comb technique.

“Why would I do that?”

“Same reason the mom from A Christmas Story used up all the glue.”

“So the Old Man couldn’t put the leg lamp back together?”

“So you’ve seen that movie?”

“Who the fuck hasn’t? And what does that have to do with this?”

“Just like the mom didn’t want the lamp around, you didn’t wanna do scissor over comb, you wanted to use clippers and so you decided to sabotage the whole thing by going and doing…this.” he says, poking his finger at the hairless patch on Trevor’s head.

“Do you really think I’d wanna do something like this on purpose?”

“No, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how you did this because the comb should’ve guarded against him being scalped.”

“I amaze even myself sometimes.”

“No shit. You’re like a magician that performs demented tricks on people’s heads. Anyway, like I was saying, because of this little mishap we now have to use the clippers.”    

“But I thought you said clippers were tools for the unskilled and incompetent.”

“They are but there’s no way I, or you, and I especially mean you, will be able to fix this by doing scissor over comb.” he gripes. “How do you feel about going super short on the sides?” he asks Trevor.

“I’m good with it but lemme ask Stickman.” he says then nods his head to an imaginary voice. “Stickman is good with it too.” he informs us, making me relieved that both he and Stickman were easy going clients.  

“Kaleb, babe, can you come over here and check my cut please?” Dusti yells to him.

“Babe?” he says to me with a scrunched up face. “That just made me feel like I did when I saw my parents 69ing, blech.” he utters then schleps over to Dusti.     

“Your boy’s a little salty isn’t he?” Trevor asks once Kaleb is out of earshot.

“You get used to the sodium.”

“I feel sorry for his girlfriend…if he even has one.”

“Oh he does, and she’s a pornstar.”

“What really? That guy?”

“Hard to believe huh?”

“I mean not if she was one of those fetish pornstars like a burn victim or an amputee.”

“She’s actually legit, her name is **** ******.”



“She’s fucking hot, and that moan of hers…god damn!”

“Don’t I know it, Trev.”

Kaleb returns and assess the tattered landscape I’ve left on Trevor’s head then devises a plan. 

“Ok, we’re gonna start off with no guard and blend it up using a 1 and then a 2. That’ll erase the bald spot and give a nice gradient look. Then we’ll take some off the top and texturize it. That good with you, dude?” he asks Trevor.

“Hey, man, anything is good from the person banging **** ******.  That shit is prime-time, yo!”

“Gee, I wonder how he found out that piece of information.” Kaleb says, looking at me.

“What’s it like having sex with her?” Trevor asks with excitement.  

“I don’t talk about my sex life.”

“Aww c’mon, man, ya gotta tell me! I gotta know! Besides, you cut my ear, doesn’t that deserve some kind of compensation?”

“He’s got a point.” I tell Kaleb.

“Fine, it’s good. Now can we move on?”

“That’s it? After every mind-bending thing I’ve seen her do on camera and all you’ve gotta say is ‘it’s good’?”

“Everything she does on camera is acting, it’s not real life. Sorry to burst your boner.”

“It doesn’t look like she’s acting, it looks like she’s loving it.”

“That’s the trademark of a good actor, to pretend. Besides, they have to do re-takes, get different shots, adjust the lighting and then edit it all. It’s no different than anything that goes into a regular movie.”



“She ever take you to work with her?”

“No because I’m too busy working this job where I have to answer questions like this because some people are chatty Kathy’s right, Stuke?”

“So we’re gonna start off with no guard then work our way up to a 2?” I say in a bid to take the focus off of me and my double XL mouth, realizing I’d be a horrible employee if I worked for The Mob.     

“Yeah.” Kaleb says, firing up the barbaric clippers and fixing the side with the bald patch on it and making it look crisp and clean.

“Now do the other side just like this.”  

“Ok.” I tell him, believing that using the clippers will reduce my ability to make mistakes only to find out that I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Cementing once and for all my belief that there was no hope for me when it came to doing any hair of any type in any way on any person.   

“Holy hose-hound.” Kaleb says when he sees the Texas Chainsaw Massacre I’d performed.

“How’s it lookin’?” Trevor asks.

“Like Ray Charles did it right after shooting up.” Kaleb tells him.

“But you’re able to fix it, right?” he asks Kaleb as I look out the window and stare at the silhouette of the Santa Monica mountain range in the distance, wanting to flee from here to its highest peak and hoping some kind, understanding soul will bludgeon me over the head with a rock and then leave my corpse to be ravaged by birds and wild animals as if I was given a traditional Tibetan Sky Burial.     

“Of course I can fix it.” Kaleb says, grabbing the clippers once again and turning my mess into a masterpiece as the call goes out for our lunch break.

“You wanna finish the rest of the cut so we can get outta here before we all turn to dust?” I ask full of dejection and self-loathing.

