The book came out on the 4th September and I will be posting my review later today.
5. The Hair Psychologist
I held my breath until I reached the taxi rank. Once I flagged an incoming taxi, I managed to relax and do a big old evil belly laugh. I pictured JJ finishing the bottle of chardonnay, ordering another perhaps even more expensive wine. He’d eat my main meal, then his. Then it would dawn on him. I was not coming back. He would have to leave his fake Prada sunglasses as collateral and make some frantic phone calls for cash to get out of there with any shred of dignity.
The taxi pulled up, and I jumped in without taking any notice of the driver’s details. I was too distracted picturing JJ’s handsome face trying to explain to Alberto why he couldn’t pay. Then, JJ takes Alberto’s soft manicured fingers in his strong warm hand, and convinces him he could pay in other ways. Alberto’s eyes light up and he kisses... eww, hang on. Damn it! That’s not the right fantasy. Bloody cheating bisexual men. It’s rife around here, I’m telling you.
I shook the image from my mind and glanced at the registration of the driver. I began to text it to my mum when a distinctive voice pipes up and says, “So, how was lunch, love?”
You’ve got to be friggin’ kidding me. Beer belly Bob. Of all the luck.
“I was left unsatisfied, if you must know, Bob.”
“Boy trouble, love?”
“You could say that.”
“What’s the trouble? He’s not a vegetarian too, is he?”
“Hmmm, I’m not sure how to answer that, Bob. I’ve heard lesbians described as vegetarians, so does the same apply to straight men that turn gay, then straight, then almost definitely gay again?”
“You’ve got me there, love. I have no idea. So, your boyfriend’s gay?”
“Yes. He’s gay and the only slot he is interested in is the one that swipes my credit card.”
Beer belly Bob looked slightly shocked, but managed to change the subject back to himself, like most good cabbies do. “So, I called my sheil - I mean Val - like I told you I was gonna. I’m all set to take her out to this Indian vego place tonight. I was thinking of buying her some flowers and maybe some chocolates.”
“Yeah. I thought I might get a hotel room, you know, with a spa. Get some of that non-alcoholic champagne she loves.”
Ew. Go away naked mental picture of Bob in the bath.
“Yeah, then I thought I’d surprise her and scatter rose petals all over the bed, you know, all romantic-like.”
“You’re very original, Bob. Did you think of that all by yourself?”
“No, love. I wish. Saw it on a movie.”
I just wanted to get home, but it’s the saint in me, I tell you. I had to, something literally forced me to. “Bob, what are you planning on wearing tonight?”
“Well, my birthday suit eventually,” cue disgusting bawdy laugh.
Another mental picture I’ll need erased by regression therapy.
“To the date, Bob. What are you planning on wearing on your date?”
“Oh, I’ll just chuck a shirt on over this one I think, love. Maybe spray on a bit of Old Spice.”
Aptly named. Old.
“Hmm. I was thinking, Bob, you really need a new look. You look like a truck driver that’s been on the road. For a few months. With sheep. Who have fleas.”
“A new look? Val likes me just as I am.”
“I bet she makes you take a shower before she kisses you. Am I right?”
He narrowed his bloodshot eyes at me.
“I bet she bought you a ‘special’ toothbrush just for her house. Am I right?”
“Well, yeah, but that’s only ‘cause...”
“I bet she came to your house only the once and has never been back. Am I right?”
He hung his head and said, “Yes. You’re right.”
It’s like I have a gift. I had to help him. For the sake of his poor girlfriend.
“Right, Bob. I’m very busy you know. Stop at these shops here. Bring your credit card and let’s go.”
Bob pulled in to a narrow car park and wearily followed me into the shop. He really was very shabbily dressed and I was risking my reputation just by being seen with him. What can I do, though? I’m just a good person. Saint-like.
Bob followed meekly behind me with his head hung as low as his thick neck would allow, like he was trying to hide his face in his chin folds. I filled my arms full of clothes and directed him to the change room. I sat expectantly on a blue and yellow striped chaise lounge. I knew Bob could be transformed from booze hound barfly to, well, one step up from that.
“I’m ready, but I’m not coming out. I look ridiculous,” Bob whispered sharply over the change room door.
“That’s an impossibility. You looked ridiculous before we came in here. Be a man for God’s sake and come out so you can see yourself from every angle.” Big tough men were all the same deep down. Sensitive and scared.
Bob walked out in loose fit denim jeans coupled with a navy blue long sleeved shirt that nipped in slightly at his waist. It had small white pinstripes running down the length of it. He looked like a different person.
“What’s wrong with that? You look great. What size shoe are you?”
“What’s wrong with my thongs?”
“Bob. I’m on a schedule here. Things will move quicker if you just listen.”
