"The Wild Hair" is a novel I wrote between 2002 and 2004. It was a huge success. I think I had a readership in the double-digits! Anyway I was just re-reading the manuscript and it made me laugh... This is actually good stuff!
By now it’s obvious: I should’ve steered clear of her that day. Maybe if I’d been just a bit more alert, I would’ve figured it out. The signs were everywhere.
It was a cool summer day caught between one heat wave and the next. A pale apathetic drizzle hung over the city, leaving no puddles, just a clammy sheet of dampness clinging to everything. Far from your typical July day in Atlanta.
And so I should’ve gone to the movies or something. Swung by the record shop. Grabbed a burrito. Anything. Because there was something in the air, some quirky wind sent backwards from Manitoba, or Lapland, or even—god forbid—Alabama. You could see people scuttling out of malls, zipping their windbreakers up to their chins and then scratching their heads, as if thinking:
Maybe today’s the day when I finally…
Rash decisions could be made in such conditions.
But at the time I was dreaming of other days, sunny days when she’d be waiting for me out on her front porch, standing on tip-toes and promising fun with a big smile. When we’d hug and smooch right there under the ceiling fan while SUVs
lumbered past on the street and pecan husks fell without a sound into the uncut
grass of the front yard.
I was swept up in a haze of wishful thinking. Shortly this fact would be pointed out to me.
For the moment I was upbeat, gangly-armed and grinning, some old Social Distortion song racing through my head.
f the kids are united… They will never… Be divided…
Something like that.
I parked my car in front of her place, skipped up the steps of the front porch and knocked, or rather thumped, the bass line of that song into her door. She took her sweet time answering. Then when she opened up, she just peered at me without inviting me in. Squinting despite the cloudy weather. Or maybe because of it. Eventually she squeezed through the door and came out on the porch, but
she wouldn’t meet my eye, and was biting ferociously at a hangnail.
In the meantime Kurt Cobain, her cat, came over and rubbed against my legs, his tail lingering pleasantly on that spot where sock ends and exposed skin begins. Sensitive little guy. I gave him a pat on the head.
Finally she turned to me with hands on hips, as if to brace for bout of turbulence. What followed was a crisp, largely unsentimental discourse--
I was dumped.
At this point I tried to scratch my head, but realized with alarm that I
was unable to feel my fingertips. I was going into shock, and shock was pulling the plug on my senses. Words were reduced to inaudible echoes
in a vacuum, colors were blotted out, dimensions squashed.
Her cute little face—at this moment distorted with the determination to
cut me loose—had become a pale moonlike shape in a darkened universe. Even old Kurt, an otherwise friendly animal, had long since moved to the sunny side of the porch.
The initial shock ran its cycle and I slowly regained my senses. She was still there before me, I could smell the sweet tea on her breath: I was still alive.
Thus encouraged, I launched into a defensive counter-discourse, an
attempt to turn the tide, to change her mind. It was impossible that I would never
again squeeze her avidly in my arms.
I thought that I was speaking passionately, using the most convincing
means of rhetorical speech, but in reality I may have rambled on a bit. And she was kind enough, at first, to let me ramble.
(See, she really was a nice girl, and other than refusing to utter her name ever again, I hold nothing against her.)
Eventually I hit my stride. Sort of. “But… but you can’t destroy a relationship because of the weather.”
“The weather?” she said, frowning—as if she hadn’t even noticed that someone had dropped a November morning into the middle of our July afternoon. “What does the weather have to do with anything? Honestly, Eli. I’ve been thinking about this for weeks.”
“But you and I belong together,” I said, obviously daunted by the‘weeks’ thing, but trying to stay focused. “We believe in the same things. We used to talk about two people, together… The power of that. Remember?”
There was no telling if she remembered or not. Her eyes, drooping slightly, were fixed on my beat-up Toyota parked out front. She’d left her Superchunk cassette in there.
(I would later donate that cassette to a nearby landfill.)
“The limitless potential of two human beings. Like alchemists. We create
love, and love creates this contagious sense of positivity and possibility. And possibilities are…”
She cut me off with one painfully extended blink. And then, with a final, fatal burst of determination, she said, “You realize that you are so, like, hopelessly
Those words hung in the uncertain air between us, neither affirming nor
denying the gist of my little speech, but simply underlining the fact that I
was, irredeemably, dumped.