"I cannot wait," he kept saying, pacing back and forth, his hands looking for something to squeeze. "I've got an appointment at the beauty parlor this afternoon!" he shrieked, pinching me in half with a bear hug.
Grant's hair, pre-beehive, reminds me of a big, thick ball of brown yarn being attacked by bats. It's all uncoiled and long and alive somehow. I can't imagine his hair structured into a stiffened upsweep, but Grant says that's exactly the reason he's been growing it out all these years. "I've always wanted a beehive hairdo," he said, adding that I should have known because he has a painting by Sister Louisa he sometimes displays in his living room. The subject is a librarian with a beehive, and the caption reads, "The Higher the Hair, the Closer to God."
"Girl, where have you been?" Grant chided me before setting off to the hair salon. I heard they charged him double because he took up triple the time of a normal appointment. But, damn, the result was fine. A full foot high, his beehive was a wonder in construction, and so stiff it could deflect a shower of sharpened axes. At The Local, where Grant bartends, hordes of people piled in to view the 'do, having heard about it. Grant made a fortune in tips.
"I wonder if I can keep this thing for another day," Grant laughed the morning after. He'd already removed 33 hairpins, and worried simultaneously that he might've destroyed the hairdo's foundation and that it might just be indestructible after all. After removing all that metal, the beehive still stood there, unweakened, sturdy as ever, like it was carved out of marble. "It's never going away," Grant said, awed.
Of course it's never going away. I know about trashy bartenders with beehive hairdos, as Grant is not the first beehived bartender I ever met. In grade school, I used to walk to the same bar every day after class, where I was practically baby-sat by a bartender named Kit. The bar was my father's hangout, called the Thin Lizzy, located next to a liquor store owned by a man who I thought sure took a long time to tuck in his shirt whenever I went in there to buy penny candy. It turns out he was masturbating back there behind the counter. But I guess that's another story.
Kit had a beehive bleached the color of cotton balls, and she actually kept things stored in there; pens, check stubs, dollar bills. Her hair was as thin as duck down, so these items clung there as if caught, like moths in a web, and you could even see the lines the leaded pencils left on her scalp.
Kit's shift started at 6 a.m., and my father would arrive every morning after breakfast and stay the day. His routine was so predictable that my sisters and I listed the Thin Lizzy as my father's daytime phone number on our school documents.
Kit knew my father was tipping her with my mother's money, so she let us eat all the potato chips and processed-beef logs we could stand, and kept a supply of quarters on hand so we could play pool, air hockey and Pong until 5:30, when we'd walk home to meet our mother, who, surprisingly, held Kit in low regard.
"She's trashy," my mother would say, but didn't explain further.
Sometimes Kit would stay after her shift, and let my father and other guys buy her beers, so I saw her drunk more than once. But drunk adults were nothing new to me. I even walked in on Kit in the bathroom once, sitting there on the toilet with her panties around her ankles. I screamed I was so mortified with myself, but she calmed me down and told me to come inside and close the door behind me.
"Listen, kid," she said, and I could see there were lots of stripes on her head from all the pencils she'd put there earlier, "don't hang out at bars anymore. Tell your dad to take you somewhere else. There's not even any windows here, for chrissakes."
I have to say I was surprised, because I thought Kit liked having me there every day. But here she was, literally, telling me to get out.
"Get out," she said, and damn if she didn't start bawling her eyes out right then. "Get out," she repeated. And I would've left right then but she had a hold of my hand, so I stayed with her until she let go. To this day, I'm amazed at the resilience of that memory, the image of Kit crying on the toilet, clutching my hand -- the incredible awkwardness of that moment. I did what she said. I got out, and to this day I still have a soft spot in my heart for trashy bartenders with beehive hairdos.
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