Read Chapter One here.
Let’s talk about hair loss.
First off, it’s fucking dreadful to watch your hairline continue to roll back like a low ocean tide receding farther and farther away from land to dissipate into a whispering mist. I’m only 22. I would’ve expected to lose it all on my descent into old age, perhaps my 50s – or even 40s would’ve been understandable – but early 20s? It’s way too early in life to get called “daddy” by the next twinky guy I decide to make out with in a fit of drunken sexual rage.
I’ve always been the type to avoid mirrors but lately, my aversion to my own reflection has gotten much stronger. I have become someone in passing I no longer associate myself with, someone I see on the street who I absolutely can’t stand and cross to the opposite direction just to avoid facing them directly and striking up empty conversation. I want to be someone I like. I want to be someone Damien likes.
Had I tricked Damien into binding himself to me by confessing my suicidal thoughts via text message? Had I subconsciously calculated the caliber of my confession and how it could affect our friendship?
I thought about this as my mother and I sat down in the kitchen, discussing the cause of my meltdown just minutes after I awoke from my lucid dream.
Her eyes were beckoning me to be free, to set aside all the madness. I told her that I understood I needed help, that I needed to talk with someone who could help me. I explained I wanted to get at this logically and be productive in my pursuit to get better. I don’t know if I’m in a true depression. I don’t think I need medication or anything. I’m not even sure if I should call what I’m going through ‘depression.’ I just need help. I need someone to talk to who can analyze and deconstruct my thoughts. My mother is the most supportive person in my life. I knew she would understand. I just needed to let her hear me out.
I wish I would be sleeping in my bed tonight. The bed bugs took what was left of my only sanctuary. My father would be home tomorrow. Perhaps we can take care of the problem then.
All I wanted to do was take a shower.
Hot showers are always the best medicine. This remedy only works once you let the water take over your head, letting it knock you into serenity. As the temperature rose, I sat down with my back facing away from the faucet, spread out my legs and crossed them as my toes touched the edge of the tub. The showerhead continued to elegantly pour out hot loving liquid as it landed on my freshly shaven torso, bouncing off my belly and generating a comforting steam that circulated in the space. Here I can be alone naked with my thoughts and wash away the trials of my day as I am hypnotized by the tiny whirlpool that circles the drain. Robin Williams’ death, my sudden meltdown, my need to kill myself all circled around one by one as they tried to make it down the drain. I watched as my hair, the hair that continues to fall off my head, get caught in its rhythmic spiral.
Round and round and round…
Damien, Damien, Damien.
I still remember the day Damien and I met.
One fateful night two February’s ago, our mutual friend Betty threw a house party to celebrate the adoption of her new cat, Cornelius. I was less than pleased to attend a gathering in honor of an American Shorthair cat with no personality but I digress (do cats even have personalities other than uptight and vapid?). As long as Betty was baking her signature maple-pecan cake, I was in there like swimwear.
I was at the “event” by myself, looking around at people I have never seen before. Betty collects friends like people collect tchotchkes. They all derive from different places; all unrelated to each other, and when in a room together it looks like an eclectic mess. The only similarity was that we were all in the 19 through 21 age range.
One of the girls there (I think her name was Jennifer or something) was wearing a cozy white knit sweater with a sewn-on collage of grey and orange kittens. She’s clearly a cat fan as well as a supporter of the leggings/UGG boots movement. There was another girl named Sabrina (I would never forget a name like Sabrina) with cute brunette bangs that dangled over her fake diamond framed glasses. Sabrina had demanded I sit next to her when she realized I was the Jacob with the “gay spinster” blog that Betty talks about. She was super precious so I obliged. Seated by the buffet table was the only other (gay) dude at the party. He was very talkative with all the ladies but not with me. Whenever I would make a trip across the kitchen nook to the buffet table for a serving of sugar cookies (which happened a lot) he would go quiet and pause his conversation until I could grab my treats and go back to my part of the room. I think his name was Stewart.
I call myself a spinster but this shit was very sad.
Just as I was getting ready to leave, there was a knock at the door. Betty left us in the kitchen and skipped her way to greet the arriving guest in the entry room. Before opening the door, she said, “Who is it? Are you a friend of Cornelius?” I didn’t understand what was so special about that damn cat, Cornelius.
“It’s Damien,” said the voice behind the door.
I had heard of Damien before. I didn’t know much about him or what he looked like, but I knew he and Betty were good friends. At this point, I was still in the kitchen guarding my plate of cookies and cake when I heard Betty and Damien walking toward our gathering of friends. Sabrina instantly got up from her chair, hustled to the new guest and threw her arms over his shoulders for what looked like a long-awaited reunion hug (or she’s just dramatic). I glanced over at the scene to see Damien’s face and was immediately shocked by this guy’s striking beauty.
