This is the second installment of a much longer story. You can check out Part 1 here. Enjoy! -CJS
It started to rain, downpour, really, in Tennessee. We were delirious, and our only major stop had been a Walmart and an underground cavern in Pennsylvania. In the lobby, the walls were lined with the heads of every species that had ever been found wandering near the mouth of the cave. After admiring the tourist trap's Hall of Death, I found a corner of dusty souvenir snowglobes and rabbit foot keychains and stumbled upon the most terrifying clown marionette I had ever seen.
“I’m going to eat your eyes,” I said later, raising the puppet’s ghastly white hand. Ali was navigating us through the rain, and we hadn’t seen a motel sign for miles.
“Shut up,” she said, eyes bloodshot from so much continuous driving.
“When you wake up, your eyes will be gone, and I will have eaten them.” The puppet spoke in a voice that was sweet, yet methodical, like a child in an M. Night Shyamalan movie.
“Shut up. I hate you so much.”
The rain started to come down hard. I put the puppet in the back seat and together Ali and I squinched our eyes at a distant blue travel sign.
“Motel!” We were saved.
The motel seemed normal enough as we were paying for the room. It was the long, one-story kind that somehow withstood time and new traffic patterns, laying untouched under the rain, waiting for tired drivers attracted to the blue neon like squinting moths. We dragged our bags inside.
“Are we gonna do it?” I asked. Ali pulled out a scissor.
“We’ve got to if we want this to be the real thing.” She took out the box of hairdye in L’Oreal Starry Night I had bought back at the Walmart. There were a few ideas we had been preoccupied with in our trip planning. One was that in every outlaw roadtrip movie, someone has to change their appearance. My most recent haircut was one that could be described as looking as though I had had recent brain surgery. In an impulsive stroke of genius, I had given myself a mohawk with a lengthy tail, shaved in some lines, and dyed the word “RAD” into the other side of my closely cropped head. It would have been great, the ultimate declaration of one’s personal radness, if not for a drip of the red dye that had made it look like I was advertising myself as “BAD.” The haircut was both a radical change of appearance as well as a bad idea, and though it encompassed the spirit of each, it was probably for the best that I made it a solid color. Ali was just going to cut her bangs really short, because she already had a Pat Benetar mullet, and, therefore, not much else to do with it.
“Well. Here we go.” I plied the plastic gloves from the instructions and got to work mixing the chemical components while Ali clipped away at her head.
“We should really stop doing this,” she said.
“I know. But it’s like sometimes everything sucks and chopping all my hair off just seems like the only solution. I mean, I’d like it if I had long, flowing indie rock girl hair, but it’s just never gonna happen as long as there are buzzers at home.”
“Maybe we should make a hair pact,” she suggested.
“Like, no cutting and no buzzing?”
“Yeah, I mean, dying is totally alright, but no cutting or buzzing aside from necessary maintenance.”
“How long do you think it will take before we become attractive again?”
She lifted her arm, revealing a tuft of pit-hair that looked like an open bag of brown alfalfa sprouts. “Could take years.”
A half-hour later, the dye was all washed out and I was drying my hair with a towel. Ali took off her Carhardts and brushed her teeth.
“Well, I’m beat,” she said, walking over to the bed. She pulled the thin industrial bedspread down, revealing the pillowcases were were spotted with blood. We stared at each other in the movie-moment disbelief two people share when discovering stranger's blood on their bedding. Ali yanked the bedspread down further. Whomever had changed the threadbare white sheets had put them right over a tuft of hair still attached to a silver-dollar sized piece of scalp on the right side of the bed.
“Well, goodnight.” Ali climbed into the left side of the bed and turned off her light.
“Oh. Oh, my god. There was hair and blood, Ali.”
“Whatever,” she said, yawning, shifting positions from the spot where someone had suffered to spot where they had probably died.
“Ali, there was hair and blood. Please get up. I’m going to vomit.”
I stared at Ali until my eyes adjusted to the dark. Then I threw on shoes and ran outside in a T-shirt to get my sleeping bag.
Ali had the bed to herself that night.