Dana held one hand under the sprayer head, testing and adjust-ing the warm water, her eyes fixed on the out yonder. She was thinking of her husband. She didn’t know where he was or when he would come home. Or if he would ever return. On his way out he’d said what he always said, “Just a walk-through,” but she knew better, and he knew that she knew. Every goodbye sounded like goodbye.
With soft brush in hand, she sometimes applied makeup for hours, averting distraction, timelessly drifting. But there was something about washing someone’s hair, maybe the flow of warm water or the soft, wet hair between her fingers, something that made her feel connected to the person. And when she felt that human touch, silence sometimes became more than she could bear.
“Listen up, Coach. Here’s the deal.” His head lay back. Luminous beads arched as she slowly waved the sprayer head. “The phone rings, and like some bimbo I answer it and it’s George Miles who somehow knows about us that one time, you and me, and he says please, please, it would mean so much, and suddenly I’m feeling like I don’t have a choice in the matter. I hate that.”
She set the sprayer aside and reached for the shampoo. “Sweet George Miles.” Her terrier-like fingers worked his scalp. “He’s the only memory from this rotten little hick town that I wouldn’t flush—that I haven’t already flushed.” She rinsed and towel dried Coach’s hair, applied a little mousse and reached for the blow dryer.
She glanced down at her hands. “I’m wearing a ring,” she said over the blower’s whine. “Surprise to this shithole of a town. Dana the skank—married to a man who loves me, Coach. To a man I love,” she said over the blower. “I have my own past now, has nothing to do with this town or anybody in it. You’re all history.”
Dana shut off the dryer and crossed the room for what looked like a pink tackle box. She spoke into the box. “Just for the record, you didn’t know shit about history to be a History teacher, or should I say you didn’t teach shit about history, at least nothing that made sense at the time. Welcome to History 101, Coach.”
She studied the kit, which was filled with brushes and small cylinders. Then turning, she lifted a CD in one hand and a small glass jar in the other. “Heard the latest from Jackie K and the Plastic Hearts?” she said. “My favorite cut is Duuh, Does Rose Kennedy Own a Black Dress?” She set down the CD. Speaking to the glass jar, she said, “Counteracts dehydration.” Dana scooped her fingertips into the cream then warmed it in her palm. She thought of her husband. Of what he had done, of what could be done to him.
“You fuckers,” she whispered to the room.
In short, quick light strokes, she dabbed the cream onto Coach’s cheeks. “I was in your Monday morning class, Molly-the-pageant-queen and me. We both had the hots for you. You were too stupid to know it. This, I am reminding you, was before the, quote, love-of-your-life moved here from Hartsville.” Her fingers glided along the line of his jaw. “So every Monday all hot and squirmy Molly and I swooned as you gave the class a recap of Friday night’s football game, asserting your singular theory about history upon every play of the game. Every play ended with either They should have seen it coming or We should have seen it coming. You and these blue eyes.” Dana stepped back to allow the oil-based cream to work. “Too bad you didn’t hear your own lecture.” She washed the cream from her hands.
“It’s past time you learned a thing or two,” she said over her shoulder, gently lifting and inspecting jars from her kit the way a bass fisherman will examine a top water lure. “Today’s lesson could be about trust and fear. Could be recognition and respect. Or in this case endless regret. I remind you that I earned my Cosmologist’s credentials at Florence-Darlington Technical College. So let’s call this lesson The Cosmetics of Love.”