When Noah moves on—Noah of two months and four days, of the bar near my apartment I will now have to avoid—Alexa offers to do my hair. Alexa’s in beauty school during the day; at night we wait tables together at a Cajun restaurant. She’s older than the rest of us, mid-thirties, burgundy hair. Everyone says she used to be a stripper.
“I’ll still feel like shit,” I say.
“But you won’t look like shit,” she says. “That’s the first step: look good, feel good.”
We’re arranging ourselves, affixing black aprons over black clothes, slipping pens and notebooks into our apron pockets.
“I’ll need a shot if I’m going to get it up,” I say. Then I practice, forcing a lilt into, “What can I get for you?”
“That’s pathetic,” she says. “Your face didn’t move.”
It’s been twenty hours since my faced moved.
“Damon will help,” she says.
Damon is the manager/bartender who runs the place so the owner can spend his time cruising the city in his banana-colored Mustang.
Damon calls a meeting, and the wait staff lines the bar. He sets out six shot glasses and fills them in a long, horizontal dribble. To a great night, he says, lifting one. We follow suit, tilt the liquid down our throats.
It’s not much but it’s enough. My shoulders release, my face succumbs to the emotions suggested by the faces around me. Customers fill the place and I begin smiling like the smiling’s free.
After we close and clean up, swirl lemon slices and ice in the coffee pots, Damon pours more. He’s talking WWF wrestlers and how he wants to base jump the Eiffel Tower, and we can keep drinking so long as we look interested.
Two beers and two shots in, my body helium-light, it occurs to me Alexa has it backwards, that you have to feel good first, because I can tell I’m looking better. Damon asked about my earrings, let his fingers brush the slope of my neck. Alexa believes in the Don’t shit where you eat rule of hooking up, but this place, it barely feeds me.
I dismount my barstool to pee and am confronted with the sad fact of bathrooms, that they come with mirrors. And there I am, no better. A bit worse, really. Droopier. My face twinkling with grease. The mirror runs the wall above the sink, and no matter how I swish my hair or pout my lips, it’s still just me.
Alexa, she always leaves after one drink. She waves goodnight with the confidence of a woman who wears high quality fabrics. But I don’t know what she wears outside of work. I should have gone with her.
There’s all these pores in my face, and I lean to the mirror to examine them. There’s all these things Alexa has said to me.
Everyone love-hates their boyfriends in their 20s; after your Saturn return, you’ll meet someone you actually like.
The best thing I ever did was fire my therapist and hire a house-cleaner instead.
The woman is a waitress with a house cleaner.
If you approach dating like hitchhiking, every man is a passing semi that tugs you in its wake.
When you’re gutted, you need a little something to hold onto—your nails, your hair—something you can see and touch, that makes you feel good about you.
I should leave, leave Damon alone, but then my bed, its plain is vast.
I use the toilet, wash up, hit the dryer button, wave my hands underneath like two loose leaves in the wind.