We go over what Charlie refers to as the nuts and bolts of hair styling which consists of shampooing our doll heads, flat-ironing their hair and blow drying it.
The shampooing and flat-ironing is a cinch. Blow drying however, hell on earth.
Tension, constant movement and keeping the blow dryer parallel with the round brush are all basic requirements to pulling off a successful blow dry, none of which I can do after 49 repeated tries.
Each time I attempt it the result looks worse than before, my doll head’s hair ending up in a giant ball of frizz or giant dreadlock. The only comfort I get from each failed effort is the fact that my doll head can’t talk because if she could she’d be yelling at me a very long and angry torrent of obscenities.
“You know what you can do that will help you with your blow drys, Stuke?” Jimbo asks as she looks over the 50th shitty blow dry I’ve done.
“What’s that, Jim?” I ask exhausted.
“When you go home tonight practice blow-drying your doll head in the shower, that way you can both be put out of your misery.”
“I appreciate the suggestion and judging by the way you smell when you come to class every day I never would’ve guessed you knew what a shower was.” I tell her.
Yet even without her fucked-up feedback I know that out of everyone in class I’m that person.
I’m the one all the others look at when they’re feeling bad about their work so they can feel better again.
I’m the patron saint of sucking at hair and when someone is feeling down on themselves all they have to do is pay a visit to my altar of atrocity and recite the following prayer for solace:
I may not be that good but at least I’m better than Stuke. Thank you, God. Amen.
We practice doing single and double color application processes which means I either make a regular mess or twice the mess.
Charlie has us using conditioner instead of color to practice on our doll heads which means I get the milky white substance EVERYWHERE and on EVERYONE which nobody appreciates.
I’m constantly making such a mess that I’m quarantined to a separate part of the room so the only one who’s a causality of my inability is me. By the end of each try I look like the unwilling participant of a bukake party.
Charlie bludgeons us over the head with our Milady Textbook of Cosmetology for the entire week causing the sort of blunt force trauma that would make even the most seasoned ER surgeons puke with disgust.
At the end of our 6 weeks in Core we’re to be tested by having both a practical and written exam before we’re able to go onto The Floor and start taking clients so she has us reading chapter after chapter and taking test after test.
Every day is a never ending rapid river of information that we have to absorb and regurgitate…total mental bulimia.
And if all that weren’t enough I keep thinking about this upcoming Sunday because it was the day that I was supposed to be getting married to Gums.
The constant thought of it looms over my head like a dark storm cloud that keeps pouring down on me a million could haves, would haves and should haves to the point that I feel like I’m drowning inside my own head.
Since the wedding was supposed to be at Jay’s I call him up during my lunch break and ask him if I can come over that day, get drunk and take the wedding dress he’d bought for Gums as a gift (and still had possession of) and set it on fire in his backyard.
“Your absurdity never ceases to amaze me.” he says.
“I don’t see what’s so absurd about wanting to burn that dress in effigy.” I tell him while eating my own Tofurkey sandwich that Bode has been thoughtful enough to make and bring me every day for lunch. “Think of it as a bonfire of the vanities.”
“I most certainly will not. Besides, my homeowners insurance doesn’t cover drunk idiots accidentally setting my yard ablaze so the answer is NO.”
“Then can I at least have the dress so I can destroy it in some sort of symbolic way?”
“Because I might give it to Matlin.”
“Who the hell is Matlin?”
“This guy I’ve been seeing a lot of lately and he just might be the one.”
“Be the one what?”
“The one I marry, hello.”
“You’re thinking about getting married?”
“Don’t judge me, it could happen, and if it does that dress would look spectacular on him.”
“You’ve gotta be joking.”
“I don’t joke when it comes to me marrying someone and the dress I want them to wear while doing it.”
“Fine, whatever. Can I at least come over and hang out with you then?”
“Why? So you can get drunk and ramble on about Gums all day long? No thanks, I’d rather put my dick in a salad shooter.”
“That’d be one of the safer places you’ve put it in recent times.”
“I’ll give you that…but I won’t give you my Sunday afternoon.”
