Sunday, March 28, 2010

Just a Small Town Girl

I am from a small town. A very small town. A town that has 2,500 people in it.

The town I live in now has 23,000 people in it. That's a whole lot more people. But most days it doesn't really feel like it. I've already talked about how I am continuously stunned by how small and incestuous my college is, but it's not just that academic sub-culture that feels tiny. It's everything.

It's even my salon.

Not long after the Great Tragedy with Maine Man #1 occurred in November of 2008, I drove myself to the salon because there is nothing quite like a trip to a stylist to perk a girl up. I was going in for a cut and a touch-up on my red color and what Katy now calls and my "angry bangs," which were clipped short and straight after my breakup with the Boy From Work.

At the salon, I parked in the lot across the street, and I saw a car I thought looked an awful lot like the one that belonged to the boy who'd just visited upon me a whole bunch of trouble, and I fumed all the way inside. Jesus, I thought. He's probably down the street at the bar. He's probably having fun, and here I am all miserable.

I got inside, hung up my coat, and leaned around the corner to tell my stylist I was there. Unlike the salon I got into the habit of going to in my post-grad school year in Buffalo, there isn't an awful lot of protocol at my new place. You don't check in with a receptionist. You just sit on a half-broken couch and listen to the girls tell an awful lot of filthy stories about their boyfriends or skanks they went to high school with.

So I leaned around to tell my stylist, who has the best station--by the window--that I was there. She was still with another client, so I went back out to the broken-down couch and took up my position. I immediately nosed into a book and stayed there until my stylist brushed her client off, walked her out, and said goodbye. Then she and I went back into the other room, and she settled me into the chair, tied a smock around my neck, and said, "How are things?"

Things were really fucking rotten, but I thought it best to downplay that. "Not great," I said.

"You were so happy the last time you were here!" she said.

The last time, of course, was when I'd first taken up with the boy who'd recently gone away. And she was right: I had been happy. Stupidly happy.

"We've got a lot to talk about," I said.

"Okay," she said. "Let me just go read the notes about your color in your file, and I'll get to mixing."

She disappeared into the front room, which left me to my own devices for a bit. And because I couldn't help myself, I leaned a little closer to the window and peered out across the street, into the parking lot, trying to decide whether or not the car there was really his. I stared and stared and stared and then decided I couldn't tell. That's when I sat back and--finally--looked to the other side of the room.

A few feet away from me, at the next station over, sat the boy. He too had a smock on, and his hair--which, it must be noted, is extraordinary--was being tended to by one of the other stylists. She had taken a step back to consult her cell phone--again, there's not an awful lot of protocol at this place--and that had left him free to rotate toward me.

"Hey," he said.

"JESUS!" I said. "Holy shit! Hey! I mean, hi! What are you doing here? Why didn't you say hello to me earlier?"

"I tried to when you walked in," he said. "You didn't notice, and then you were reading."

"Oh," I said. "Okay. Well, hi."

I wanted to die. I wanted to melt. I wanted to become a cool puddle of me that disappeared under the shell of smock. But none of that was possible. I was blushing and wondering if he'd figured out that when I was leaning out the chair and examining the parking lot, it was because his car was there.

"I can't believe you're here," I said.

"Well, you suggested it, so I finally came."

And then I hated myself. Of course I'd suggested it. Back in the days when we were going out for drinks and being all cute and flirty and ridiculous, he'd talked about his hair being long and out of control and that he needed to have it cut but he didn't really have a place to go.

"You should go to my place!" I'd said. "The girls there are bawdy and loud. You'd like them!"

And now here he was, having taken my advice. I wanted to kill him. I wanted to kill myself.

But there was no time for that because a sudden terror was dawning on me. When girls are in the chair at the salon, they talk about things. A lot of things. And often, those things are boys. That's what my stylist and I talk about: boys, boys, boys. She knew all about my recent breakup with the BFW and she knew all about my delirious month with the boy who was now sitting next to me. Except she didn't know what had recently happened and that the boy was currently sitting next to me. But there, in the other room, I could see her finishing up on the computer, ready to turn back to me, and I could almost hear the first words that were going to come out of her mouth, and those words would be these:


I had to stop that question. Now.

"Well," I said to the boy, "that's good. I'm glad you came. I figured you'd like it here."

