Anonymous Guest Contributor
Alright, first off that title has nothing to do with the story. I don’t think anyone has ever even said that, although I hope someone has. I just couldn’t think of a title for this, so I did that. Wouldn’t it be crazy if that title WAS relevant to my story though? I hope the next story published on here is a very detailed account of somebody who got arrested for accidentally bringing a live bat into a Baja Fresh. Anyways, here’s my thing:
I, like so many teenage boys who felt a real connection with John Cusack movies, had a microscopic amount of self-worth in high school. As such, I defined myself, and my well-being, not by any legitimate measure, but by how much girls liked me. Knowing the High School version of myself, this never would have ended well for me. I had an equally tough time figuring out haircuts and social cues (only one of which I’ve improved upon), and was terrified by anything that wasn’t a combination of cheese, sauce, and crust. Unsurprisingly, it was in this time of my life that I had my Rock Bottom moment.
I had singled out one girl to be the object of my burning teenage affection and bumbling teenage poetry, and thus, the determinant of my happiness. I felt better about her than any previous romantic prospect. After all, I had two vague statements from her close friends about how she maybe liked me and, in my mind, that was like a contractual obligation. I was ready for my queen.
Of course, nothing ever happened. I mean, we held each other’s pinkies once, but really, it wasn’t in the cards. There was a frightening imbalance of self-respect between us and eventually she undertook the noble effort of letting me off easy.
She was incredibly kind and honest and understanding about the whole thing but what she didn’t quite realize was that this was my absolute entire stupid fucking universe crashing down around me. “All this time I’ve spent!” I bemoaned. “This is truly the end! Happiness will never flourish in this cold, damp graveyard of a world! It is raining ashes as we speak!” I drove around in the Hyundai Elantra that my dad bought me for no reason other than having a completely and totally blessed life and reflected upon how everything was a catastrophe.
She had given me the news on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving of my senior year of high school. Perfect timing: only one day of school to get through and then a 4-day weekend that I could dedicate to turning my entire wardrobe black. I sulked through Thanksgiving dinner without pulling anything too drastic, but taking stock of everything we had to be thankful for must have pushed me over the edge. That night, after my parents had gone to sleep early in preparation for a weekend trip they were leaving for the next morning, I decided to grow up, to make a big change, to take the first step towards recovery. “I will shave my head!” I declared like a country boy wearing overalls with no shirt who just decided he’ll move to Manhattan and, I don’t know, fish for a living.
I marched into my bathroom and, with purple safety scissors, started hacking away. I know what you’re thinking: “Why didn’t you just start with the electric clippers? Wouldn’t that be more satisfying and efficient?”
To that I say: Okay, yes, you’re right, and in an ideal world everything would work out perfectly and an Alanis Morissette song would have been playing but also in an ideal world I would own electric clippers. It was out of necessity that I gingerly trimmed my hair first, because all I had was a Gillette razor, which hitherto had been used exclusively on my soft, smooth face –a face like a lotioned desert. The blades had probably never even been changed. In fact, had I not used them on the top of my big, dumb head, I probably wouldn’t have had to change them until Obama’s second term (which, at this point in time, was no guarantee). But I went ahead with those three blades, taking them to my head when decently thick tufts of hair still sprouted up.
I know what you’re all thinking again. “That was fucking stupid.” To that I say: Okay, yes, I don’t really have a response. All I can say is, “Do not ever do that.” It hurts and will leave you with a pretty bloody head and a very uneven haircut. Like, very uneven. Most of the fuckedupness occurs in the back of your head where you can’t really see it, so you’ll be mostly unaware of how bad it really is until you’re woken up by your mom coming in to say goodbye the next morning and hearing her yell – as I remember it – “What the fuck?”
I promised her it’d be fixed by the time she and my dad got home from their trip in 3 days and she left, probably with the first 9 digits of a therapist’s telephone number already dialed on her cell phone. At this point, I was on her side. I wasn’t proud of my bloody head. These weren’t cool scars like when somebody flips their dirt bike into a ravine while they’re outrunning mall security for stealing from Orange Julius – no, I had to tell everybody that I tried shaving my head with a Gillette Mach 3. Oh, the humiliation when they’d find out it wasn’t even a Mach 3 Turbo!
Lucky for me, I lived within walking distance of a barbershop (which further complicates the question of “why did I shave my head with that razor?” but you’re really not gonna get a resolution to that one so quit worrying about it so goddam much). Unlucky for me, I was still a huge pussy, and could not face the humiliation of being the laughingstock of a barbershop. I don’t know what I thought would happen; it’s not like I was walking into Ice Cube’s Barbershop. My barber was a nice Asian lady I’ve known my whole life, not Cedric the Entertainer. But still, I relayed the previous night’s events to my best friend and insisted he accompany me to the barbershop for support. “Sure,” he said. “I just have to get a Christmas tree with my family.” Not a problem! Take your time, friend! How long could buying a Christmas tree take?