The shadow cleared from his eyes. He had no fight left. “Size eleven.”
I walked to the shoe section, which sold genuine leather shoes in every colour imaginable. I picked a black, brown and beige and six pairs of matching socks. He could wear his thongs on Sundays.
The black boots fit perfectly and again I realised how gifted I was. I had a natural talent for shopping.
Bob stood in front of the mirrors and eyed himself cautiously. “I like it, but it doesn’t feel like me any more.”
“Will you miss the grubby old polo, Bob? Now try on the rest of the clothes. We’re running out of time.” I shooed him back into the plush-purple carpeted change room and decided I’d call Kylie even though she was a no good, gossiping liar, to see if she could fit Bob in for a mercy cut.
I decided to ignore her curtness and get straight to the point. “I have an emergency client for you. He has a date tonight and he can’t possibly go looking like the Bee Gees. The dead ones. Bad hair coupled with pallid and pasty skin, it’s not nice to look at.”
“What? Who is he?”
“Bob. A taxi driver I met today. Can you meet at my place?”
“You want me to cut the hair of some random taxi driver you met today and you’re taking him to your house?”
“God, when you say it like that it sounds creepy! Good point, though. Let’s meet at your house in half an hour.”
“No, I’ll meet at yours. He’ll be the last client anyway.”
“Ok, if I’m not there on time just make yourself comfortab ...”
“Samantha, this is not a social experiment, just friggin’ get there on time!” And with that, she hung up on me for the third time that day.
I glanced over at Bob, who was still looking at himself sceptically in the full-length mirror. “C’mon, Bob, we’ve got another appointment. Grab the clothes and pay. I’ll meet you in the cab.”
Five minutes later, Bob returned to the car. His face was devoid of all colour and his eyes seemed vacant, dead almost.
“Bob, what happened? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
He glared at me and said, “Are you on commission for that shop? Jesus, that little bundle of clothes just cost me two months wages!”
“God, is that all? I thought something serious had happened! Let’s go, my friend Kylie is going to try and do something with that hair of yours.” He looked at me and went to speak, but thought better of it.
During the elevator ride up to my floor, I explained to Bob how many CCTV cameras he’d been seen on today with me just in case he was some kind of homicidal maniac. He looked at me blankly and said something totally nonsensical: “I think I’d be let off once a jury of my peers met you.”
As if. I pictured myself flouncing around a court room, yelling, “Objection!” I’d wear those thick black spectacles so people would notice my intelligence and not just my looks. Then I’d wink at the cute juror, the one that looked like Keith Urban, but with shorter hair. Why oh why did he have to be married to Nicole?
I opened the front door of the unit and walked smack bang into hundreds of tiny little mirrors hanging from the ceiling on thick silver wire.
“What the hell?” I said, as I tried to untangle myself from their tentacle-like clutches.
The house smelt like coconut. Hmm. I walked over to where my hall table usually sat, to find a row of three pot plants with round leaves. Hmm. There was some kind of waterfall music playing – the kind that stresses you out because you know it’s meant to calm you and the more you think about being calm the more stressed out you get.
I walked to the kitchenette and snatched up a hastily written letter.
I feng shui-ed for you. The mirrors should turn your fortunes around. Your front door faces your back door and your money walks in and right out again. Don’t forget to water the plants. It’s bad feng shui to kill a living thing. (You might want to consider this when you’re eating meat. Cows have feelings too, you know.) I’ve taken the liberty of moving your furniture around so you have good Chi. Please, please get rid of that dress! Heed my...
I screwed up the letter and boiled quietly on the inside. Crazy woman! I made a mental note to get my locks changed. My Mum was obviously practising some kind of occult ritual on me, her innocent daughter and guinea pig, so she could perfect her craft and charge unsuspecting customers. She was a crook, a charlatan, a swindler even.
Kylie knocked on the door and let herself in. “So, where is he?” she said as she walked into the mirrors and was momentarily blinded by the swirling prisms of light. “Whoa, your Mum’s been here, I take it.”
“You’re late!” I screamed at her, maybe somewhat unwarrantedly (that goddamn waterfall music had me on edge), “Can you start on Bob here, so I can finally relax? It’s been a hell of a day.”
“OK, OK. Don’t get your knickers in a knot. Geez, I’ve come all the way over here for the second time in two days!”
“What do you mean ‘all the way over here’? You live next door!”
“So? So, next door isn’t even two metres away!”
“So?” Kylie kept going, she couldn’t let me get the last word in. “I could be relaxing too, you know!’
“Fine, fine. Can you just get started then?”
Kylie huffed and puffed like she was the big bad wolf while she unpacked her tools. Bob was busy trying to look inconspicuous.