“Because Matlin is coming over and we’re gonna watch Rupal’s drag race and then I’m gonna watch him go down on me ‘ALL NIGHT LONG…’ he sings as if he were Lionel Ritchie.
“Well then what am I supposed to do? I don’t wanna spend that day alone!”
“I dunno, invite some of your schoolmates over for a party, you paid a lot of money to meet them so put it to good use. Jesus, do I have to think of everything for you?”
I didn’t wanna admit it but Jay’s idea was good. And even though I didn’t really know anyone in my class besides Bode that didn’t stop me from inviting everyone over to get rip-roaring drunk with me in an attempt to keep my attention diverted for the day.
Since we had to order the wedding invites in bulk that meant there were more than enough to use as invites to my party. So I took a black sharpie and drew a giant X over the front of the invite and on the back wrote:
You are cordially invited to get shitfaced with me on the day I was supposed to get married but won’t be now because my bride is busy banging a banker. Also, please bring a covered dish.
And then I handed them out to my Core class.
At around 2pm Sunday almost the entire squad showed up, including Jimbo who’s brought a super-sized cake.
“It’s Vegan.” she says as she tosses it down on the table.
“Thanks, but you didn’t have to do that because I’m not vegan.”
“I know. But you’re just as lame as a vegan so it’s appropriate.” she says lighting up a cigarette.
By 9pm everyone is wasted, dancing around, laughing, screaming and bringing a positive life-force to my apartment, a life-force that’s been absent for months on end.
Denise, the cute girl next door type had shown up looking stunning in a short summer dress and had been cozying up to me but then disappeared sometime after 9:30 so I figured she’d had too much to drink and just peaced out on the down-low.
By 10:30pm everyone has dispersed leaving Bode and myself as the last ones standing.
“You gonna be ok by yourself?” he asks as he helps me clean up the place.
“Yeah I’ll be fine.”
“You sure? I’m happy to stay if you need me to, I know this day was tough for you.”
“It’s cool, you’ve done more than enough and I really appreciate you, thanks.”
“You’re a good person.” he says, pulling me in for a hug. “Don’t let the actions of your ex make you think otherwise.”
“Thanks, man, that means a lot. I’m glad we met.”
“Me too. I’ll see you in class next week, call if you need anything.”
“Will do.” I tell him as he walks out the door, leaving me alone with the pestering company of my thoughts.
The Killers “Mr. Brightside” comes on and I grab a bottle of vodka and think about everything that was supposed to be happening today but didn’t.
I was supposed to be with Gums and our group of family and friends celebrating our marriage.
I was supposed to be holding her in my arms, dancing with her in Jay’s backyard under the starlit sky.
I was supposed to return home with her, kissing her neck as I unzipped her wedding dress and then ran my hands over her brown, tattooed body.
And then I was supposed to be having sex with her for the first time as her husband, knowing without a doubt that she would be the only person I’d ever want to be with like this for the rest of my life.
Being with her felt like home. She had been my home.
But that home was gone now and in its place was a mausoleum where her ghost and I were its sole occupants.
As I listen to a song about a guy whose girlfriend is cheating on him a slogan I’d heard years ago randomly pops into my mind.
Life doesn’t always give you what you want but it always gives you what you need…
As I chugged the vodka to escape the disappointing reality I’d been forced into I wondered why life in its infinite wisdom thought I needed any of this bullshit.
“Stuke…” a voice came from my room, scaring the shit out of me to the point I started choking on the vodka and had to spit it out.
I went to investigate, thinking that maybe I’d finally reached that level of alcoholism where one starts to hear things and hallucinate.
Upon entering my room I was assured that I wasn’t tripping and that it had been an actual person.
It was Denise and she was in my bed, cuddled under the covers.
“I thought you’d left without saying goodbye.”
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t feeling good so I snuck off.” she says, pulling the covers away and revealing a very attractive and very naked body. “I hope you don’t mind…”
“I think with enough therapy I’ll get over it.”
“That’s good.” she says, running one hand through her long, chestnut colored hair and the other one down the side of her body.