“Sure, just watch me so you’ll know what to do next time.” he says, chopping into the hair on the top of Trevor’s head with a calculated frenzy.

As he cuts I look down the row and see the great shag that Bode did on his client which he’s finishing off with hairspray and the flawless A-line Dusti did on hers that she’s flat-ironing.

In fact everyone in my row has done an awesome job on their client with the exception of me who’s standing off to the side with his dick in his hand like some useless cuckold while his teacher finishes the job he couldn’t do.       

“Alright you’re good to go.” Kaleb tells Trevor, putting a dab of paste in his hair and styling it.

“Fucking rad.” Trevor says, admiring his reflection. “Stickman is gonna be off the chain this Friday, thanks dude!” he tells Kaleb as he white boy dances with his bandaged ear over to the front desk.

“I know you weren’t able to do the last part of the cut but do you still feel like you learned something?”

“Oh yeah, I learned that I’m a total fuck-up and shouldn’t be allowed to touch people’s hair because when I do it’s a crime against humanity.” I tell him as I throw my gear into my kit.

“Hey man, it was your fist men’s cut, of course you were gonna make mistakes.”

“Yeah? What about all the women’s cuts I’ve done? And how many times have I done a blow dry that looked even half-way passable?”

“Well you-“

“The answer is none, Kaleb. NONE. I feel like life is giving me a great big sign that says I should fucking quit and count my losses while they’re still countable.”

“You don’t wanna do that.”

“Pretty sure I do.”

“Pretty sure you don’t.”

“Yes I do! When I was in Core it bothered me that I wasn’t any good but I thought I’d eventually outgrow it, get better over time and improve the quality of work I did and the way I felt about it.”


“But none of that has happened and I’m fucking sick and tired of it to the point that I’m ready to quit and go deliver pizzas or something lame like that that that doesn’t kick me in the balls on the daily.”


“What, motherfucker?”

“If you quit you’ll never get to where you’re supposed to go.”

“And where’s that? A hair salon for the blind?”

“No, although that is funny.”

“It’s funny because you said something like that to me before.”

“That makes sense. But besides that, listen, you have the passion to wanna do good which is why you’re so hard on yourself but you need to ease up, man.”

“That’s hard to do when I see everybody else creating phenomenal work and all I’m making is garbage.”

“Fuck what everybody else is doing.” he says as my fellow students stroll past us towards the front door. “If you stick with this you’re gonna be more successful than all these people.”

“How do you figure?”

“The Law of Percentages.”

“What does that even mean?”

“Do you know how many of these students will actually make a career out of doing hair?”

“No idea, I’m not in charge of statistics.”

“Ten percent is your answer. At most, ten percent will go on to do hair after they graduate.”

“Doesn’t seem like much.”

“It isn’t.”

“Why won’t they?”

“Any number of reasons. They might decide they don’t like it, can’t handle the assistant phase, they get married or knocked up, die in a car crash…who knows, the factors are endless. But if you keep with it that puts you at an advantage.”


“Because ninety percent of your competition won’t even show up for the game. They’ll forfeit their career in hair which will give you more room on the field to flourish.”

“Flourish is the farthest fucking word to describe where I’m at right now.”

“I know but the right now doesn’t last forever. You’ll get better as long as you don’t quit. Plus, here’s a secret no one else will tell you…”

“What’s that?” I ask, thinking of Jan’s Dead Men Tell No Tales tattoo and wondering if Kaleb and I will find ourselves at the bottom of the Pacific once he reveals this secret to me.  

“You’re not really here to learn how to do hair.”

What was that?

“Dude, like the Virgin Mary said to God, what the fuck are you talking about?”

“What I’m talking about is that all you’re really here to do is get the 1600 hours you need to take your board exam and pass it so you can get your license. Everything else is just lipstick on a cop. The real learning comes when you start assisting at an actual salon.”

Kaleb dropping this revelation made me feel like I wasn’t allowed a choice between taking the blue pill or the red pill but instead had the red one shoved down my throat and was forced to swallow.

And upon swallowing it came to the realization that the reality I’d thought I’d been living in had been a lie and in its place a new and unsettling truth lay bare that I now had to contend with and accept.

All my notions about school had been an illusion like set pieces on a Hollywood sound stage that appeared to be 3 dimensional but were nothing more than cheap plywood propped up by a few beams and some brackets.  

What a fucking asshole this Kaleb guy was.

“You know if this was meant to make me feel better it doesn’t.”


“No! I already feel like I’ve been drowning in a sea of sorrow and instead of giving me your hand you use it to push me further down.”

“Well that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to help you see things for how they really are so you’ll quit stabbing yourself in the heart. I want you to know that you don’t need to know everything about hair when you finish school, you just need to finish it and all that takes is just showing up every day.”     

“So you’re saying just come here every day, get the shit kicked out of me and eventually everything will work out?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying and doing that doesn’t take any skill or talent, just determination.”

