At the house, Christian was awake, watching TV in the living room. I didn’t see Colin but assumed he was in his room at his computer.
Ziggy shook the box of hair dye in Christian’s direction. “How about you, Chris? Want some?”
“No thanks, I’m trying to cut down,” Chris said, pausing the VCR. “Besides, been there, done that, and my mother was the only one who noticed.”
“Nope. Hair’s dark enough, I guess.” He yawned. “Just clean up if you make a mess, all right?”
“Speaking of which, got any rubber gloves?”
“Look under the sink. I think we dug out a box when we de-junked and I stuck ’em in there.” He clicked his movie back on and Ziggy and I went up the stairs to the second floor bathroom.
While Ziggy dug around under the sink, I opened the box and read the instructions. Inside I was surprised to find not one but two bottles, as well as a tube of something. This was clearly going to be a more complicated operation than I predicted.
“It says you’re supposed to make sure you’re not allergic to it first,” I said.
“They have to say that, so if you have an allergic reaction and die, your family can’t sue them.”
“People can die from dyeing their hair?”
“Will you quit worrying already? I’m one in a million but I’m not that one in a million.” He pulled rubber gloves on and then handed me a pair. There was a pair of flat, plastic gloves attached to the instruction sheet, but he ignored those. He also pulled out some hair clips that must have belonged to someone’s girlfriend. He covered up a bit of where his hair was white with some rolled up tissues and the clips.
Then he started to get undressed.
I think I actually put my forehead in my palm.
“Jeez, Daron, don’t take it the wrong way. I just don’t want to get dye on everything.”
“Okay, fine, should I get undressed, too?”
“yeah, of course.”
“It’s not a come on. I promise.”
“This is the most blatant set-up you’ve ever pulled.”
“That’s because it’s not a set-up.” He was naked now, looking slightly ridiculous with his rubber-covered fists on his sharp hips and a twist of tissue clipped to his head like a strange headdress. “Honestly, Daron.”
“Don’t you ‘honestly’ me, Mister Ten Versions of the Truth.”
He closed his eyes like he was counting to ten. When he opened them he seemed to look right through me. “I’d rather it was you than Chris or Colin. You’ve seen the goods before, at least.”
“Fine. But I’m leaving my clothes on. If they get dye on them, so what?”
“Fine,” he echoed, then climbed into the bathtub.
What followed was a kind of alchemy, where two things got mixed together, and shaken, and then applied like ketchup out of a squeeze bottle. I had to do the applying, while he knelt in the tub admonishing me to make sure I got it everywhere except the clipped bit.
When his head was pretty well soaked, he told me to toss the bottle, which was still half full, into the trash. “Unless you’ve decided to do some of your own after all.”
“No thanks. It smells like a cat ate a bunch of chemical waste and then pissed on your head.” I put the bottle into the wastebasket. “What now?”
“Put that crappy shower cap that came in the box over my head, and there will be less fumes. Now we wait twenty minutes.”
“Great.” I put the shower cap on him and then sat on the toilet lid. “Can I take the gloves off now?”
“For a while anyway. Why?”
I stripped the gloves off. “Be right back.”
I went down the hall to my room and came back with an acoustic guitar. “I’ve been working on some things.”
“Yeah? Let’s hear it.”
Of course I still hadn’t worked out the rough spots in the lyrics, but the music was pretty firm on “Infernal Medicine,” so I started playing him the riff.
Everyone’s voice sounds better in the bathroom, even mine, which is nothing special to begin with. I got a little lick to work in the lead up to the verse, too, and then I sang:
Nothing tempts me like your lips
Lush as honey and twice as sweet
Your skin slips under my fingertips
As silvery cool as a satin sheet
I repeated the first verse again, then went on to the others, and forced the words to scan. Didn’t sound half bad now that I had to just go for it, even if my audience was just one person.
I repeated the first verse a third time to round it out and then stopped. “Still needs a bridge, and an actual chorus,” I said.
He was staring at me, looking somewhat glum. Or maybe that was his eyeliner being smudgy.
“What? You look like a kicked puppy. I thought you’d love it. I can’t do that slide the way you do, but it’ll sound incredible…”
He looked away for a second, having a short internal debate. Then he looked up at me again. “That’s really how you feel.”
“That it’ll sound ten times better when you sing it? Yeah.”
He frowned, then let the subject drop. “How long has it been?”
“Not even ten minutes.”
“Okay.” He looked like he wanted to say something more, but just shook his head.
Which version of the truth do you want, Ziggy? That I write this fucked up shit because of you, or that I write it for you to sing? Both things are true.
I didn’t say it, but I guess he got the message. Or he had to play at it like the whole thing wasn’t just a set-up. At any rate, there was no come-on after that, no pulling me into the shower or teasing me “by accident.”
Right before he rinsed, though, he ran his hand into the dye in his hair, and then reached out and pressed his palm against my chest, leaving a wet, black handprint on the cloth of my shirt.