…Meeting the Senator was the start of my new life, supposedly. Supposedly. …But how does starting a brand new life ever really feel? The thing was, I felt new, but I didn’t feel shiny and clean. My brand new sensation was in fact this: I felt old. Tired and beaten down. For the first time ever, I started to feel just… really… old.
At the end of my first day, I said goodbye to the Senator — “So very nice to meet you, sir!” — I said goodbye, and I went to my new apartment, but it didn’t feel so new to me. It felt as though it was about to collapse on top of me, as though the ceiling beams were already starting to sag. Maybe it was all on account of me feeling stressed. Maybe I just had a bad attitude.
…Alone in a new city, parents with cancer, crazy job… Yes; it’s safe to say that I was feeling a little stressed out. To add to this stress, I decided to throw dating into the mix. To take my mind off things, I told myself. And so, at night, I would lamely peruse Match.com, twirling my hair with my spare hand. Either girls from Florida were bored, or I, being from the North, was a novel character. I lined up three dates in a matter of hours. My first date was with a girl named Taylor? I thought? Who did something with movies? She also liked travel and cats and all the other standard things that human beings at the dawning of the 21st Century liked.
So, I had that to look forward to. But in the days before my date, I began to pull chunks of hair from the base of my forehead. I did this for the first time ever. I did not understand what I was doing; I only knew that I couldn’t stop doing it. …And I had some downtime to work with. Meeting my date was the only social event on my schedule. And Taylor was out of town for a while.
I had some time. …And it takes a long time, pulling out hair does. It’s like… you know those impossible word problems that you have in math class? Like, extrapolating from a single pile of sand with so-and-so many grains of sand in it, then how many grains of sand are on the entire beach, assuming that it’s so big and blah blah. …And then you have to multiply by X or some sh-t; or use algebra or trig or something? I always failed at these word problems. My answer in my head was always something like, How many grains of sand are on the beach? A f-cking lot. Case closed. …Anyway, where was I? My point is: there are a lot of f-cking grains of sand on a beach, and a lot of individual strands of hair on your head. And if you ever try to pull them all out, you will notice this. It takes a while. It’s like having a job, man. You really have to put the effort in.
Yet in the days before my date, I had begun to enact this process. By the time I was done, my fingers were bleeding. Because that’s how many hairs you have on your head. So many that it makes your fingers bleed to pull them all out. And I had only managed to pull out a tiny patch, not the whole thing. But still, I had put the effort in.
Then I met Bill Clinton. I was three weeks into my job at this point. …And by this point, I had managed to tear out a two-inch patch of hair at the front of my head — at the base where my hair met my forehead. My bangs hid the bald patch, sort of. But if the wind blew my bangs at all, or if I forgot and ran my hand through my hair, then the bald patch was revealed — two inches worth of weird, slightly scabbed stubble. I had a campaign event that day, and Bill Clinton showed up for fund-raising purposes. In theory, this should have been an exciting event in my life; meeting Bill Clinton like that. But in reality, all I could think of was that William Jefferson Clinton, former President, former governor, might notice my gross and bloody patch of stubble.
Bill Clinton arrived at the small local airport. Fort Lauderdale. He stepped off the plane. A small crowd had gathered to await him. He walked toward the crowd, passing through the small cluster of us campaign workers. Up close, he looked extremely Bill Clinton-y; more Bill Clinton-y than you could possibly imagine. I’ve met a few celebrities in real life, and they all look exactly like themselves, though occasionally they’re shorter than you would imagine. John Cusack looks so John Cusack in real life. Clint Eastwood is incredibly Eastwood-y. And so on.
Bill Clinton looked radiant, glowing; clean and freshly pressed. He was not short. The wind kept blowing across the tarmac, and I kept trying to hold down my bangs without looking like I was holding down my bangs — a functionally impossible thing to do.
Bill Clinton walked through us, smiling and shaking hands. His teeth were gleamingly white. I realized then that we had very little in common. Bill had created a centrist-Democratic revolution, tamed the Senate, crushed Newt Gingrich, nearly been impeached. Signed a peace accord in Ireland. Balanced the budget. I, on the other hand, was an insane broke loser who could only think about his own hair. No one had much in common with Bill at that airport. But I had less in common with him than anyone else there.