I finish packing up my shit and notice Bode and Dusti are waiting for me by the door.

“Stuke, more than anything else hair is a mind game. It’s a mind game between you and yourself and you and your clients and I know you’ve got the making of becoming a true Jedi so stick with it, ok?”

“That’s very Obi-Wan of you but I seriously doubt school was as hard for you as it is for me.”

“Trust me, it was a fucking nightmare.” he says, taking me by surprise. “And Sassoon doesn’t have the whole kumbaya culture they do here because Vidal was English and there’s two things the English pride themselves on.”

“What’s that?”

“Perfection and being cunts to those who can’t achieve it. And in their eyes I could never achieve it.”


“Yeah. There were so many days I’d go home and cry because I’d done something the wrong way and the teachers had humiliated me in front of everyone because of it.”

“Wow, I was always under the impression you’d been this god-like magi from the minute you picked up a pair of shears. I mean, what about that year you spent in London? Didn’t you go there because you were so good?”

“No, I went there so I could get good, and it was the hardest year of my life. But I became who I am because of it and you wanna know why?’

“Because you didn’t quit?”

“Doesn’t happen often but you’re right. And if I can do it so can you. So from now on the only thing you should worry about is not comparing yourself to others, not kicking the shit out of yourself and above all else, don’t become a part of the 90%.”

“Okay.” I say, coming down off the ledge of career suicide I was about to fling myself from.

“It won’t always feel good but that’s temporary and anyone can recover from temporary.”

“I understand and…thanks for the talk, it means a lot, especially from you.”

“Don’t mention it.” he says, pulling from his back pocket a smashed up pack of Marlboro lights that he digs a cigarette out of. “And by that I mean don’t mention what I said to anyone because I can’t afford to look like I care, got it?”

“Got it.”

“Good, now go to lunch while I kill myself softly with this cigarette.”

Not Waving but Drowning

Chapter 25

“I don’t know how to do a style and set.” I tell Dreama as I begrudgingly fasten a cape around the elderly woman he’d forced me into taking. 

“Best way to learn is by making mistakes.” he says walking away.

“Yeah but I don’t’ even know where to start. Could you at least give me some pointers?”

“God damn it does Dreama have to do everything?” he complains, stomping back to my station and scribbling down a list of products in the penmanship of a 1st grader on the back of my client’s ticket. “Throw this in her hair and curl it.” 

“Curl it how? Can you do the first one for me so I understand?”

“No! Just fake it ‘til you make it.”

“Or just watch a YouTube video on how to do it.” Kaleb’s nasally voice says from behind us. 

“Dude! What are you doing here?” I say, happier than a priest in an all boys orphanage to see him.

“What are you doing here?” Dreama snarls.

“Well, Jermaine, I work here despite your best efforts to change that.” Kaleb says while Dreama looks at him like a cockroach that won’t die.  

“Oh my god! Kaleb, you’re back!” Dusti screams, jumping up and wrapping an arm and leg around him as if he were a stripper pole, a move she’ll later come to master when she relocates to Vegas, takes up pole-dancing and gets crowned 2019’s Miss Exotic Pole Dancer of the Year. 

“Could you please not do that?” Kaleb asks, peeling Dusti off his body. “I’ve got a herniated disc.”

“Oh, my bad.” she says, running her hands down his backside until he squirms out of her reach. 

“By the way, Jermaine, Rene would like a word with you.” Kaleb tells him.   

“It’s DREAMA!” he barks back like a petulant child. “And why’s she wanna see ME?” he asks, rightfully confused since he’s normally the one sending people to Rene, not the one being sent.  

“I dunno. Once we were finished she told me to get back on The Floor and send you up.” 

“You tell her some bullshit about me? Cuz if you did…” Dreama boils while clenching his fists and teeth. 

“You better get going, you know how short she is on patience.” Kaleb says with a grin.

“Fuck you, faggot, this ain’t over.” Dreama hisses before turning and trudging back up the stairs to Rene’s office while Bode, Dusti and I stand there stunned at the reversal of fates that had taken place.

“What the fuck just happened?” Dusti asks.

“And how did you manage to keep your job? Dreama made it sound like you were toast.” I say.    

“As usual Dreama didn’t know what he was talking about.” Kaleb tells us as he tidies his porno-creep mustache in a station mirror.” And once he left, Rene and I were able to come to a nice little agreement.”

“I didn’t know the words ‘nice’ and ‘agreement’ could be in the same sentence as ‘Rene’”. Dusti says.

“Or the word ‘little’” I add.

“Seriously, trying to reason with her is like trying to negotiate with Genghis Kahn.” Dusti giggles.

“I know, and at first she wasn’t interested in talking because she was too busy yelling about firing me. But once I explained why that wasn’t in her best interest she decided to keep me around.”