“How are you feeling?” she asks with a smile.
That was the million dollar question.
One minute I think I’m all alone and preparing to drown myself in misery, the next I’m looking at a hot, naked woman lying in my bed who I had no idea was here in the first place.
Life doesn’t always give you what you want but it always gives you what you need…
“I’m okay.” I tell her as I lean up against the door and take a swig off my bottle.
“Just ok?” she says rolling over and exposing her toned backside and perfectly peach shaped ass.
I hadn’t had sex since Gums had left 3 months ago which is the longest I’d gone without it since I was 15.
I wasn’t sure if I could remember how to do it and even if I could remember I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it through without breaking down and crying like some broken-hearted bitch since tonight was technically my wedding night.
“I bet you’d feel a lot better if you were in bed with me…” she says, coming up on all fours and looking over her shoulder.
And she was right, I did feel better.
Being wanted by someone made me feel better.
Connecting physically with someone made me feel better.
And fucking their brains out and making them feel good made me feel better.
It was the best hour of my life that I’d had in what seemed like forever.
I felt worthy again, wanted again and attractive again.
I felt alive and liberated, if only for a while, from all the oppression of my suffering.
“Just so you know…” I tell her as we share a post-coital cigarette. “We’re violating our purity contracts.”
“It was worth it.” she says, caressing her hand up and down my chest.
“Do you wanna stay the night?”
“I’d like to but I need to get home. Are you ok to drive me?”
“Yeah, I’m not so drunk that I can’t act sober.”
We put our clothes on and walk out to my dilapidated Honda Del Sol.
“Oh my god I love these cars! Can we take the top off?”
“Sure.” I tell her, feeling like a baller in my poor man’s Porsche.
We drive to her place, blasting Depeche Mode’s “Home” on repeat as the warm night air breezes around us and she keeps her hand on my leg.
For a minute I feel like the old me again, the confident me, the me who was free of heartache and free of being haunted by the memory of someone.
It felt good.
It felt better than good.
It felt like coming up for air when you’ve been underwater and how that first breath of oxygen fills your lungs with life and your heart with gratitude.
“Do you want me to walk you to your door?” I ask as we pull up to her apartment complex.
“It’s ok, I don’t know if he’ll be up or not.”
“You have a boyfriend?”
“Yeah…” she says, dropping her head. “It’s bad though, it’s really bad.”
“You didn’t think about telling me?”
“I’m sorry, it’s just really embarrassing to talk about it because he’s strung-out and gets violent and I need to leave but I can’t because I’m broke and…and…and I really like you but…”
Her gentle sobbing kept her from finishing her sentence.
And even though she’d made me the other man, the Rob the Banker, I couldn’t be mad at her because she’d also made me feel normal again.
By her wrapping her naked body around mine, kissing me with a raw and primal passion and looking at me as someone of worth she had helped me re-connect with a part of myself I was convinced had been lost forever.
She had helped me find my way home to myself, if only for a little while, but a little while was all I needed to be assured that it still existed, that I could find my way there permanently.
“It’s ok.” I tell her, running my hands through her hair and wiping the tears from her cheeks. “Are you gonna be safe when you go inside?”
“Yeah, hopefully he’s passed out in an oxy-coma but if things get rough can I call you to come get me?”
“Thanks and thank you for taking me home. I had a great time with you tonight and the sex was…”
“Was what? Nauseating? Frightening? Regretfu-“
“It was amazing.” she says with a wide grin. “I haven’t felt so good or so valued in such a long time.”
“I’ll see you at school next week.” she says as she gets out of the car and collects herself.
I watch her walk up to her door and wonder what’s waiting for her on the other side of it and if it’s waiting to do more damage to her than it’s already done.
I think about how we’ve all been broken by others and in turn we go out and break others in the same ways we’ve been broken.
We’ve become a population of zombies that take turns biting one another, infecting and re-infecting. Not because we’re evil but because we’re all hurt, and hurt people hurt people.
Denise puts her key in the lock and before turning it looks over to me, blows a kiss and mouths the words “Thank you” then goes inside.