Last summer I had sex with a hair stylist named Lori once or twice a week depending on her energy level and whether or not she’d made lemon bars. Lori ran a beauty salon out of her home in Lakeville and sometimes when we were having sex an old lady would knock on her door wanting a trim or a perm. Even if we were in the middle of something, Lori always buttoned up her shirt and answered.
“Maybe you could just tell them to come back later,” I asked her once. “Or maybe not answer the door at all?”
Lori gave me the same look she’d given me when I’d set a large container of bacon bits down on her nightstand on the off chance I might need some emergency protein while we screwed.
“Whenever someone wants to look pretty,” she told me, “I always answer the door.”
During the week, I temped at a law firm. The law firm had a lot of good perks like a ping pong table and free soda. I didn’t have a ton of work to do, so I spent much of my workday losing to the lawyers at ping pong and drinking so much Diet Coke that my fingernails got these strange amber-colored bubbles in them.
One day when I was playing ping pong with one of the other temps, Charlie, I told him about how Lori kept stopping in the middle of sex to give those old ladies their trims and perms.
“It’s probably because you’re bad at fucking,” he told me. “Or maybe it’s because she thinks your fingernails are nasty. Probably it’s both.”
One of Lori’s clients was a woman named Eloise. Eloise was about eighty, and she came by Lori’s house once or twice a week to get her hair done. Sometimes when I was there, Eloise would walk into Lori’s house and say it smelled like sex and bacon. Lori always laughed it off or blamed the smell on her cat. One day when I was waiting for Lori to return to the bedroom, I heard her yell out “No, no, no!” so I wrapped a towel around my waist and ran out into the other room. When I got there I saw Eloise slumped over underneath one of Lori’s cone-shaped hair dryers.
“I thought she was taking a little nap,” Lori told me. “But she isn’t.”
I tried to give Lori a hug to comfort her but unfortunately some stray bacon bits that were stuck to my chest fell onto Eloise’s slacks, and when I brushed the bacon bits off her slacks, my towel fell onto the floor and the side of my penis brushed up against Eloise’s cheek. After that I started screaming and ran over to Lori’s kitchen sink to vigorously scrub Eloise’s death germs off my junk. While I was scrubbing, Lori dropped my clothes on the floor next to me.
“Get dressed,” she told me. “And don’t ever come back.”
A few weeks after Lori and I broke up, I poured too much Kraken into my Diet Coke and got fired from my temp job at the law firm. Before I left the building, I dumped a bunch of the office supplies into my backpack. When I got home, I dumped everything out on my carpet. Among all the pens and Post-it notes there was a random bottle of red nail polish and I drank some hard lemonades and sat down in front of my TV and painted over those weird bubbles in my fingernails. Then I drove over to Lori’s.
“I’m a new man,” I yelled as I knocked on her door. “My fingernails don’t look diseased.”
I kept knocking on Lori’s door, even though I could tell she wasn’t at home. I banged on her door long enough to shatter most of my shitty fingernails, left a pile of red shards littered all over her front steps.
Soon I got in my car, but before I drove off I noticed two small yellow birds land near my fingernail shards and peck at them. I’m guessing they were seeing if my fingernails were some sort of food, seeing if these bits of me might somehow sustain them, but after a few seconds of pecking around, the birds realized there was nothing good and flew away into the sky.
John Jodzio’s work has been featured in a variety of places including This American Life, McSweeney’s, and One Story. He’s the author of the short story collections, Knockout and Get In If You Want To Live. His first book, If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home, will be re-released by Soft Skull in March 2017. He lives in Minneapolis.