“Really?” Bode asks perplexed. What’d you say to make her act so…unlike herself?” 

“I told her if she fired me then I’d have a lot of time on my hands, enough time to call corporate and tell them about the Learning Leader she’d hired who not only lacked industry experience but was also fucking students on her watch. Once she saw the severity in this she thought it was best I stay.”     

“So you blackmailed her?” I ask.

“I don’t think that’s the right word to use since she’s black, it comes across as racially insensitive.”

“Bribed?” Bode asks.

“There was no exchange of money.”

“Then how does the word ‘extorted’ make you feel?” I say, prompting Kaleb to think on it for a second.

“It makes me feel like Tony Soprano. I like it.” 

“So you knew about Dreama hooking-up with Natalia then?” I ask.

THAT’S who he’s been fucking? Jesus Christ he has NO respect for himself, that’s just awful.”

“If you didn’t know it was Natalia who’d you think it was?”

“I wasn’t sure, I just threw a broad allegation out there, put on my poker face and hoped for the best. But seriously, Natalia? Gross. Just visualizing that makes me wanna lobotomize myself.”

“What do you think’ll happen to Dreama?” Dusti asks.

“I dunno. But whatever it is he’s gonna blame me for it and have a giant hard-on for trying to fuck me as a result of it so you know what that means.”

“What?” we ask bewildered.

“I need to start using a little more caution and constraint in the way I handle myself at school.”

Kaleb giving a shit about the way he handled himself in general let alone at school could only mean one thing: They were breaking out the snow-blowers in Hell because it had officially frozen over.  

“Well we’re glad you were able to escape the noose.” Bode says.

“Thanks.” he replies then looks at the elderly woman in my chair. “What’s this?” 

“This is what Dreama said I had to do, a style and set.”

“Do you plan on doing hair in a nursing home when you graduate?”

“It wasn’t in the cards.”

“Excuse me, miss?” Kaleb says into her hearing aid equipped ear. “My name is Kaleb, I’m a teacher here and I think there’s been a mistake with the student you’ve been given.”

“Mistake? What kind of mistake? Is he gonna make me look like the Bride of Frankenstein?”

“There’s a good chance that could happen but besides that he’s also super slow, slower than two turtles copulating.”

“Copu-what?” she asks, craning her neck towards him in an attempt to hear better. 

“Forget it. You want a style and set correct?”

“Yes. I don’t want my hair cut or colored and I don’t wanna end up looking like Ellen DeGeneres, that squawky woman resembles a 12yr old boy.”

“Ok, well Stuke here is not the person to do that for you because he takes forever.”

She glances over at me for confirmation of this.

“He’s not lying.” I tell her. 

“And by the looks of it time isn’t something you have so I’m gonna hand you over to a student that can get the job done before God calls you from his waiting room into his office, ok?”

So much for caution and constraint.   

“I have a bridge game in two hours you know.” she tells him.

“You’ll be out of here before then. Plus, we have a complimentary defibrillator if you need it so don’t hesitate to ask.” he says, removing her cape and interlocking his arm with hers and walking her back to the front desk.

“He’s such a gentleman.” Dusti says, running her tongue along the top of her teeth. 

“A true nobleman.” I say. “Total aristocrat.” Bode follows up.

“Shut up, the both of you.” she chides, adjusting her boobs to be front and center.       

Minutes later Kaleb comes back leading a procession of clients.

“Bode, here’s your shag cut, Dusti, this lady would like a triangular bob and Stuke, here’s your men’s cut.” he says, then goes on to dole out the remainder of the clients to the other students in the row.   

 “Hi, I’m Stuke.” I tell the scrawny 20 yr. old white kid in my chair.     

“I’m Trevor.” he says with an impish smile. “I need a haircut before this rave I’m goin’ to on Friday”.

“Yeah? Is this rave like Monster Massive?” 

“Yeah, only more massive. I like to take X and glue glow sticks to my clothes so I look like a stick figure, I do it every time I go to one of these things.”

“Is that your costume?”

“It’s more than a costume, it’s an identity…I even have a name for it.”

“Which is?”


“Makes sense. Do you dance at these things?”

“I don’t know how to dance…”

“Well not everyone dan-“

“But Stickman does and he’s a maniac on the floor.”

“He sounds like a real rager.”

“You don’t know the half of it.” he says taking a deep breath. “One night Stickman was so out of control that I woke up in Tempe.”


“Is there more than one Tempe in the country?”

“Not to my knowledge.”

“Then Arizona it was.”

Kaleb returns and stands behind Trevor, running his hands through his messy mop of hair. “Ok, so like I said earlier, we’re gonna do this men’s cut employing the scissor over comb technique…”

Scissor over comb is one of the most graceful and precise methods a stylist can employ. It’s also one of the hardest to learn and execute because the comb and the scissors have to work in unison while moving along the head as if they were dancing, all the while maintaining consistency and accuracy with the length that’s being cut.

