Chapter 7

 

At 9:01 a.m. I park my car at the top of the Galleria’s 5-story parking lot, the area reserved for Paul Mitchell Students, Galleria business employees and suicide jumpers serious about their craft. I get out and watch the activity happening in the shopping area below.

A business man gallops out of Starbucks with his coffee in one hand and swinging briefcase in the other.

A janitor pushes a broom with the dispiritedness of being on the Bataan Death March.

A woman walks from the gym with a yoga mat and wearing a peace symbol shirt screaming into her phone, threatening to chew someone’s balls off.

It’s a typical L.A. morning and as the rest of the world is getting started with this new day I’m getting started with this new life.

I take a swig of my O.J., strawberry and Smirnoff smoothie and wonder what the next year of school will be like.

Will I love it or hate it?

Will I be a model student or end up getting kicked out for truancy like I did in high school?

And most important, will I be able to focus on something other than my god-damn broken heart?

There was only one way to find out.

So I chugged my smoothie and told myself “here goes nothing.” Although at a tuition of over 20 grand this was the most expensive nothing I’d ever had.

At 9:10 a.m. I walk into the school and it’s dead and deserted. No pounding music, no dancing students, no lights on. The only sign of life is a girl behind the front desk counting out-loud on her fingers.

I wonder if I’ve come on the wrong day because given my current lifestyle that’s a real possibility.

“Oh hi!” the girl yells at me with a Valley Girl accent. “I’m Simone, can I help you?”

“Yeah, is school open?”

“Sure is! Do you start today?”

“I think so… but uh, where’s the rest of the, you know, school?”

“Oh they’re at The Getty studying how color is used in art so you have the whole place to yourself! You can have a seat with the others over there.” she says pointing to a corner of the room.

I look over and there’s a group of girls huddled together that I hadn’t noticed before because:

  1. The lights are off
  2. They’re dressed in black
  3. I’m drunk

“Sit over there?” I ask to make sure.

“Yeah. Your Learning Leader Charlie will be out in a few minutes to get you.”

“What’s a Learning Leader?” I ask confused.

“A Learning Leader is like a term we use for teacher.”

“Why not just call him a teacher?”

“Who’s him?”

“Charlie. Our Learning Leader.” I say with air quotes.

“Oh. Charlie is a her.”

“He is?”

“Yeah, she is. We use the term Learning Leader because the word ‘teacher’ has a negative contagion to it.”

“You mean connotation?”

“Sure.” she says unconcerned. “Just think of the teachers you’ve had in your past.”

I do this and think of the teachers throughout my life that punished me for petty crimes such as talking in class, passing out cigarettes in class and (allegedly) inciting a food-fight in class. All the sudden I feel pissed-off and annoyed.

“You know what? I get what you mean about the word ‘teacher’, Simone.”

“Yeah it doesn’t connect well with our Future Professionals.”

“Wait, wait, wait…what the hell is a Future Professional?”

“You are, mister.” she says smiling and poking my chest.

“Me?”

“Yeah, we use that word instead of student because ‘student’ can make you feel inferior and we want you feeling empowered.”

“Words are that important here?”

“Totally! The school has done a lotta research into the power of words.”

“Well my mistake.” I tell her in an apologetic tone.

“Oh my god!” she says clapping her hands. “You didn’t make a mistake, you just made a discovery!”

“I made a what?” I ask, feeling like I’d done something shameful like shit my pants in public.

“The word ‘mistake’ implies blame and guilt and we don’t want you experiencing those kinds of things. So anytime a Future Professional does something wrong, especially when cutting or coloring, we tell ‘em they’ve made a discovery instead of a mistake.”

“Wow.” I tell her, rubbing my chin. “If you think about it though, mistakes are what teach us so one could call a mistake a Learning Leader…if one were so inclined.”

Instantly Simone’s brains are splattered all over the wall behind her because I’ve just blown her fucking mind.

“That’s like…SO AMAZING!!!” she says with her jaw dropped. “I love how fast you’re drinkin’ the Kool-Aid!!!”

“Drinkin’ the Kool-Aid’?”

“Yeah! It means embracing our culture.”

“I know what it means but do you know where that term comes from?”

