Bedding One Stone Deeper than the Other
By Tricia Louvar
Dammit all to hell, I was right that I’d been missing out on something while having children and nursing them to the nightingales. The young ones these days, the ocular candy type in hot pants, the ones where the undercarriage of their little ass cheeks played peek-a-boo with leg moves, were into some creepy shit.
Let me first start with the flowers. I learned this new lifestyle at fistfuls of campanula. Pink and violet little bellflower heads hung in deep prayer to the young men’s toned forearms. Why were these men holding the huts of the dot moth, the ingrailed clay, the lime-speck pug? Were they some new breed of good-looking horticulturists?
Two twenty-something guys—their tanned and roped veiny forearms, those men I mentioned, those specimens void of burgers and heroin—had tousled sandy brown hair and lean hairy chests. Yes, I noticed that in a flash; how could I not, while bushwhacking to find the bliss tree, the one with the spring blooms in Mountbatten pink.
They stood beside white, mobile trailers near a clearing. I was not expecting to come upon any of this. Hell, even when you think you’re getting away from people, people still always show up in some fashion. It’s a major disappointment to a misanthrope with a paid-off mortgage.
Being middle aged and enjoying the rite of passage, the nature walk, I took to the mountains with zest, vigor, and snacks at regular intervals. However, when I came upon those men either their mouths or the leaves in white latex said something to the effect, Come here, pretty kitten. Who me? I muttered, as if a gaggle of women were behind me. There was no competition. It was just I.
Nobody had called me kitten or, gosh, pretty even, in I don’t know how long. Onward past the pines and wild strawberry bushes and into the doublewide trailer they motioned me to enter.
One guy, I’ll call him Shirtless No. 1 said this was an experiment on controlled beauty.
“Like the ultimate face cream only for your hair,” the man said. I placed my hand to my cheek and felt the thinning skin around the edges of my eyes.
“We’re controlling the burn to their hair,” he continued.
Two rows of young women in stylists’ chairs reclined. Their necks fitted in a special indent on a long trough. This looked like a mobile salon hijacked by Bunsen burners.
“This new resin we’ve concocted only burns the bad chemicals from their hair—the layers of processed colors, the environmental pollutants, the alcohol, the weed soaked nights,” said Shirtless No. 2. “Their hair can grow longer faster: they can have the hair men have always wanted them to have—long, thick, tamable. It will help them on their dating profile photos. Head shot stuff.”
All the woman, beautiful and young with wispy hips and melon bowl breasts, presumably would-be actors, I assumed on this side of Malibu, closed their eyes in relaxation while their scalp was on simmer, a low flame, like the blue fire that lapped the bottom of my coffee maker on the stove. This reminded me of a more glamorized version of the women’s fire line.
Below the five-lobed corolla and the terrain of leaves in their hands still, the Shirtless Guys nudged me closer to an empty chair. “We need more subjects. Nobody your age has tried it yet. Or even been around here,”” said a shirtless one.
“Do it. See if it works,” one of the shirtless said.
“But I don’t color my hair. Or party.”
“Since nursing my kids I never went back to any of it. I didn’t need to. Don’t you see the gray in my hair,” I point. “I have no need to pretend anymore.”
Both leaned a little closer to my head. “That is kind of sexy,” one shirtless said to the other.
They seemed to back down, a little, from my nonchalance and shoulder-length shag.
I still didn’t know what to do about these young women on fire before me. You’d think the smell of burning chemicals would be toxic but it smelled familiar, like the aftermath of Roman candles on the Fourth. And I wondered if any of them were remembering summer nights when their fathers lit fireworks. Did they remember laying on the hood of a car, watching fireworks with their first boyfriend, the one who was right but not right then. They were all burning alive and fine with it.
“When do they get up? When are they done?” I asked.
“We’ll put out the flame with a bandana in about twenty minutes. You have to be careful as to not move the head, otherwise it could spread to the face and burn their almost flawless skin.”
“So the hair is the only thing keeping the flames intact?
“Yes. A lot could go wrong but these girls believe in us.”
I blurted out the obvious: “But why?”
“The same reason we got you through the door,” said Shirtless No. 2.
“You mean by flattery and not wearing a shirt?”
“Such has worked for eons on women,” said Shirtless No. 1. “I got my doctorate in clinical psychology. UCLA.”
“This is the great experiment: to see how far we can take women who want to believe in their beauty,” said Shirtless No. 2.
“Which is why your beauty to the outside world might still be in question, perhaps,” said Shirtless No. 2.
“You have a point,” I said. “But I gave life to three kids that should count for something.”
“Now you got tattered breasts. And you hate how that feels.”
“You got anything for that?”
“We have a carpenter working on a mortise and tenon contraption for that.”
Inside my rucksack I took out a card and handed it to Shirtless 1 or 2, one of them anyway, all fine and experimental.
“Call me when it’s ready.”
“A card? Lady, you are old.”
And the Shirtless guys opened the door for me to leave. What gentlemen.
Originally published in Marco Polo Arts Magazine; featured as the artist/writer in the Los Angeles section, 2012