The end result (if done right) is a soft, beautiful style which tapers in at the sides and the nape giving the client a more customized look as opposed to just having their hair mowed over with clippers. 

Some in the industry swear by this system while others swear at it. But regardless of where a stylist falls with loving or hating it, it’s respected by all and truly mastered by few.      

“…and since we’re doing that technique I need you to wash him out and blow dry him first.” Kaleb says.   

“Hold on, I thought one of the reasons you wanted me to do a men’s cut was because you didn’t wanna suffer through another blow-dry with me.”

“I know, but to do this his hair has to be in a uniform direction and to achieve that you’ll need to wash and blow dry it before starting.”


“Quit your bitchin’, it’ll take all of five minutes and make sure to use your comb when blowing him out because the back and the sides need to be in a downward direction and the top needs to be combed towards the front. Got it?” 

I do what I’m told and when I’m finished he looks it over. 

“Wow, even blowing out short hair is a challenge for you.”

“Can’t we just use clippers on him?”

“No, that’s barbaric.” he says, wetting Trevor’s hair with a spray bottle then re-drying it again.

“There, see how it’s all nice and neat?”

“A real work of art.”

“I know, plus, it’ll make it easier for you to follow your guide.” he says as he takes my shears in his hand.

“Now, you’re gonna start behind the ear at the mastoid process, placing the comb against his head and the shears against the comb. Then you’re gonna move both of them upwards at the same time while cutting, like this.” he says, demonstrating on Trevor and then…


Accidentally cuts him. 

“Oh my god!” Kaleb squeals. “I think I got blood on me!”

“You? What about HIM!?” I ask as a crimson stream races down the side of Trevor’s baby white face.

“Blood makes me nauseous and I’m a germaphobe!” Kaleb cries as if he’s been bitten by a rabid dog.

“Well go grab him a towel or something.” I yell. 

“That’d be nice.” Trevor says unfazed while holding his ear as his fingers turn red.

“Ok.” Kaleb says, holding his stomach and hobbling over to the towels while Trevor’s head bobs around as he inspects the floor.   

“Lose something?” I ask.

“Just wondering if any part of my ear is down there.” he replies casually.

Kaleb comes back and thrusts the towel at me with his head turned to avoid seeing more blood. I grab it and press it against Trevor’s ear, maybe pressing it a little too hard because he yelps out again.  

“Sorry, I wanna make sure it has enough pressure to stop.” I tell him in my best fake surgeon voice.

“I’ll go find a Band-Aid and some Neosporin.” Kaleb says then flees the scene, leaving me alone with this hair cutting causality in my chair and wondering if said causality had signed a release form that would relinquish us from the culpability of maiming him.

Kaleb is gone for what seems like an eternity which makes me wonder if he’s actually looking for first-aid supplies or just puking his guts out in the bathroom, it could be either so in the meantime I try to make small talk with Trevor in an attempt to break the long, awkward bleeding silence.         

“Soooooo…. have you been here before?”   

“A couple times but I think I’ll remember this one the most.” he says, pulling my hand and the towel from his ear so he can survey the damage. 

“Oh would you look at that!” I say surprised. “It’s just a little nick. By the way you were gushing I thought for sure it was a van Gogh.” I tell him as the flow has slowed down to a trickle due in no small part to all the pressure I’d applied like a fucking pro. 

“Yeah it isn’t that bad.” he says, dabbing at it with the towel then wiping the blood off his hand as Kaleb finally returns with the provisions he’d set out for.

“Here.” he says, handing them to Trevor then turning around while he bandages himself up.

“Wanna keep going?” Kaleb asks hesitantly once all signs of blood and injury are out of sight.

“Hell yeah!” Trevor replies with excitement. “Stickman needs to look sharper than those scissors that just cut me.”

“Stickman?” Kaleb asks.

“Forget about it.” I say. “Just get on with the cut…without cutting him again…please.”

Kaleb carefully shows me the technique again and then leaves me to do the entire left side of Trevor’s head. After 20 minutes he comes back to check on me.

“That looks like a lawn that’s been mowed by an epileptic having a seizure.” he says, taking my shears and evening out all the disproportionate lengths riddling the side of Trevor’s head. “Try it again on the other side.” 

“I’m gonna do just as bad on that side too, can I please just use the clippers instead?”

“Forget it, clippers are tools for the unskilled and incompetent.”

“I reside in both those categories.”

“And the only way to get out of them is to keep trying.” he says, leaving me to do what I don’t wanna do while he goes to check on an Asian student at the end of the row named Jan.

After a few minutes and a few tries I stop to look at my work and wonder how it is that I’ve done what I’ve done. It wasn’t anything good, mind you, but the level of bad that it was had astounded even me.