He stepped up to where I was. I was startled.
“Hi,” he said to me in his magically indistinct Southern accent. (“Ha-aai.”)
“Hi,” I said back.
And that was it. And then the event was over.
And then I went on my date.
In a plan of dubious smartness, I decided to swallow some Valium before going on my date — to calm myself down; to calm myself down about my hair. I’ll say this for me: it never remotely occurred to me not to go on my date, despite the fact that I was clearly suffering a nervous breakdown. My date looked hot in her online photos. And I’m slutty to the end, I guess.
I swallowed the Valium, which belonged to my friend. I never took pills, but this seemed like a really solid idea. Of course, when you’re crazy and on tranquillizers, everything seems like a good idea. “EVERYTHING THAT I’VE EVER DONE IS BRILLIANT,” I told myself, as I drove down I-95 to Miami, hopped up on Valium.
I met my internet date outside her apartment building, a faded 1950s hugeness on the edge of Miami Beach. Taylor was cute. She looked like her photos. We stood and small-talked awkwardly as the breeze blew in from the shore. Taylor really was quite pretty; bright-eyed and ebullient. …What in the world was she doing hanging out with me?
Her apartment building was pleasant but crumbling, and in my false memory, it seems that flakes of paint were being pulled off the decaying walls by gusts of wind — being blown off, being caught up by the wind, and then being carried away in the blue-ish twilight. Taylor’s long red hair was being intermittently tossed around by the wind as well. Under the firelight, her hair/Spread out in fiery points/Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.
We bumped into each other, accidentally or semi-accidentally, as we were walking down the path to the beach.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hi there,” I said.
So far, this was going about as well as my meeting with President Clinton.
We went down to the beach. In addition to the Valium, I had had the dubious foresight to bring two bottles of champagne along with me. I carried them swinging in my messenger bag. We sat down on the sand and drank on the beach. The wind was still tossing her red-blond hair. She tried to light a cigarette — she smoked; thank god that she smoked! Taylor tried to light it; the match kept going out. I took the cigarette from her, bent over in the wind, and lit two cigarettes at once. “Hey, just like in that Bettie Davis movie,” I said.
“…Yeah!” she said. “…Like in Now, Voyager!”
Holy sh-t. I was a sucker for girls who knew their 1940s-era movies. My ship had come in. It turned out that Taylor worked in film production. …I blathered semi-competently about my job, omitting the parts about my hair.
Then we kissed. We tossed our cigarettes into the surf, like the littering assholes that we were. They fizzled and died. Symbolism of some kind, maybe. Or just decadence.
I was so relieved and — let’s face it — aroused by our kiss that for a second, I forgot about my hair. For a minute there, I lost myself. For just a minute there… I forgot myself so much that I relaxed and ran my hand through my hair. Doing this could have exposed my deadly secret, but thankfully, Taylor was occupied with staring at the moon at that moment, and so was looking away. I let out a mild squeak of relief.
…An hour later, the last of the champagne was gone; in the bottle were dregs and residual cigarette butts. I had consumed a bottle and a half of it, plus several drinks before leaving my apartment; Taylor had been more moderate in her drinking. She coughed; it was cold; the booze was gone. Then she said, “Hey, would you like to head back to my place.” “….For a drink,” she added. Now. Even if you’re as socially obtuse as I am, there is a moment on a successful date when you realize, HEY, THERE IS A LIKELIHOOD OF ME HAVING SEX WITH THIS PERSON.
“…Sure,” I said, using my normal voice. But if you could have seen inside my brain, Warner-Brothers-style, like in an old black-and-white cartoon, you would have seen the image of a vulture leering greedily, rubbing his hands over an enormous buffet. Sure; heading back to your place would be fine; just fine. We began retracing our steps, heading down the pathway toward her building, and that, dear reader, was the moment when I blacked out, due to a combination of champagne and Valium.
— Read Part Three here —