The answer is “all day, when it’s a family tradition to drive three hours into the West Virginia Mountains and cut down the tree yourself.” He did not make this clear in our barbershop negotiations, so I bided my time indoors, waiting impatiently, fully aware that I was well on my way to becoming the Boo Radley of my hometown if I did not get a haircut soon. Eventually, the sun went down and I accepted that I would not be getting a haircut until the next day.
The friend did come over eventually, though, and we hung out the way bored teenage boys always do: sitting in my basement and ordering Dominos. While we waited for the pizza, I jokingly suggested we watch The Notebook. “I’ve never seen it! I’ve heard it’s good! Wouldn’t it be funny if two guys watched the Notebook together alone?” I forced a “ha ha” at the end, poorly masking my desperation for some sort of emotional contact, finger trembling above the remote control’s On Demand button, made a little bit uncomfortable by my own surprising teenage homoeroticism.
The Dominos came and I bathed in its unnatural and confusing warmth, second only to that of a teenage girl. In retrospect, this really should’ve been my Rock Bottom. Sitting in a basement eating Dominos with a fucked up haircut is less of a cry for help, more of a World War II bomb alarm. I should have heard K9 units barking in my head or President Truman making an inspirational speech or SOMETHING. Instead, I ate 4 slices of Dominos pizza, solidifying that if one day I wrote an essay about this ordeal, I would come off as a real sack of shit. But no, this was not my Rock Bottom.
The pizza had barely begun to register as regrettable to the two of us by the time my friend suggested that we go hang out with another girl, one who he was desperately trying to hook-up with. The caveat was that this second girl was the best friend of the aforementioned first girl and they would undoubtedly be together when we went to hang out. I expressed very obvious distaste for this plan, but a teenage boy who thinks he can touch boob moves forward like a Japanese bullet train, and he probably hadn’t even heard me say “ehhhh I don’t know” by the time we were in the car.
Sure enough, when we got to the hot spot to hang out – a strip mall’s parking lot –the first girl was there right beside the second. Oh man, this is it! This is my rock bottom! Staring my ex-love in the face while the neon glow of a Dollar Store’s signage illuminated the cuts on my head, screaming out from beneath the biggest and, of course, goofiest pink hat I could find to try to hide a wound I could only describe as “real fucking dumbass.” But no, this was not Rock Bottom.
“Yeah, yeah, I tried to shave my head,” I hurriedly told them before promptly managing to stand in corners of places that I didn’t know had corners (open parking lots, circular groups of people, etc.).
Eventually we made our way into the Dollar Store, fucking around in the aisles until we found a safe space to loiter between toilet paper and pool toys. Conversation carried on and I remained mostly removed, trying to pay as little attention to the first girl as I could. I was mysteriously aloof, praying that they were all thinking, “Wow, Evan is doing really well for someone who’s got such a fucked up haircut right now.” But, they probably weren’t thinking that, and it was very doubtfully a surprise when I dubiously announced, “I don’t feel so good.” There was a whole list of things I had to feel not-so-good about, but this was not the failed high school love. This was not the embarrassment of my haircut. This was the Dominos.
Power-walking out of the Dollar Store – hat flying off due to the sheer force with which I moved – I spotted the nearest trashcan, threw my head into it, and vomited. It all came back up: the pizza, the memories, inexplicably something that looked a lot like a fur ball. Part of me wanted to keep my head in that trashcan. It was nice and safe. I didn’t have to face the outside world. I could forget about everything that had made me feel like shit for the last couple days. It was a space where I could recollect and just breathe for a minute. Well, it would’ve been, had I not just thrown up in it. In fact, all of the solace that that garbage can offered me was pretty much nullified by the fact that there was puke in it. It smelled bad. It smelled like puke.
I was crushed by two forces: all the people I couldn’t bare to face behind me, and a puddle of barf in front of me. But I knew what I had to do – that puke smelled bad, and there was a nice-looking Hispanic family nearby who I didn’t want to disturb anymore. Somewhat reluctantly I pulled my head out of the trashcan. I wobbled pack to my friend, sort of nodding in acknowledgment of how perfect it was that I had just thrown up. “At least it’s all out of my system,” I thought. “This is sort of a beautiful metaphor when you think about it. Getting all the toxins out of me. You gotta throw up to feel better. Although, I still wish I hadn’t thrown up.”
“I’m gonna buy you some gum,” said my friend, and I walked back into that Dollar Store, head held high, smiling a big toothy grin from a vomity mouth. I laughed a little bit because, fuck, I just threw up in a public trash can after all of that. What else was I gonna do but laugh? I couldn’t throw up any more, that’s for sure. I also couldn’t cut my hair again because there wasn’t very much left. And those are the only things I know how to do!
Then I went back to feeling shitty because laughing made me smell my own breath and I still had to hang out with people that I really didn’t want to hang out with.
That’s it. That was my rock bottom.
Life’s been great since!