“How the fuck?” I whisper to myself while gazing at this epic fail with equal parts distaste and intrigue because it was something so awful it pained me to look at it but so bizarre I couldn’t not look at it.

And speaking of looking at it, I thanked my walking upright God that this mistake of magnificent proportions had taken place on the side of Trevor’s head making it nearly impossible for him to see.         

“How’s your ear doing?” I ask as I frantically wave to Kaleb in a futile attempt to get his attention. 

“It’s pulsating.” he says while tapping his foot. “Like the beat that makes Stickman move.” he adds, pumping his shoulders up and down as I continue to flail my arm at Kaleb to no avail.

“Cool, I’ll be right back.” I say then run over to Kaleb who’s talking with Jan who has an agitated look on her face.    

“I just don’t get the point behind it.” Kaleb quips at her while rubbing his scruffy chin.

“What’s not to understand? It’s pretty straightforward if you ask me.” she bites back. 

“Well let’s ask Stuke since he’s covered in tattoos.”

“What are we asking Stuke since he’s covered in tattoos?”

“Show it to him.” he orders Jan.

“Fine.” she says with a roll of her auburn colored eyes, pulling up her sleeve to reveal a script tattoo she’d recently got on the inside of her bicep.

Dead Men Tell No TalesI read aloud. “Is that your first tattoo?”

“Yeah, I just got it and I was excited about it until…”

And I already knew the rest…

In all her excitement she’d had a momentary lapse of reason and had made the cardinal mistake of showing it to Kaleb and now found herself and her tattoo the target of his snark-filled scrutiny.

“Isn’t that that the silliest thing for her to get?” Kaleb asks me.

“I’m not the tattoo police but my clie-“

“I mean I’d understand it if she was a pirate but she’s not, she’s an Asian from…where was it again?”

“Simi Valley, Kaleb. And I happen to like what it means which is why I got it. Duh.” 

“And what does it mean? That you’ve been watching too much Johnny Depp in a funny hat and eyeliner?”

“It means that secrets can kill you and I think that’s poetic.”

“So are you saying you’d kill anyone that knows a secret about you?”

“I’m saying I’d kill you and I wouldn’t even try to keep it a secret.”

“Sheesh, only your fist tattoo and you’re already acting like a hardened criminal.”

“And I’m not sure what you’re acting like; an asshole or a moron.” she says, then turns back to blow drying her client.    

“Girls are so weird.” he says as if he’s genuinely puzzled by Jan’s hostility towards him. “What do you need?”

“What I always need; help.”

Showdown at the PM Corral

Chapter 24

Every Tuesday morning before we began the business of learning how to do hair students were required to attend a general assembly in the Theory Room called POW WOW which focused on the business of the business of learning how to do hair.

The first half of POW WOW consisted of staff telling us what we should be doing, buying and selling while the second half was reserved for industry guests to come in and tell us what we should be doing, buying and selling.    

Today’s POW was no different than any other; Make sure you’re at school on time, smoking is allowed in certain areas only and sell as much Paul Mitchell product to clients as you possibly can so the brand can expand its billion dollar empire, you fucking serfs.

After the POW portion was over we were allowed a ten minute break to have a smoke, take a leak or for the very expedient, run to the car and get high and then return back in time for the WOW portion.

But today instead of having someone from the industry come in and WOW us with a demo, their product or their wisdom, one of the school’s Learning Leaders, Jermaine Parker, was going to be giving a presentation.

Jermaine was Rene’s nephew and although they shared the same last name he insisted everyone call him by his “professional” name which was J.P. Dreama.  

J.P. Dreama had been hired as a Learning Leader the day after he acquired his cosmetologist license which was unheard of due to the fact that the school had a firm policy requiring all Learning Leaders to have a minimum two years experience behind the chair before they could be eligible for the gig. 

But when your aunt is the Head Motherfucker In Charge and you don’t want to put in the time it takes to acquire the skills you need for the position you’d like, then nepotism is the road to take in getting the job you want but aren’t qualified to have. And the way Dreama saw it was why bother paying to climb the ladder when he could take the elevator for free.

And so as a result of this family favoritism mixed with Dreama’s complete lack of experience, J.P. earned himself the reputation as being someone who had no idea what the fuck he was doing 100% of the time when it came to teaching. 

But what he lacked in knowledge he overcompensated for in bold-faced bragging because in addition to being a shoddy Learning Leader he was also an actor, director, producer and rapper, a real 21st Century Renaissance man.  

And while he couldn’t tell you how to give a simple one-length haircut he could tell you about all the auditions he was going on, music he was making and headshots he was posting to his Facebook page.

But his list of accomplishments didn’t stop there because J.P. Dreama also held the position as school sheriff, deputized by Aunt Rene and given full jurisdiction to question, harass and penalize Future Professionals at will.