“Paul Mitchell?”

“No. You ever hear of Jim Jones?”

“Is he the guy that sings Margaritaville?”

“No that’s Jimmy Buffett. Jim Jones was a cult leader in the 70’s who convinced his church of 900 men, women and children to move from San Francisco to the jungles of South America.”

“Gross. Why would he do that?”

“He’d been accused of sexual abuse so he and his followers fled there so he could avoid prosecution…and that’s where it happened…”

“What happened?” she whispers, leaning in close.

“He went crazy and had his followers commit suicide by drinking Kool-Aid mixed with cyanide. Once everyone was dead he sat amongst the landfill of bodies, put a gun to his head and then…BANG! Killed himself.”

Simone reels back in disgust, looking at me as if I’m holding a dead kitten in one hand and a bloody crowbar in the other. It’s obvious this was not the type of discovery she’d planned on having this morning.

“Far cry from Margaritaville huh?”

“Very far.” she says inching away from me.

“Can’t have your culture without the cult.” I tell her with a smile. “Anyway, I’ll go sit with the others and wait for our Learning Leader to get us Future Professionals so we can slurp down that Kool-Aid and start making discoveries.”

I go over and find a seat among the group of ladies, wiggling my ass in between one girl that looks like she just finished high school and another that looks like she’d had a couple kids before finishing high school.

I glance around to see what the rest of my classmates look like without looking like I’m glancing around to see what they look like.

One girl looks like Brittany Spears if Brittany had never met 2007 and another girl looks like Amy Winehouse if Amy had never met crack cocaine.

A tall, lanky girl sits across from me with a frown on her face making her look like a sad giraffe. There’s a blonde, waif-thin girl next to her who’s pretty and talking to herself. Sitting next to the waif is a large pear-shaped girl with cropped hair, bad tattoos and a scowl on her face. And off to the side is an adorable “girl next door type” who’s giving me a million dollar smile.

“Hiiiii.” she says. “I’m Denise.”

“I’m Stuke.”

“Did you say Sexy?”

“Uh, no.”

“My bad.” she says with a wink as two more ladies dressed in black walk in and check-in with Simone and join our group.

And then it hits me.

I’m gonna be the only guy in class.

This realization sends a rush of endorphins through my body resulting in a big, dumb smile on my face.

My male brain starts calculating the odds. Based on this group alone it was 10:1 in my favor, just think of what it will be with the rest of the school’s population factored in!

This is more awesome than a monkey doing Kung-Fu while dressed in a tuxedo.

Jay and his insistent claim that doing hair was a bad idea. What-the-fuck-ever, dude.

Doing hair was the best idea I’d had in my young, sexy life and it was about to get a lot sexier.

Sure, on the hotness scale of 1-10 I was a 6, maybe 7 if the girl was drunk. But scarcity creates value and with me being one of the few guys in school who liked girls that would put me at a solid 8 ½.

Less than 30 minutes ago I was wondering how this school year was gonna be and now I had my answer:

Incredible.

The next 365 days of my life was gonna kick more ass than a herd of donkey.

I was gonna be the Head Honcho, The Dude, The Man. I was gonna be…

The Unicorn.

“…and every girl will be trying to ride your sparkly dick to freedom.”

Rene had said, following it up with a cryptic warning about not giving pony rides…or else.

Or else what?

Who cared?

An opportunity like this only comes around once in a lifetime and I’d be damned if I was gonna let some linebacker of a woman (who could crush me into a million pieces) scare me into not taking advantage of all this potential. I just knew that if I was going to engage in any after school activities with fellow female students I’d have to do it without running onto Rene’s rocket-launching radar. Problem solved.

And then I noticed something else…

For the first time since Gums had left me I was feeling good about myself.

I felt my self-esteem start to re-inflate after weeks of laying limp and lifeless and a glowing sense of pride and invincibility was pumping through my veins as if I was some undefeated cage fighter.

I was about to become the star of a one man show with an audience of women and my ratings were guaranteed to go through the fucking roof.

Life was finally about to go my way.

9:29 a.m.

One more minute until the Stuke Show kicked off to rave reviews.

 

 

And then…

HE walked in.

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