Ethnicity was to be determined. Dark hair, masculine jawline, with a touch of softness around brown eyes. Italian perhaps? Spanish? Despite the bro-like tendencies as shown in his outfit, Damien was able to exhibit a style and look that went far beyond his apparel. It was an aura that possessed him. It’s a strange thought looking back. It’s more common to say that one ‘possesses an aura” but I didn’t feel it was of Damien’s own volition. He wasn’t in control of it. The aura chose him. I’m not sure how I picked all this up within the first ten seconds of seeing him.
“Everyone, this is my friend Damien,” Betty announced.
“Hey,” he said with a mild chuckle, awkwardly waving at the odd crowd, smiling and scanning the room. He smiled as if he knew his smile would make the situation less awkward. It’s as if Damien knew that if he just smiled, everyone would instantly feel at ease. I liked his smile a lot. I still do.
Stewart, the gay who spent all night ignoring me, suddenly became this outgoing jazzy butterfly, fluttering his eyelashes as he made his way over to Damien. Stewart was all up on him. At one point he squeezed Damien’s bicep, threw his head back to let out a fruity laugh then winked as if he was trying to appear cute, bubbly, and interesting. Everyone could tell Stewart was doing just that: trying. Poor Damien was still standing in the same spot from when he entered the room, unsure what to do.
I wasn’t about to be that bitch. I was not about to be thirsting over this dude like he was the greatest thing I had ever seen on earth. I refused to be like everyone else at the party. Nah boo, I ain’t the one.
Next thing I knew, Damien chose the seat next to mine.
I didn’t look at him. I mean I kind of did, but we didn’t make eye contact. In an effort to show how little I cared, I immediately got up to socialize with Betty on the opposite end of the kitchen. As she and I talked, I looked across the room and saw Damien sitting, next to a now empty seat, smiling and pretending to know what everyone else was talking about. And within that small sliver of time, Damien and I crossed gazes and locked eyes.
Something changed in me at that moment. It was like I could feel the future. My own clairvoyance wouldn’t allow me to get a visual of what would happen, but it allowed me to feel a movement, a stir in my timeline, a checkmark on the road ahead. I got the strangest feeling that extraordinary things were about to happen.
“Hey, this cake is pretty good, huh?” Damien had apparently left his seat to ask me this question. He was holding a piece of cake on a heart-shaped paper plate (Betty had a Valentine’s Day party the week prior), scraping frosting with a pink plastic fork.
“It’s my favorite thing that Betty makes, right girl?” I looked over at Betty and she gave a proud nod.
Then I said something to let Damien know I didn’t give a fuck about his gorgeous face and hopeful eyes. “Are you having a good night, Darren?” I said with an innocent grin.
“It’s Damien actually, but that’s close,” he said, smirking and wiping frosting from the corner of his mouth with a paper napkin.
Damien intrigued me. He seemed like the quiet type, the type of guy who doesn’t know how to receive a compliment without expressing genuine surprise. He seemed like he knew how people reacted around him but didn’t necessarily believe what the fuss was about. To put it simply, Damien is pretty but he doesn’t know it yet.
Right after I left the party that night, I got a text from Betty.
BETTY: Hey love, so Damien and I have dinner plans this weekend and he said for me to invite you.
ME: Sounds great love, keep me posted on the details.
Boom. I fucking had him. We’ve been friends ever since. Damien actually brought up the first time we met a couple weeks ago.
“The moment I saw you, I knew you would figure me out,” he said.
But Damien was referring to only one piece of himself he kept hidden in a jar: he was gay. Since then, there have been one hundred and fifty more pieces of Damien that I still have yet to figure out.
Here I am now, drying myself off from my shower. The rest of my day circling the drain along with whatever water still lingered in the tub.
Round and round and round…
Short little strands of hair cling to my towel. I wiped the fog off the mirror to reveal my reflection. Clean but still dissatisfied. I wish I hadn’t looked at myself too soon. I hate looking at myself before bed. I don’t even allow myself to look in the mirror when I’m wearing glasses. I see too clearly my own reflection. I have to remove my glasses from my face in order to feel some sort of slight comfort. Don’t even ask me to look in the mirror when I’m wearing contact lenses because I’ll avoid it like the plague. I can’t escape my reflection as easily with contacts in my eyes. I’m forced to see everything.
I saw my phone light up on the bathroom counter. It’s Damien. He sent a video of himself and before I opened it, I already knew what it was.
The message read, “Come over.”
Round and round and round…
Damien, Damien, Damien.
I can’t stop thinking about what happened on that night with Damien…
Read Chapter Three.