Yoharie: Love Back (part three)
“So…” Sasha settled, punched the radio button. “What are you listening to? Did your sister fix that?”
Sasha talked over this mumble. “You nuts? Golden Earring, Twilight Zone. Listen!”
Val poised himself and heeded the guitar solo.
“So, I get ten bucks an hour. Actually, a little less. I can ask about getting you in…”
Val talked over Sasha. “I’m hooked up with Donk, don’t worry.”
“Stand it if you can. Hey, you’re different.” At this, Sasha caught him by the chin, and surveyed the clean, pretty face that, like the heroine in a rom-com, Val had uncovered under his sister’s tutelage. For a moment they might have kissed, but didn’t. Sasha flipped fingers through the locks of hair behind an ear.
“Shea butter and honey.”
“Didn’t you say something?”
Sasha was doing things, and it was difficult to answer questions. “Kate Hibbler’s salon at Oakbrook. You don’t know these people.”
This was a question, and Sasha said, “Huh? Who?”
“Maybe…no. I don’t think. Did I ever say anything about my dad’s neighbors?”
“Why? They freaks? Start the car.”
“Where are we going?”
“You decide. Might as well get something to eat.”
The Sole Unit had some slick tights, and runners’ contempt for Val’s biking questions. The shoes were all wrong. But having time for a look round, he’d found a snug hoodie in black, worth the price. Giarma tapped a toe and let the manager/clerk tap out queries.
“Oh, you’re buying something? Sure.” She was peeved. But out of earshot, she told Val, with a which-I-knew flatness, “They don’t have what I’m looking for. He said try D-6.”
They stopped at the mall directory.
D-6, not a square on the map, but a name, an on-trend menswear store, did. A zip jacket, French terry, mock-hoodie, detachable sleeves; crucially, at the elbows. “Because we don’t want a vest thing. It has to be warm, for the air conditioning. Well, you know, he doesn’t move a lot, and his body temp goes down… But not with cuffs flapping around that’ll knock his meds bottles off the table.”
He tried this…kind of gay, kind of not the way he was with his sister…but Val wanted to be happy like the people on TV. Maybe it was just that, plastering on the smile, striking the pose, the secret—like ages ago he’d been told in Cub Scouts.
More or less.
“Butterfly clips!” Giarma said. She heaved a sigh. “I think we have to. Shop a little at Kachet. They do have great product, but like, thirty-five dollars for a bottle of shampoo! Treat yourself, I guess. We need to get that skank out.”
And she, like all bets were off, ruffled his rat’s nest hair, an affectionate touch. They were a brother and sister who didn’t…hug, touch, joke around, go places together. He had lived with her, and she’d been a harried grad student with a fulltime job; soon to be a dropout.
“I made you drop out.”
“Are you nuts?”
“Oh, Val.” She added, at an unfortunate moment when they were passing Kate Hibbler through the swinging door, “My job then was an absolute shit pile.”
“Giarma! Do I have that right? Giarma Yoharie.”
Kate, taking some of that relish he knew his sister hated, in the alliterative vowels of her name. “Now…” Kate edged behind the counter, hipping off the assistant at the computer. “Are you a walk-in? We don’t take walk-ins, but…”
“My brother is growing out his color.”
“O-oh.” Out again at a bustle, not passing Giarma without an assessing glance. “You do want your ends trimmed. Ask Ari.”
Ari, the assistant, waved. Kate, getting away with a certain bossy charm, fingered Val’s ends next. “Dylan!”
“Not today.” Dylan came slinging a shoulder bag, from a corner alcove. “Not today.” Repeated with a mock jump back and head tilt, aimed, Val thought, mostly at Kate. “But, yeah, we’ll get that. We’ll get that.” He patted Val’s arm. “You don’t want those home-brews! I’m leaving, Kate. You know why.” He gave her a big camera smile.
“Kills her she can’t get a piece of it.”
Kate, all this camaraderie a play of its kind, performed for people who were not friends, but skillfully coopted customers, turned to shoo Dylan. Her own smile dropped.
“Jer! Oh, Jesus fuck, what’s wrong with him? Dyl…!” She cut off, went outdoors herself.
Hibbler, in sunglasses and cap, could be identified by silhouette; the silhouette seemed taking itself off among the metered parking, shortcutting between a downspout and a shrub. It occurred to Val this had been in the background for a while, that the prospect of Hibbler dogging them from store to store was too in the realm of idiocy…
Or he might have noticed himself noticing.
(2020, Stephanie Foster)