“Hi, Bob, I’m Kylie. Have a seat for me here, will you?” she said, pointing to a dining room chair.
“Hi, love. I just need a small trim, I think.”
Kylie nodded and summoned me. “Sam, what’s the plan for Bob today?”
“Well a metro-sexual style won’t suit will it?” I asked.
“No, he’s definitely not sharp enough for that. What about retro-sexual?”
“It’s gotta be better than bet-tra sexual! Hair style for the chronic gambler!”
Kylie laughed and then remembered the seriousness of the situation and became a little bit emotional.
She held Bob’s hair between her fingers and tutted, “Now, Bob,” she said in a soothing tone, “I can fix this, but we have to get to the source of this flagrant self-abuse. Your hair is a living thing too, you know. Why would you spend years hiding behind dirty unkempt hair, Bob? This is a safe environment, Bob. You can be honest. I won’t judge you.” Bob looked at me like he feared for his life. I guess he’s never had his hair cut by a hair psychologist before.
“Ah, I’ve just been busy. It’s only hair, love.”
Oh, God. Wrong answer. Who says that to someone holding razor sharp scissors?
Kylie sucked in her breath so severely I thought she was going to pass out.
She shook her head and walked away from Bob. “Samantha, I’m going to need a minute here,” and she sat on the lounge with her head between her knees and concentrated on shallow breathing. She muffled through her red cotton skirt. “This is more serious than I thought!”
I walked to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of white wine, hoping a glass or two each, would help diffuse the situation.
“Glass of vino, anyone?”
Kylie stood up and walked back over to Bob. “I can only have green remember?”
“Well, white wine is made from green grapes.”
Kylie smiled for the first time in a while and said, “Of course, I’ll have a big glass, then. This is going to get worse before it gets better.”
Bob lifted his knees up and hugged them into his body. He started rocking back and forth a little strangely. Kylie whispered to me, “This is all part of the process, don’t let it scare you.”
She put on her serious voice and said, “Bob, was it your Mum? She cheated on your Dad, didn’t she? It made you feel invisible didn’t it?”
Bob ignored her and continued rocking, only adding a small mewing sound like a lost cat.
“Or, was it the kids at school, Bob? You were always picked last for sport weren’t you? You had asthma and couldn’t run fast, could you?”
I must say I was fascinated. I think we were getting somewhere here.
“It was your ex-wife, wasn’t it, Bob? She started buying your clothes from K-Mart and cutting your hair herself, didn’t she? You kept quiet even though you started to resemble Bob Hawke, didn’t you?”
Bob’s eyes widened and his body stiffened. The rocking stopped as suddenly as it started. Kylie nodded to me and said, “It’s OK, Bob. It’s OK. There, there. We can fix this.” Bob started sobbing and cried, “Yes, please, I’ll do anything! I’m so sick of the Bob Hawke jokes. She did it on purpose, you know! She was evil, pure evil!”
“Ok, you’re going to have to commit to a six week treatment plan. Every six weeks you need to see me. Now it’s not going to be cheap. Cheap is what got you into this mess, remember?”
“I can pay!”
“Hallelujah, Bob. I’m going to start cutting now. Try to relax. This is a safe environment. If you need a break, you just let me know, ok?”
“OK,” he sniffed, wiped away his tears and looked suddenly hopeful. I left them to it, it was becoming a little too Tyra Banks for me.
My phone started playing the Jaws theme song.
“Hi, Mother. I noticed you did some redecorating.”
“Darling. You sent me a message about Bob? And I just wanted to say …”
“Oh, it was nothing, just the taxi I was in, for precaution.”
“Right, so … you didn’t actually talk?”
“No, not really,” I could see where this was leading, some kind of new therapy she’s designed targeting taxi drivers. Bloody con woman, she’d rob children if she could get away with it. “So, I noticed you broke into my house, again.”
“Darling, I wouldn’t call it breaking in, I have a key you know, and I’ve been so worried about you. Tell me everything that’s happened since I saw you yesterday!”
“Well, I think you of all people know exactly what’s happened to me since yesterday.”
“Darling, what does that mean?” She used that mawkish mother voice that sounded very innocent, thus implying to me, she was very guilty.
“I think you should use your powers for good not evil, Mum.”
“Darling, are you on that sugar-free diet again? You sound a little on edge.”
I thought about all that had happened. Really, I was some kind of machine to keep going with all I’d been through, who wouldn’t be on edge? I decided to change the subject.
“JJ is back in town. I escaped from a potentially expensive lunch date.”
Mum sighed. “I love JJ, darling. I think you get too caught up in that imagination of yours when you are with him. He loves you. I’ve done his numbers. You two are well suited.”
“Oh, please, Mum! He’s obviously gay!”