“All right, lean forward if you can.” He starts to gather my hair. “I think this is the beginning of a complete disaster.”
I laugh and push my body forward. I wince.
“Let’s get you a bit higher dosage on the pain meds. Does that sound OK?” he says. “You shouldn’t be in that much pain.”
I nod. “OK, but I think they’ve turned it as high as it will go.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. We might be able to go higher.” He drops my hair momentarily and moves toward my IV. I can’t see what he’s doing; he’s behind me. And then he’s in front of me again, picking up my hair. “I mean, you might start saying weird things and having hallucinations,” he jokes, “but better that you’re not in pain.”
I smile at him.
“All right, so I’m just gathering all of this hair and putting it on the top of your head and then wrapping a rubber band around it?”
He leans into me, our faces close together. I can smell the coffee on his breath. I feel slight tugging and pressure. He’s got some of my hair caught, pulling tightly against my scalp.
“Looser? Maybe?” I say.
“Looser? OK.” His arms are in my face, but the tattoo is facing the other direction. I bet it’s a woman’s name. He seems like the kind of guy who met a woman on some exotic island and married her and they have four beautiful children and live in a house with a gourmet kitchen. She probably makes beautiful dinners that incorporate all the food groups, and I bet they have fruit trees in their backyard. Not just oranges, either. Lemons, limes, avocados. I think the medication is up too high.
“OK,” he says. “Voilá, I guess.” He backs away from me ever so subtly to check his work.
By the look on his face, I can tell that my bun looks ridiculous. But it feels right. It feels like a high bun. I feel like myself for the first time today. Which . . . feels great. I feel great. Also, I’m definitely high.
“Do I look silly?” I ask.
“It’s probably not my best work,” he says. “You pull it off, though.”
“You’re welcome,” he says. “Well, if you need any other hairstyles, just press that button. I’m here for the next eight hours.”
“Will do,” I say. “I’m Hannah.”
“I know,” he says, smiling. “I’m Henry.”
When he turns and leaves, I finally get a good glimpse of his tattoo. Isabelle.
Man, all the good ones are taken by Isabelles.
I lay my head down, relishing the free space behind my neck.
Henry’s head pops back in.
“What’s your favorite flavor of pudding?” he asks me.
“Probably chocolate,” I say. “Or tapioca? And vanilla is good.”
“So all of them? You like all flavors of pudding?” he says, teasing me.
I laugh. “Chocolate,” I say. “Chocolate is good.”
“I take my break at two a.m.,” he tells me. He looks at his watch. “If you’re still up, which I hope for your sake you aren’t, but if you are still up, maybe I’ll bring you some chocolate pudding.”
I smile and nod. “That’d be nice,” I whisper.
It’s quiet on the floor, and it’s dark. Gabby is snoring so loudly I think for sure that I will not be able to fall asleep, that I will be wide awake when Henry comes back.
I turn on the TV. I flip through the channels.
And then I wake up in the morning to the sound of Gabby’s voice. “Where did this chocolate pudding come from?”
I lie on Ethan’s couch and stare up at the ceiling. He went to work today. I spent the morning cleaning up his apartment. Not his messes, mind you. But my own. My clothes were strewn across all of his furniture. His kitchen sink was full of dirty dishes that were mostly, if not all, mine. My stray hairs were pasted in a tangled-rope fashion across his shower walls. But now everything is spotless, and I’m forced to admit I have nothing to do. With Ethan back to work and life returning to normal, I realize I have no normal.
Gabby is picking me up when she leaves her office around six. We are heading to her parents’ house for dinner. But until then, I’ve got nothing.
I turn on Ethan’s TV and flip through the channels. I check his DVR for anything that piques my interest. I come up empty and turn it off. The silence proves to amplify the voice in my head, telling me I need to get a life.
Flirting and spending your days in bed and eating cinnamon rolls with your old high school boyfriend is a wonderful way to pass the time. But what is going on between Ethan and me doesn’t solve the challenges that lie ahead.
I grab a pen and a piece of paper from Ethan’s desk and start scribbling down a plan.
I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of person. I am a see-where-life-takes-you sort of person. But that sort of approach to life isn’t yielding results for me. It gets me paying the bills waiting tables and sleeping with married men. I don’t want that anymore. I want to try order instead of chaos.
I can do that. I can be an organized person. Right? I mean, I did clean this entire apartment today. It’s orderly and contained now. There’s no sign that Hurricane Hannah hit. And maybe that’s because I don’t have to be a hurricane.
I want to build a life here. In Los Angeles. So I’m starting with a list.
Suddenly, I start to feel queasy. My stomach turns sour. But then the phone rings, and my mind is elsewhere.
“Hi. Are you ready to be shocked? I’m making a list. An actual, organized life-plan list.”
“Who is this, and what have you done with Hannah?” she says, laughing.
“If you want her back, you’ll listen to me,” I say. “I need a million dollars in unmarked, nonconsecutive bills.”
“I’ll need time to get together that kind of money.”
“You have twelve hours.”
“Oh,” she says. “I definitely can’t do that in twelve hours. Just kill her. It’s fine. She’ll like heaven.” Why did it take me this long to realize I should be in the same city as her?
“Hey!” I say, laughing.
She starts laughing with me. “Ohhhh,” she says. “Hannah, it’s you! I had no idea.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I say. “But don’t come crying to me when you get kidnapped.”
She laughs again. “I called to tell you I’m coming by earlier than I thought. Probably around five, if that works for you. I’ll bring you back to my place, and then we can head out to Pasadena to see my parents around seven or so.”
“Awesome. I’ll hurry up and finish this list,” I say, and then we get off the phone.
I look at the piece of paper in front of me. It says “Buy a car.” That’s the first thing I wrote down. The only thing I wrote down.
I quickly scribble “Get a job,” and I waver about whether or not to put down “Find an apartment.” The truth is, between Ethan and Gabby, I have plenty of options for where to stay. It seems fair to assume I’ll figure something out. But then I decide no, I’m putting it down. I’m not going to see what happens. I’m going to make a plan. I’m going to be proactive.
It seems so simple, written out in order. For a moment, as I look at it, I think, Is that all? And then I realize that simple and easy aren’t the same thing.
By the time Gabby comes to pick me up, I’m standing on the sidewalk waiting for her.
I get into the car, and Gabby starts driving.
She looks at me and shakes her head, smiling. I am grinning from ear to ear.
“Did I call this, or did I call this?” she says.
“Call what?” I ask, laughing.
“You and Ethan.”
I shake my head. “It just happened!” I say. “I didn’t know it was going to happen.”
“But didn’t I say that it would?”
“Neither here nor there,” I say. “The point is, we’re together now.”