Only one thing forces me to drag my coughing, miserable body out of bed on Saturday: a hair appointment. Yeah, I know…priorities. But my hair is important to me. I can’t risk canceling and then waiting a month for another opening. My fashionable case of bed head is actually a precise, calculated style.
I take a few swigs from a bottle of children’s cold medicine–I really enjoy the grape flavor AND the side effects aren’t as intense as those experienced with the grown up, non-delicious version.
And the I make the long cold bike ride up to Belmont. I pause to cough at every red light. I am truly disgusting…just in time for Ryan’s return to town tonight.
Oh yeah, he called me twice last night . The first time I told him I was too sick for socialization. This was mostly true. This allowed him to launch a fifteen-minute lecture entitled “Amanda’s Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices.” The key bullet points: smoking, excessive caffeine consumption, inadequate spinach consumption, and bicycling without a helmet. I began to wonder if he would see the irony of his words after he hung up the phone. Unlikely. I pretended that I was awaiting a call from my mom so that I could get off the phone. He never remembers details like “caller ID” and “time zones.”
The second–once again, mostly one-sided–conversation consisted of begging me to allow him to take me out tonight. “It can be an early night. We’ll eat soup. Whatever you want. I just want to see you.” I answered with what I hoped was a believable “maybe.” Meanwhile, I was thinking. “Fuck! I have 24 hours to get over this cold, regain some color in my face, and shave my legs.”
My hairdresser Darren is really happy to see me. “Guess what?! Your haircut is FREE today, because you have referred so many new clients to me.” I’m relieved to hear this, considering how much cash I’ve dropped on drugs and cigarettes this week.
Before he starts shampooing me, I pop two sickeningly sweet cough drops into my mouth. I don’t need to watch my reflection choke and hack for the next hour.
He’s talking and talking. I guess I’m responding. The usual stuff, like bands and clothes. Cheery, hair salon conversation. He asks me, “So how is your cute boyfriend?”
I groan. “We’re broken up again.”
He assumes a playful maudlin expression.
Time for Breezy Amanda to step up. I laugh. “No, don’t feel bad. We’ll probably get back together in the next day or two. That’s just how it goes. For some reason, we always break up around holidays. You know, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Arbor Day, whatever. We met on April Fool’s Day. Somehow that relates.”
We really did break up for a few hours on Arbor Day.
The conversation turns to my hair color. “I really like this blonde thing you have going on…you look like like a princess!”
I roll my eyes. “Don’t get too used to it. No one will ever take me seriously as a writer with hair like this. Brunettes churn out the serious words. Blondes write episodes of ‘90210’ or something.”
He laughs. “Good point. So how is the writing going? Weren’t you working on a play?”
Oh god. I have nothing to say about this. Other than “I’ve been on a detour the last few months.” Essentially, since I met Ryan, I have accomplished very little. This is a frightening realization. Are my only options “have a boyfriend/do nothing else” or “spend my life alone/fill thousands of pages?”
I’m having a hard time remembering who I actually am.
Plenty of people find their identity in what they do.
“There’s Music Guy. He goes to every good show and he drops cash at Reckless 3-4 times each week. And he’s in a band.”
“Meet Popular Girl. She knows everyone; and you will find her at every cool party Wicker Park has to offer. And of course she has the best clothes of everyone around. That’s because she has a friend at every store, just waiting to give her a discount.”
“Oh, yeah….Drug Boy is over there. He’s really wasted. He spends his trust fund in fifty dollar increments. And he always wears a sweater, regardless of the season. You will smell him before you see him.”
Expensive haircuts. Bad art shows. Trips to the comic book store. A collection of cat figurines. Hiking in South America. Tricked out, lightweight bikes.
All so every one of us can feel special…assume an identity that seems unique and interesting.
“As you can see by variety of figurative badges on my shirt, I cultivate a wide variety of quirky-yet-meaningful interests.”
As Darren turns on the hairdryer, it occurs to me: right now I am defined by what I DON’T do.
Maybe this is wishful thinking, because god forbid my identity was “Smoking-Crying-Heroin-Buying Girl.” Or “That-Chick-that-Wastes-a-Lot -of-Time.”
But seriously. The list of things I don’t do could fill a page:
Write anything. (Because rambling journal entries exploring the topic “Why I Will Never Be Good Enough for Ryan” don’t count.).
Draw/paint/make something. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve opened my sketchbook. Honestly, I’ve just been carrying around pads of paper and pouch of pencils out of habit, not necessity.
Stand up for myself.
Tell someone–anyone–my honest feelings on any subject.
Make some real plans. Want something badly. Sleep a normal amount. Wake up in the morning feeling okay about the day before.
And on and on.
Darren passes me a mirror so I can see my new haircut from all angles. I feign the appropriate level of delight, but honestly, I’m barely looking. I’m too busy thinking about what a failure I’ve become. I hand him a $50 tip before running out the door.
I’m bored with me.