I did not take compliments well. He learned that before he learned what year I was born, even before he ever heard me say the names of my dogs. I was almost certain I had lipstick on my teeth the night I met him, although he insisted I didn’t. I held a grudge against him over the next three months for not letting me know there was lipstick on my teeth that night. How could I ever trust him? I needed more people in my life who weren’t afraid to tell me when I had lipstick on my teeth or cilantro stuck between them. But he told me I was pretty, and as unappreciative of that simple compliment as I must have seemed, it made me feel something.
He got his hair cut much too often. Every other week or something stupid like that. I know why men get their hair cut so often, and it is not because it grows quickly. They like getting head massages and faux-attention from the big-titted ‘alternative’ looking bimbos who haven’t finished a book before. These ‘hair stylists’ never go by their real names. The only other profession I know of where a girl with a name like ‘Jessica’ or ‘Ashley’ is called a slightly less common name such as ‘Brooke’ or ‘Lana’ – is stripping.
I was looking at his thick brown hair which always naturally did this swoopy thing in front, admiring how sexy it looked, when he said “I need a haircut.”
“You just got one last week. It looks good. Don’t cut it yet.”
“I already made an appointment.”
I sighed. I knew he didn’t really care what I thought. I didn’t even care what I thought. Hair doesn’t matter anyway. It’s all about eyes. At least he can’t change those, I thought. His were striking blue. Besides, God forbid he should have to ruin Brooke’s week by canceling on her. The poor girl had no skill set whatsoever. She wasn’t even good at cutting hair. But her tits were up to her chin, and honestly looked amazing. He should get his hair cut more often, I decided. Brooke needed the tips. She had no other way to make a living, and she probably had a couple of hungry and adorable little purebred Yorkies at home to feed.
When he got home from work that night, I was waiting for him on his brick front steps. The air was warm and clear. I wondered what the weather was like in Seattle then. I decided it was raining. It always rained in Seattle. That was why I left.
Standing in his living room, he touched my wrist lightly. The room was much too hot. I leaned against the wall, risking chips of old blue paint getting onto my polka-dotted blouse. I needed to support my thin and weary frame. His couch looked too expensive to sit on. I felt that I wasn’t worth the luxury fine leather had to offer. I didn’t understand why he had a fire roaring. It was August in Los Angeles. I didn’t ask. I didn’t complain, even though the sweat dripping down my face was beginning to ruin my perfect makeup and make me feel more self conscious than ever. We chain-smoked cigarettes until 4:00 AM, having only small snippets of meaningless conversation in between glasses of room-temperature Jameson. I preferred my whiskey on the rocks, but I didn’t tell him that. He did not need to know. Going to bed seemed childish. I didn’t want to sleep next to him in his California king with the oversized and fluffy hospital-white comforter, but I didn’t want to leave and go to sleep alone either. Maybe I just didn’t want to sleep at all.
My favorite color was red then. It was the boldest, loudest color I knew of. There is a fundamental difference between women who keep their nails and lips painted hot pink, and those who keep theirs red. He noticed that my nails were always red.
“Don’t you get bored of always keeping them the same color?” He asked, smirking. The sun was beginning to rise.
“If I was a chick, I would change my nail color every week, to match my outfits, or my mood, or some shit like that.”
“No you wouldn’t.” I smiled, “Besides, red does match my mood.”
Two weeks of over thinking later, he called me. I didn’t answer, because like many twenty-somethings who grew up with their iPhones glued to their hands, I was terrified of having a real phone conversation. I ignored the call and immediately texted him ‘What’s up?’ right afterward. ‘I have one of your earrings.’ he texted back. One of my clip-on earrings must have been left behind in his bed when I had slept over. I only wondered why it took him two weeks to find it. Did he not wash his sheets? Did he lend it to another girl he was seeing? I didn’t want to know, but I did want my earring back. That particular pair was a delightful vintage find from the 50s. I liked to wear them and imagine all of the places they had been before they had ended up on my ears. It was strange to think that my earrings had likely been through more than me. After all, they were more than twice my age. I preferred to wear clip-on earrings so that if I ever got really pissed off I could rip them off very dramatically, without causing myself to bleed.
