"My hair is falling out."
"What?! Ashley, you're only 28."
"Yeah, but I'll be approaching thirty by the end of November,, and I'm not talking about that kind of hair loss anyway."
"You aren't sick are you?" she asks with feignless concern.
"Whaa-at?" I choke on my sip of ten-dollar reisling, "No, I'm not sick, for fuck's sake."
"Then how do you know you are losing hair?"
"Because every time I take a shower, a nest of blonde hair clogs the drain, and the only person in this house with a platinum head is the only person who deserves to be published but isn't because of rampant nepotism in the publishing world."
"I've told you before," she pauses to let the train whistle drown out her advice, "you aren't published because you won't send anything out."
"What do I have to send?"
"Your manuscript might be--"
"Nope," I interrupt with a pop of proclitic emphasis.
"Why?" she question mark whines.
"Got my third rejection today."
"What did you learn from that class about the Romantics?"
"Romanticism is akin to Nepotism."
"I've given myself a chemical haircut many times with box colorings and home perms," she feigns the 'don't worry we know what we're doing' smile.
"Right," I nod with an encourageless smile.
"The instructors here at the beauty school know what they're doing, and they would never let a treatment stay in too long," she says and pauses,
and comma-pauses, with more commas,
for way too long, before adding, "Don't worry, you are in good hands."
"But...you've applied the color twice, so isn't that too long to leave a chemical on the scalp?" I trouble-question her learning process as if I were teaching again.
"Let me get Beth," she rushes away from the station.
"Oh shit, are you serious, your hair is falling out because you got it colored at a beauty school?"
"Well, yes, but you know, I don't really give a fuck,, I'll just shave the shit off if I have to."
"I couldn't do that."
"It's easy. I've done it several times."
"I know, but how?"
"It's just hair."
"Then why are you so worried about it falling out?"
"I wanted to make sure it was the bleach and not part of my thyroid problem, which is caused by the mood stabilizing meds. I can't solve that problem with an electric razor and a little nonchalance."
I hear her nod with an appearance of casual calm on the other end of the Appalachian Trail.
"It's interesting to hear you talk about this, because just as you say that you don't deserve to call yourself a good writer, it relates to your need to feel that you deserve to live at the house rent-free," she pauses to inhale that therapy breath of connection, "It's almost as if your need to feel as if you deserve to live there coincides with your need to be published..in other words, the recognition from the publishing world or the sense of worth a writer would attain from being published is the same sense of worth that would come from getting paid for your services," she waves her hand in that 'I don't really think I know but I do know what I'm talking about' way, and says, "I don't know. I'm just making inferences."
"No, it makes sense, it makes a lot of sense, like when I want to put a comma instead of a period because to me, it just makes more fucking sense, . , know what I fucking mean?.,"
She does not answer.
"It's really a Catch 22," I say and wait for her head nod before adding on, "Getting published would help me feel better about myself and the value of my work (which I already know is pretty fucking valuable), but I can't get it published because my work doesn't have the 'already published' stamp of approval (and who the fuck can afford an agent?), but I can't send it out there because I don't feel as if I'm good enough without getting published.
I wait for another "It's interesting to hear you," comment before the punk-addendum to my entire fucking clash slash ramones/royal life.
"Do you drink alcohol?"
"Um," I begin the cliched sterile response, "Yes, I do."
Tiff sterilizes my clincial response, "Beer and wine,, mostly..."
I punctuate her answer with a, "mostly," and a colloquial "atta,"....'at a' meal. Or with friends.
"And what about street drugs?"
"What about them?" I decide not to ask but say, "Marijuana, occasionally," emphasizing that last word.
"Have you been hit or kicked by someone in the last two months?" she asks, after telling me that some of the questions are "random" or "meant to screen for domestic violence."
Do I not look or act like I could be domestically violent?
"Fall is your favorite time of year?"
"Yes, of course, are you kidding me?"
"Well...I guess that makes sense."
"Of course it does."
"You aren't sick are you?"
"Depends on what you call sick?"
"You know what I mean."
"No, Summar, I'm not sick."
"Because if you were--"
"I know you know, but promise me that you'll--"
"I promise to tell you if I feel the cycle warning me to read the signs."
"It's just that you're so isolated and--"
"Summar, your name never lied about the seasons."
"That's not enough to feel connected to--"
"--don't worry, honestly, because a chemical haircut is just another way to prove the existence of existentialism--we create our own realities."
"And what is the reality of your chemical haircut?"
"Well,,that's what I have to create..." I whine my own question out of my mark.