And then I launched out of my chair, smock and all, and tore into the front room, where I was now out of the boy's sight, and grabbed my stylist's arm.

"YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS," I whispered, forming each word precisely so she would understand the seriousness of the situation. "THE BOY I WAS TELLING YOU ABOUT LAST TIME? HE IS SITTING NEXT TO ME, AND HE IS GETTING HIS HAIR CUT."

My stylist gasped. "Jenna's doing his hair?" she asked.

"YES," I said. "RIGHT NOW!"

"What happened between the two of you?" she asked. "Tell me quick."


"Yes," she said. "Of course. Got it. Not a word."

And then I calmly walked back into the other room, sat down, and arranged my smock so that it didn't billow out over the chair. I exchanged a few pleasantries with the boy, even though I wanted to nab a pair of scissors and loft them at his perfect hair and head, and I waited for my stylist to mix my color.

He left shortly after, and the crisis was generally averted, but for the rest of my time there--while I was getting my cut, while angry red was being painted onto my hair--the girls of the salon congregated in the back room to talk about how cute he was, how crazy it was that he was there when I came in, how they all wanted to date him, how sad they were to hear he had a girlfriend and was generally off the market.

"He's so funny," the girl who did his hair said. She batted her eyelashes. "He's so cute. I love him."

And then I wanted to stab her with scissors.

Eventually, though, I got over wanting to stab people with scissors. I got on with my life. A new semester started, I got a new class of punk auto mechanics to deal with, and things settled into a new and familiar and boy-less pace.

Months later I would be at the salon again, and my stylist, after she'd smocked me and moved into the cutting, would say, kindly, gently, "I have some news for you."

I looked at her in the mirror. She seemed hesitant. She paused with her scissors suspended in mid-air. "What?"

"Your boy came in a while back. He was in for a cut. He brought his girlfriend. I had to do her hair."

So it wasn't enough for him to steal my salon; now he'd stolen my stylist and handed her over on a silver platter to his girlfriend.

"I want to jab something in my eye," I said.

"I understand," she said. She patted my shoulder. "She wasn't all that cute, though, just so you know. I mean, I gave her a really cute cut, but she's no way as adorable as you."

"I hate everything," I said.

And then there's this: The last time I was at the salon, just before I left for my trip down to Boston a few weeks ago, I was sitting in the chair, and my stylist and I were gossiping about her boyfriend when the phone rang. One of the other girls answered, and we heard her taking information from the person on the other end of the line. When she hung up, she peered around the corner to relay that information to everyone in our room.

"Andrew's not coming," she said. "He can't make it. He canceled."

Everyone looked sad about this news.

My stylist nudged me. "That's your Andrew," she said.

"You are kidding me," I said. "He was coming in?"

She nodded. "I don't know what it is about you two, but you're on the same schedule." She tilted my head down so she could work on the back of my hair. "I saw that on the sheet for today, and I almost called you so we could rearrange it, but I figured there was enough time between your appointment's start and his appointment's start that we could get you out of here before he got in."

Now it had gotten to the point where my stylist was considering mini Bond-like switcheroos to make it so that this boy--a boy I can't avoid at school but should be able to avoid everywhere else in a town of 23,000 people, in a town where there are plenty of salons and plenty of barbershops that I don't happen to frequent--didn't run into me on my most favorite of days: Get More Attractive at the Salon Day.

"That's sweet," I said from under my curtain of hair, "but, really, it's okay. We see each other all the time at school. We talk. We're cordial. Probably too cordial, because I'm an idiot, but whatever. It's fine. It would be okay. No need to be sneaky."

She was happy to hear that. And then she told me how everyone just adored him, gushed over him, loved when he graced them with his presence. "He's just so nice," she said. "Everyone wants to see him naked."

And that's when I realized it: There will be no escaping that. Ever. The whole salon knows the saga and the drama, and it's likely that when I go in for a touch-up, he'll be there for his. Or that the girls will be talking about his smile or his charm or his ass or whatever. It's just official: In this small corner of the world, that one will follow me around for a good long time, and it's time I got used to it.


Kristin said...

I want to go to that salon. With you. And witness this. And then kick him in the teeth.

Jess said...

It used to be horrifying, but now it's just hilarious. You'd get a kick out of this place.