I met him at the coffee place on the corner near my house to get the earring from him, but we ended up getting into a debate about whether or not objective morality exists, and he forgot to give me the earring back. I suddenly didn’t mind.
“Let’s grab a beer later”, he suggested.
I had been trying to quit drinking but was afraid of what he might think if I told him.
Apparently to have dark roots looking stark against the rest of your bleach-blonde hair is quite the faux-pa in Los Angeles. I liked my dark roots, though, whenever I saw them, which admittedly was only when I used a public restroom, so not often. They had gotten pretty bad. I noticed them when I saw my reflection in the window as I entered the bar that night.
I have never kept mirrors in my house. I prefer to remain naive to the realness of my own physical flaws and to therefore leave my home feeling fresh, pretty, and confident each day. I once found a really beautiful, oversized mirror at an antique shop in Seattle. What I really liked about it was the ornate gold frame. I broke the mirror into a thousand pieces with a hammer and used the pieces to make a mosaic stepping stone which my mother probably still has in her garden. I replaced the frame with a big painting of my dog. If you have never broken a mirror purposefully with a hammer or some other tool, I really suggest you try it at least once. It was liberating.
He noticed my roots right away. We always noticed the same things.
“You should let it grow out”, he said. “I bet you’d look great with your natural hair color.”
I wasn’t even quite sure what my natural hair color was. I’m still not. I have been dying it since I was eleven. I didn’t really want to see my natural color. Judging by the 2-inches of grow out he had just commented on, my hair color was a putrid shade of light brown. Almost grey. Growing up I had always wished I’d had dark features like my Italian mother, or light features like my Swedish father. Instead I was always directly in the middle with my hazel eyes and not-tan-but-not-pale white skin. I bleached my roots the following day.
Some of the girls I cocktailed with at the bar invited me to a ‘girls night’ that Thursday. I had never been to a ‘girls night’ before, and was not even positive what it would entail. I was honored to have been invited, though, and decided to stop by to find out what women do. I already knew what men did.
Samantha’s place was way too cute for a single woman’s abode, I remember thinking as I walked in. Every inch of her small apartment was homey and smelled like coffee cake. It seemed that she was quite the homemaker. For a moment I felt shame because my own apartment was disheveled with books and papers strewn everywhere and probably smelled like dog. I lived in it, though. I really lived there. It didn’t appear that anyone lived in this apartment. There were seven girls including myself. I knew five of them from work. Melanie called me over to the kitchen where she was pouring cheap red wine into expensive champagne flutes.
“See that girl over on the chair – Her name’s Liz.” she whispered.
“I just met her. Samantha introduced me.”
“That’s Jake’s girlfriend. This is the first time I’ve met her. I don’t think she knows.”
I laughed uncomfortably. “Oh my god”, I whispered. “This should be interesting.”
Melanie had slept with Jake a couple of times. Jake worked at the same bar we did. We knew he had a girlfriend but had never met her. She was friends with Samantha. In the service industry, it is very common to be hooking up with coworkers, or even to date one another. We are on different schedules than most other people and we spend many hours together each week, often getting off very late at night or in the early hours of the morning. We also drink together a lot.
Liz had short dark hair and very pronounced thick eyebrows. I was obsessed with women’s eyebrows. Hers were good. She was nice to look at. After observing her banter with the other girls for a few moments, I decided she was very different from the crude and loud Jake that I knew. When Liz got up to use the restroom, I told Melanie I couldn’t see them being a good fit. She said she felt guilty and wanted to leave.
