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. 

“Uh…yeah.”

“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.”

“No.”

“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!” Stevie 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, Steven, something?”

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

“Steven, 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?”

“Steven 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-“

“Kaleb.”

“Scabies…”

“Kaleb.”

“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 Steven 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 Steven.”

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.        

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