There was a time, a fairly recent time, when I believed that everything happens for a reason. Now, I believe that some things happen for a reason, and others are overlooked and slip between the cracks. That's why I want to tell you about my friend and inspiration, Stacey.
I met Stacey a couple of years ago, when I was in beauty school. A lot of the "clients" you get in beauty school generally fall into the categories of elderly, poor, or both. Because, really, who else wants a $4 haircut besides those who only have a couple bucks in their pocket, and can't really see the bald spot you gave them?
I'm still not sure what possessed Stacey to walk in that day, but I won't ever forget how she set her sights on me. My station at school was directly behind the reception desk, I was the first student you laid eyes on when you came in and decided to put your hair in our hands. This was especially hard for me, because I had quite a bit of disdain for most of the clients who walked in there expecting five star steak and lobster treatment on a Kraft Mac and cheese budget. Did I mention that I have a bad attitude in general? If you know me, shut up, I know you know. If you don't, then buckle up buttercup. Anyhow, I was going about my disgruntled business when I heard the following exchange.
Stacey : Can I get someone who's about to graduate?
Receptionist :We can't do that, it's a school, everyone is learning. We have a list of available students and we assign clients accordingly. If you have a specific student in mind, you can request them by name.
Stacey; What about her (pointing at me) with the drag queen eyelashes? She must have some kind of balls if she can walk out of the house like that."
At this point, I was almost offended. But I was wearing falsies that only a tranny could love, and I kind of sensed a kindred spirit.
The receptionist explained that you could only request a student by name. At which point, I turned and pointed at the "Sarah" embroidered on my uniform top.
Stacey: Brain fart! How can I forget? Sarah, I want Sarah to do my hair
The rest is history. I saw Stacey a few more times while I was in school, and when I graduated, we exchanged contact info, because she swore she would follow me to whatever salon I was working at once I was licensed.
Now, for anyone who has ever been to cosmetology school, you know that your "regulars" always promise to follow you to the moon and back, but it rarely happens. Months later, after I had passed my state board exam and had been working for a little while, I got a text. It said, "Hey Sarah, maybe you don't remember, but my name is Stacey, you did my hair at the beauty college a few times. When you get a chance, could you give me a call? “
I was stoked. Not only was I scoring the elusive post beauty school client, but I adored Stacey. We really were pretty similar. The same age, same warped sense of humor, both trying to build a respectable life after a slightly checkered past filled with a few demons. I called her that afternoon. It wasn't quite what I was expecting.
She informed me that just a month prior, she had been diagnosed with non Hodgkins lymphoma, stage 3. She was undergoing treatment, which of course was making her quite sick, and preventing her from leaving the house overmuch. Could I possibly make a house call? Her exact words were "I look like a down on her luck crackwhore. Roots for days, and you know how hairy us Mediterranean women are. Bring your full arsenal “
I didn't hesitate. I showed up at her house the following weekend with a large rolling suitcase packed with waxing supplies, and enough bleach, color, toner and styling products to keep a small Texas beauty pageant going for a month.
I had never been to her home and never met her family, which consisted of her gigantic husband, a former player for the LA Avengers before they folded in 2009, and her two sons, 13 and 9. At this point, she just looked tired, and her prognosis was relatively positive. She showed me around their home, the highlight being her near restaurant like kitchen and a pantry that's almost half the size of my apartment. She had turned her passion for cooking and feeding people into a small, but successful catering business. I spent at least 8 hours there that day, doing her hair, giving the boys haircuts, and eating the most amazing mustard glazed, whole roasted chicken that has ever graced anyone's taste buds. Which of course, she wouldn't divulge the recipe for. I left that day thinking how cool it was to make a new friend, especially since we all know that is no easy feat after 30. I couldn't wait to take my boyfriend and stepson to meet them. I didn't hear from her for a few weeks, and decided to call her up to see how she was doing.
I immediately felt sick when her husband answered her cell. But he assured me that it was just a particularly nasty round of chemo keeping her down, and could I possibly come by soon to do Staceys hair?