I was feeling overwhelmed myself, and hell, I didn’t fuck any of these women’s boyfriends. In the bright yellow room full of women talking about things I didn’t care about at all, I suddenly felt ill. I had so often heard women speak about having a ‘girls night’ and had always wondered what I was missing out on. Here I was, thirty minutes into my first ‘girls night’ and all I could think about was how I would never get those thirty minutes back.
Two champagne flutes filled with red wine and one bottle of much-too-sweet hard apple cider later, Melanie and I were sitting on the couch next to one another, texting back and forth about how we wanted to leave Samantha’s apartment. Suddenly our texting conversation was cut short by Liz standing up and saying “So…I have something to tell you girls.”
Melanie looked at me, a bit puzzled.
“Jake proposed last night!” Liz exclaimed, standing and holding her glass in the air, ripe and ready to be toasted.
Melanie’s face turned bright red. I felt sick from the sugary cider. As the other girls started jumping up and squealing as I could have predicted they would, Melanie and I snuck out the back door of the chic apartment. We made sure to lock it behind us.
An hour later, we were sitting at the bar top in our favorite dark and hidden dive bar. We were the only ones in the hazy room aside from an extremely intoxicated woman unzipping her blouse at the other end of the bar and the bartender.
“What should I do?” Melanie asked.
“What do you mean? You shouldn’t do anything.”
“What would you do? Would you tell her?”
“Fuck no, I wouldn’t tell her,” I said with certainty.
“I just don’t feel right knowing that she is going to marry a man whom she has no idea cheated on her.”
“Well, that’s her problem.”
“But wouldn’t you want someone to tell you?”
“I wouldn’t agree to marry anyone in the first place, so this situation wouldn’t happen to me.” I sucked lightly on the olive from the bottom of my martini.
The drunk woman from the other side of the bar hit her head on the door on her way out. Mike, the bartender, went after her because she had forgotten to pay her tab. She gave him a wad of dirty cash, took her heels off, and left. Out the window, I saw her getting into a large black SUV, but hoped that there was someone else in the drivers seat. Upon realizing there wasn’t, I ran outside. I knocked on the dark tinted window of the driver’s side door, my heart beating quickly. The woman slowly rolled it down. I could hear her sobbing.
“Hi there.” I said in the friendliest stern voice I could.
“I’m wasted.” she wept. “Are you going to call the cops on me??”
“No, I’m not going to call the cops, but you can not drive. Please get out of the car. I’ll call you a cab.”
“I don’t have any money”, she said. “I can drive. I swear. I’m not going very far.” The woman gagged. The thought crossed my mind that she would probably puke in the cab I was about to pay for.
“Come on, I have gotten a DUI before. Trust me, it isn’t worth it. Please get out of the car.”
She stared at me. I looked straight into her eyes. Though we had eye contact, I knew she was looking right through me. She was pretty, or at least she was at some point in her life. I felt bad for her. I had been her before.
“Why are you crying?”
“I don’t know.” she said, with traces of shame in her raspy voice.
The woman reluctantly stepped down from her SUV, almost falling on the pavement. I grabbed her keys so that she wouldn’t lock them in the car, but it became obvious that she had no intention of locking her doors, so I did so for her. I double checked the parking signs on the street before calling her an Uber from my phone. She would need to move her car by 10 AM the next morning to avoid a parking ticket, but a $50 parking ticket was far better than a $2,000 DUI or worse – killing someone.
After sending her on her way in a black Prius Uber, I felt relief. She was the most drunk person I have ever seen try to drive a car. This was the closest I would likely ever come to saving a life. I looked at the digital clock on my phone. It was 12:01 AM. There was another martini and a chocolate cupcake with a candle in it waiting for me when I walked back into the dark bar.
“Happy Birthday, lady.” Melanie grinned. I had forgotten that the following day was my birthday. My early twenties were officially over. Somehow I felt that I was the one someone should have been calling a cab for. I didn’t even like chocolate. I just wanted my god damned earring back.