This meant you would often see Deputy Dreama out patrolling The Galleria and arresting students who’d left school without permission to grab a quick coffee, soda or snack and escorting them back to Rene’s office for disciplinary action.

And if he wasn’t busy chasing down AWOL fugitives then he was hard at work handing out citations to Future Professionals who weren’t in total compliance with the school’s all black dress code, writing students up for petty crimes such as having white shoelaces in their black shoes or red trim on their black jacket.

But his policing didn’t stop at the Future Professional level because Dreama was also notorious for threatening the jobs of his fellow Learning Leaders for an array of charges that spanned from arriving at work a couple minutes late to not using the official Paul Mitchell vernacular while out on The Floor.

And while he derived great satisfaction in holding the fate of people’s employment over their heads what Deputy Dreama truly reveled in was culling the student rumor mill in search of solid gold gossip about other Learning Leaders that he could later use as leverage or blackmail.     

Oddly enough, the biggest dirt being shoveled around the scandal circle was in regard to Dreama himself and the allegations that he was sexually involved with a chubby Armenian student named Natalia which was a crime punishable by swift and vengeful termination.

But as is always the case with those who have connections to power and are belligerent from its effects, Dreama was afforded the luxury of never being held accountable to the very laws he took such sadistic pleasure in enforcing.

So because of this unfair advantage that he had over everyone else, everyone else saw it in their best interest to avoid engaging with or talking about this Gangsta Gestapo at all costs.

Everyone else except for of course…

“Dreama’s presentation is gonna suck the balls right off a donkey.”


He’d taken a seat next to Bode and I and was pissed at the fact that Dreama had been allowed to give a presentation when he himself had made the request to do so a few weeks prior and was shot-down by Rene.

“My idea was awesome too.” he went on griping. “It was fun, interactive and full of knowledge that the students could use but in the end I was told that Learning Leaders aren’t allowed to sit in as industry guests. Yet here we are, about to watch a Learning Leader give a presentation who hasn’t spent a day of his life in the industry. Go fucking figure.”

“We live in a world of hurt don’t we, buddy.” Bode says with a smirk as he pats Kaleb on the back.     

“Okay, listen up.” Dreama yells out as he takes the stage dressed in a pair of black jeans, white Jordans, a grey button down and a black clip-on bowtie. “My presentation today is about THE MOST important thing done in a service, can anyone tell me what that is?”

“I don’t think he knows which is why he’s asking.” Kaleb whispers loud enough for those in our row to hear and chuckle at.

“The client consultation.” Natalia says, shimmying her shoulders at Dreama from the front row.  

“That’s right.” he tells her with a cat ate the canary grin. “And y’all ain’t doin’ ‘em good enough before starting your services and when things go south y’all come cryin’ to Dreama and Dreama ain’t got time for it.” he says, swaggering over to the side of the stage and pecking his fingers on a laptop.

“So today we’re gonna watch a video on how to perform a consultation called…How to Perform a Consultation.”

He says this with the utmost seriousness as he tries (and fails) to link the laptop up with the Theory Room’s multi-media presentation screen that hangs above the stage.

After 10 minutes of fumbling around and with the assistance from a fellow Learning Leader, Dreama is able to connect to the screen and play the video.  

Now you’d think that for someone who’s constantly touting their talents about being an actor, director and producer that it’d be well within their capacity to create a quality video utilizing a real set, real people and real dialogue.

But, no, that didn’t happen.

And instead what we were given was a video Dreama had stumbled upon in the deepest, darkest depths of YouTube that was crudely animated and accompanied by a creepy, monotone robot voice that mechanically talked about the consultation process.

And as we watch this grotesque oddity with complete dumbfoundedness Kaleb continues to fume more and more with bitter indignation, driving him to make typical Kaleb remarks that get louder and louder until he finally blurts out something the entire room can hear.          

“I once had such horrible diarrhea that I thought my toilet was the shittiest thing I’d ever seen but this turd takes the fucking urinal cake.”

This is met with out-loud laughs from everyone except Dreama who stops the video so he can admonish the crowd and put Kaleb squarely in his cross-hairs.   

“HEY!!!! Dreama is up here trying to be a daymaker and create some magic and all y’all can do is sit there and be resisters.” he shouts, using Paul Mitchell terminology that shows that he’s punch drunk on the school’s Culture Kool-Aid. “So I’d appreciate it if you’d show Dreama some respect for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this for you!”

Dreama scans the room with his best mad dogging look then resumes the video, glaring over at Kaleb intermittently until the video concludes 20 minutes later.

Once it’s over everyone looks at everyone else because none of us are sure what it is we just witnessed or how it is we should respond to it, even Natalia has a WTF look on her round, plumpy face. So we sit there, paralyzed with ambiguity until Dreama breaks the uncomfortable silence by applauding himself.    

“Yeah, y’all are welcome for that knowledge Dreama just dropped on you.” he says while clapping. “Make sure you use it out on The Floor today. Now get the steppin’.”

