I had only been in Austin for one week. Endlessly partying with Dee, Ray, Dumplin, and Seth. I had this fear like being on the edge of a cliff. Grasping onto anything of familiarity while distracting myself by avoiding being alone in a new city. Dee had Ray now and I had just left Seth alone at a bar burning the bridge of friendship with an explosive. Other men may have blown it off but Seth instead starting blowing me up with voicemails and texts threatening my life and threatening my potential social life there in Austin. While I was surprised by the extent of his rage, I wasn’t intensely worried about the outcome. Austin is small yet there’s a ton of people in the states capital.
I started my new job at Regis and was ready to calm it down. The salon was in a mall near downtown. I had assumed it was a busy area. I had done my interview on a Monday a month prior and thought nothing of it being quite slow in the mall. When I met with the manager on my start date, she didn’t even remember me. There was 4-5 open chairs though so she made the space for me. You got paid minimum wage or commission, whichever was higher. I hadn’t done hair in a salon in years but did house calls here and there. My first day ended with no clients. I was surprised and walked around during my lunch to realize that most of the mall had been abandoned by their prior occupants. There was maybe 10 shops in the mall open. Only maybe 3 food court storefronts open. This was strange to me at the time but I was going to be optimistic about my new beginning. I had worked mostly as a front desk member in high end salons up until this point and a short stint at an Ulta Salon in Rockwall as a stylist. Regis carries Wella color and during school we carried that so I wasn’t completely in the dark about the line itself. Honestly though I had no understanding of color theory beyond platinum blondes. As a teenager, everyone wanted that white blonde hair so through my livejournal groups I had learnt how to do that well but with no regards to the health of the hair in the process. From being a fan of more shattered Toni & Guy haircuts, I had somewhat mastered in my mind the use of a razor. I could do the Justin Bieber cut all day.
Still with some savings in my account, I chalked it up to a free day and got off work around 4pm and gave Dee a call. I wanted to go on a celebratory first day of work happy hour. Dee had gotten a job as a host at a high end sushi restaurant downtown during the day. She probably got off work at 3-4 ish. As she picked up the phone she explained to me that she was stuck downtown with Ray and couldn’t find her car. It seemed as though she had already started drinking but no judgment from me, of course. I asked for her closest cross streets and she told me two parallel streets that don’t meet up at any points, but I headed out to the general vicinity that was close to the bar she had named. Once I reached the area I called her again. She said she was in front of a bar. I too was parked in front of this bar. I assured her that she was wrong and to look for me if she was close. Then she named another bar about two streets over. So I headed there. Only to call back and ask where she was again. This went on for about 30 minutes and I felt like she was fucking with me as a joke. Finally, Dee and Ray find me or I found them and they are belligerently confusing. I’m surprised they could be this wasted by 6pm. I asked Dee about work and she tells me she left early because she didn’t want to pay for the parking meter any longer. I found this absurd and asked if it was slow and if she was the only hostess working. She was still in training though and assured me it was slow. I was concerned on how Ray was going to make rent because I hadn’t seen or heard of him working since his arrival a few days earlier. Dee then told me he works remotely on design for his uncle. Sounded legit so I let that fear go. I drove them through Whataburgers then took them home. Hoping that once they were sober enough they could call a cab to take them to their car. I was disappointed that they had partied too hard earlier in the day because I still wanted to go out, so I called Jo B.
Jo B was a nickname from since he was young. Putting together his first name with his last initial. Jo B migrated to Austin about 10 years prior from a town near Corpus Christi. He had a large group of friends from skating and then a group of friends from his small town that had moved here as well. That night we met up alone around 8 back at Barfly’s. Barfly’s was a dive off Airport close to Hyde Park. The crowd consisted of regulars, punks and hipster depending on the night. This was Monday night so it was relatively slow as I walked into the second story bar above an old shopping center. Jo B was sitting in a booth to himself. I was immediately greatful for him not sitting at the bar as it makes me self conscious of my side profile. It sounds silly as I’m sure it is but the dimly lit bar and sunken in worn out booth seats were perfect for me. He remained quiet most of our date but stared so intently on me as I talked about my life and moving here and experiences. He had an air of coolness surrounding him. The fact he wasn’t talking much made me think he was wiser and older. Only later I figured out he was black out drunk. I followed him in his truck to his nearby duplex. The duplex itself was in the perfect location of North Campus right on Guadalupe. Yet the floors were made of cracked and old concrete, the sink in the bathroom didn’t work, and the walls were yellow from smoke. This didn’t appall me at the time because of the types of men I was used to dating. For some reason I was made to believe this is how men live until a woman comes along to take care of them. Also I was impressed he was living alone and making it. Although he was 35 at the time, I was a mere 22. I hadn’t ever dated anyone longer than a month. I dated only men that disrespected women. I had a deep self hatred that was met through the treatment of these men towards me. I was deeply broken through years of rejection and verbal abuse from friends and enemies and my own parents. I had the absolute lowest self esteem you could imagine. In the last year though I had lost 50lbs and men were coming out of the woodwork. Instead of reveling in the new attention, I used it as a weapon to hurt men back. To treat them as if they didn’t matter and blow people off once they felt close. I didn’t feel sorry for it. You couldn’t just treat me like shit for years and now suddenly hang on every word I say as if it brought new meaning. The shallowness disgusted me. I feared new rejection also. I didn’t want to go back to that place.
But I had never met him before. Jo B and no one like him had ever met me before. How he treated me was new. He had no prior notion of who I was. He didn’t think I was a drunk or a slut or that I was worthless and didn’t treat me that way. Jo B had a sister my age and friends of all shapes and sizes and wasn’t the slightest bit full of himself. To this day, I think he has a sweet sad soul. I wanted to throw myself into his hurt and fill all the voids. I thought he was just like me and I could make us better... but that was all later.
We slept that night on a mattress on the floor. I remember feeling so excited that this was all new. I could be someone different to this man.