It had only been just shy of four weeks since I had last seen her, ad so I tried very hard to hide my shock. Stacey has a very average build, not thin, not heavy. The 20 or so pounds she had lost left her somewhere between Victoria Beckham anorexia and the improbable Barbie figure. (she told me that if I were going to describe her, to be sure to mention her 38DD breast implants)
Gotta love this girl because the first words out of her mouth were "The fuck? Don't just stand there. Just because I'm dying doesn't mean you don't work for me anymore. Get to it.“
I had to laugh even though the word “dying “stole my breath.
Over the next two months, I went over there about once a week. I watched the toll her illness was talking on her, her husband, and her boys. The first time I finished shampooing her and held huge handfuls of hair, I was stunned, sick to my stomach. Her response? "Just think of how much of that expensive, high class bleach you're gonna save."
A side note :Experiencing this first hand is nothing like the movies. On the one hand, it's surreal, but at the same time, it's as blunt and real in a way that only the truth can be.
I would love to say that this is going to be one of those amazing, potent stories about a battle fought hard and won.
I went to see Stacey today. Surprisingly, she still has quite a bit of hair, enough to wash, dry, and curl around her face. Her eyebrows are gone, which perturbed her to no end. She says "If I had known how much tweezing, waxing, and threading I could have saved, I'd have started praying for cancer by the time I was twelve years old"
My last couple visits with Stacey have been brief, and quiet. Today was different. She was sitting up in bed with her laptop and various bills and paperwork surrounding her, with a rather thick pair of reading glasses that swallowed her tiny face. She was setting up all of the household bills for auto pay. "I can't believe I've still been paying bills by check all this time. At least this way, Sergio won't even have to think about it. Poor thing is gonna be so busy with the boys and their activities"
I sat there for a minute before she answered the question I couldn't bring myself to ask. "They say I could have six months or so left. Fuck that. I can't do another six months. They can't do another six months. The sooner it's over, the sooner they can get on with their lives. Ain't no one got time for that!" I know I was supposed to laugh at that, but I couldn't. It wasn't the words she said, it was the way she said them. Matter of fact, so clearly a mom. Taking care of everyone until the end. It was strange, she hadn't been this lively in a while. It's like God knew she needed to handle her business.
She surprised me again when she asked me to help her into the kitchen. I couldn't fathom why, but when I got her settled, she started rattling off a list of things to get from the pantry. I hadn't been in that pantry since my first visit months earlier. I almost choked when I flipped the light on. It was like walking into Costco. Cases of bottled water, soda, juice, etc, dry goods, canned food, snacks, toilet paper, paper towels stacked floor to ceiling. Like she was stocking up for the end of days. Which I suppose she is. The chest freezers in the utility room were stocked just as heavy. I gathered everything she asked me to, and took it into the kitchen. After following her instructions for a minute, I realized that she was teaching me her secret recipe for that mustard glazed chicken I loved.
'Seriously, cheer the fuck up while you cook. Depression makes food taste like shit, and you're responsible for feeding all of us tonight. " I can't help laughing and flipping her off.
" Bitch don't kill my vibe. And by vibe, I mean don't burn the sauce. " she tells me. I say something about how I wish we had known each other longer, like before she was.... And I trail off.
" Before I was what? Dying? When did you turn into such a whiny little Bitch? It's OK to say it. I know I'm dying just the same as I knew Santa Claus wasn't real by the time I was four. Baste the chicken. "
Eventually, dinner was ready. We all sat around, eating and talking about wildly inappropriate topics, it reminded me of my own family around the dinner table when I was a kid.
Eventually, it was time for me to get home. Stacey had nodded off on the couch. I helped Sergio get her in bed. I said my goodbyes and went home. About an hour later, I get a text from Stacey.
"I read your blog. Who's dick do I have to suck to get a mention? Post mortem fame is overrated "
Here you go, Stacey, no dick sucking required.