This is our cue that this week’s POW WOW has officially come to an end and we’re now free to exit the Theory room and head onto The Floor to start taking clients.

“I want you to try scissor over comb for your men’s cut so I can get a feel for how bad you are at it.” Kaleb tells me while I set myself up in his row.

“I assure you that however bad you think it may be, it’ll be a lot worse.”

“That’s what I’m counting on. Bode, how do you feel about doing a shag today?” Kaleb asks as he and Dusti also set-up in his row.

“I’d LOVE to get a shag from you.” Dusti says, batting her thick eyelashes at him.

“Uh, how about we find you a man.” Kaleb counters.

“Like in a men’s cut?” she asks.

“Like in general.” he replies, causing her to clutch her pearls and laugh aloud at his jest because she’s carrying around the world’s biggest record-breaking boner for him.

“I’d like to do a fun rock-n-roll shag.” Bode says with his usual upbeat enthusiasm.

“Cool, and Dusti, we’ll find something for you today, just not a shag.”

“Fine, but you owe me one.” she says with a big smile and a shift in her hips.

“Riiiiiiiiiight.” Kaleb tells her. “Now before we get started I wanna make sure everyone-“

“Yo, Kaleb.” Dreama shouts, prancing towards him with his chest puffed out like an angry rooster. “Dreama needs a word with you.”  

“Can it wait? I’m kinda in the middle of-“

“I’m tired of you and your bullshit attitude.” he says seething. “You think I didn’t hear every one of your little remarks during my presentation?”   

“It’s obvious you did, are you wanting an apology?”

“You’re damn straight I do unless you wanna find yourself-“

“Because I think you should be the one apologizing.”

“ME? For what?”      

 “That abhorrent presentation you gave.”


“Yeah, it means awful.”

“I know what it means! And fuck you cuz my shit was insightful and inspiring.”

“No, it was insulting and infuriating.”

“You’re just mad cuz Dreama was up onstage and you weren’t.”

“I’m mad because these students paid a lot of money to come here and learn something of value and all you had to offer them is a YouTube video made by a 3rd grader and narrated by Stephen Hawking. Don’t you think they deserve more?”    

“Deserve more? What more could they want? They’re already attending the Harvard of hair schools!”

“The Harvard of hair schools?” Kaleb says laughing. “That doesn’t even make sense.”  

“What are you talkin’ about?” Dreama says, getting more agitated by the second.

“There’s over a hundred Paul Mitchell schools in the country but only one Harvard. Harvard is a highly respected institute of learning, Paul Mitchell is a franchise. If anything Paul Mitchell is the McDonald’s of hair schools.”

“So now you’re not only talkin’ shit on me, you’re talkin’ shit on where you work.”  

“No, I’m just aware of where it is I work and it’s nothing comparable to Harvard, especially when students are given what you gave them today. That was just…embarrassing.”  

This comment turns Dreama’s mocha colored face to a deep shade of pissed-off purple.  

“That’s it! I’ve had enough of you and your mouth!’ Dreama spits. “Get yo ass up to Rene’s…NOW!” he screams, channeling the spirit of Ike Turner.

“I’ll be back in a sec.” Kaleb tells us as Dreama escorts him up to Rene’s office.

“That’s doubtful.” Dreama says back to us. 

Seconds later screaming can be heard coming from both Rene and Dreama as they take turns verbally assaulting Kaleb.  

“You think he’s gonna get fired?” Bode asks.   

“If not fired then at least 3rd degree burns all over his body.” I tell him.

“That’s such a crock of shit.” Dusti adds. “He had every right to call Dreama out on his bullshit, that guy’s as useless as a spoon in a knife fight.”  

After a few tense minutes Dreama strides down the steps alone and parades out onto The Floor like a prize-fighter who’d just won his bout.

“Alright y’all let’s take some clients.” he says, strutting over to the front desk and grabbing the client roster so he can assign guests to students.

“Yo, tattoo boy.” Dreama says, walking towards Bode and I with an elderly lady trailing behind him.  

“Which one?” Bode asks as we look at each other puzzled.

“Either of you, I have a client that needs a style and set so one of you-“

“We can’t take her.” I tell him.

“What was that?” Dreama says, looking at me with contempt in his black, angry eyes.

“I said we can’t take her, we’re-“

“You take what I give you. You don’t have a say in it.”

“Well we were supposed to do haircuts with Kaleb today so if it’s all the same we’d like to wait on him.” I say as I prepare to incur his wrath.

But instead of screaming he just laughs to himself while shaking his head, looking at me as if I was someone too stupid to get the punchline to a joke he just told.

“I hate to burst your bubble, kid, but Kaleb isn’t coming back. Not today, not tomorrow…not ever.” he says with a menacing grin. “Now take the god-damn client before you really piss me off.”