Chapter 3: Dirty Little SecrED
Choir practice ended for the day, with excitement for the show at its zenith. Nazz and Double D were the last to emerge, kept late to practice their duet. Double D performed his usual best, accepting no less than perfection from himself. But it was a challenge to focus on his teacher's direction when, in the back of his mind the threat of being on stage, his head exposed, hung heavy. Nazz was filled with nervous energy as well, but she was in high spirits. A born performer, Nazz was looking forward to being recognized for her voice, not for her pom-poms and rah-rah's. That was why she was pleased to share the stage with Double D; he clearly admired her, but was never salivating over her.
"You rock, Double D!" she said, as the two left the school together.
Double D gave a shy grin. "Thank you. Your voice certainly produces a fine resonance as well."
Nazz giggled. "You're so sweet. I'll see you at the show tomorrow!" she said, waving goodbye and bounding into her mother's waiting car.
Alone, and with nothing left to do but go to Eddy's and hope for a miracle, Double D crept back to the cul-de-sac. Darkness was already bringing an end to the short December day. The crisp wind felt good on his face, which was warm with self-consciousness from talking to Nazz. Instinctively, he reached up to secure his hat on his head, as he often did when he felt a gust blow by. When the wind quieted down, Double D looked about him to be sure that he was alone. He slid a hand under his hat, and momentarily removed it, clasping a few strands of rich, dark brown hair in his fingers.
Even though Double D was uncomfortable walking alone in the impending darkness, which parental sticky notes had repeatedly advised against. He knew the dangers of being unseen, or untrustworthy individuals who might lurk in the dark, of whom Eddy's brother was certainly one. But the darkness itself did provide a sort of protection, another layer of concealment of his secret. It was a secret that had been with Double D for as long as he could remember.
Double D suddenly found himself at Eddy's door with little memory of how he came to be there. He knocked once, twice, and heard nothing. After several seconds had passed, Double D looked around, and touched the handle, finding the door to be unlocked. He stepped inside and removed his shoes. The sound of the shower running could be heard from across the hall. Eddy was not there, and his clothes had been abandoned untidily on the bed. Impulsively, Double D folded each item neatly. "Messy, messy, messy," said Double D as he fussed over the clothes. "This is an invitation for stubborn wrinkles." Having set them in order, Double D seated himself on the edge of Eddy's bed. Looking down at his restless hands, Double D raised his head to look into Eddy's mirror, hanging prominently to allow Eddy the constant opportunity to gaze at himself.
While Double D cared deeply about his grooming and hygiene, he was not given to priding himself on his appearance. He could see his fragile body, his short legs, his pale and sensitive skin, and the gap in his teeth. He could see his hat, and know what he was hiding. His secret was a testament to his fierce attempts at perfection, but inability to reach it.
Most of the time, Double D confirmed his cleanliness in the mirror as quickly as possible, always with his hat on. Knowing that there would be no putting it off any longer, Double D squeezed his eyes shut, swallowed hard, and removed his hat. Upon opening his eyes, he saw what he had tried to convince himself that he would not see. Wisps of deep brown shoulder length hair were bounded by irregular bare patches. A few strategically placed hairpins attempted to use his remaining hair to cover the hairless places, with varying degrees of failure. Aware though he was of what he had done to himself, being faced with the sight horrified him. And horrified though he was, he was unable to stop.
A strand of hair that dangled beside Double D's ear nagged at him to pull it, even as Double D regarded his disfigurement. His life was aconstant pursuit of perfection, of "just right-ness". This was apparent in his behaviour towards his environment, his actions, his words, and even his body, for reasons he could scarcely explain, even to himself. Why or how he pinpointed specific strands of hair as unacceptable and filled with the urge to remove them. He was unsatisfied until all offending hairs had been removed. The peaceful feeling of restoring order to his body was instant, but temporary. Relief would be suddenly burned away by a hot wave of shame and disgust. He was tearing himself apart, and for what?
It was counterintuitive and illogical. He knew it, but the part of his brain responsible for the impulse was not under his control."Trichotillomania. A disturbance of the basal ganglia, signaling my frontal cortex of an impending reward. An adaptive behaviour to counteract anxiety," Double D rationalized, knowing that this, unlike lackadaisycathro disease, had a true neural base. "But the act causes more anxiety over time. It's a vicious cycle!" He remembered Ed innocently asking once whether his condition hurt. Even though he had avoided answering his friend, the answer was yes. Pulling the hair out did not hurt. It was the knowledge that he was damaging himself, and that his attempts to stop it were in vain.
Still clutching his hat in one hand, Double D threw himself down on the bed, not wanting to look at himself or anything else. Not to have to think about standing in front of Peach Creek, about singing next to beautiful Nazz. Not to have to think about Eddy. Double D laid his face against Eddy's folded clothing and confided in it, "I don't stand a chance against her." Even though Eddy had already seen what was hidden under the hat, it wasn't going to be any easier for Double D to hold his head high, knowing his head was uncovered.
The pattering of the shower went quiet. Double D tossed his hat onto his head and sat up just as the door swung open and Eddy strode in, swathed in a red robe and with his hair slicked back. The smell of Eddy's cologne filled the room, overpowering Double D, making his eyes water. "Eddy? Your odor is... quite pungent."
"Is every day a bad hair day?" announced Eddy."Is grey hair givin' you the blues?" Eddy produced an array of hair tools and products from the pockets of his robe, and grinned at Double D, looking him over and planning. "Well, let your hair down, because you're at Eddy's Hair Care Lair." Double D's face brightened a little at Eddy's sales pitch. Eddy gently lifted the hat from Double D's head. "Normally, Icharge a quarter for my services, but I like your face, so I'll work my magic for free." Eddy was smooth, and knew that a chummy jingle would lead his trusting friend into a false sense of security.
"Nothing ostentatious is necessary, please," said Double D, well acquainted with Eddy's flair for the extreme.
"Pffff," said Eddy. "You're my muse. I'm gonna create my vision." Although unable to forget the state his hair was in, Double D enjoyed receiving special attention from Eddy that appeared free of judgement.
"Thank you, Eddy," said Double D as Eddy went to work.
Eddy took one of the hairnets that he wore to bed and snapped it onto Double D's head, tucking some of the dark strands of hair inside. Then, Eddy opened a dresser drawer and retrieved his father's toupee. He ruffled it up and placed it on Double D's head, twisting it into place like a bottle cap. The synthetic hair tickled Double D's nose, and he blew the dusty brown strands out of the way. Eddy settled the wig where he wanted it, still at a slightly awkward angle. Eddy then splathered his hands in mousse and sank them into the wig and began to sculpt it.
Double D reached up to wipe some dripping mousse away from his eyes, but Eddy pushed his friend's hand out of the way. "No, no," said Eddy. "Rest your pretty little head and leave the work to the professionals." Obliging, Double D closed his eyes and smiled, gapped teeth and all. With his head in Eddy's lap, Double D felt a moment of peaceful pleasure in a lifetime of anxiety.
Pssssssh! went the hairspray. Eddy tossed the empty can aside and rubbed his hands together. It was perfect. "Okay, open your eyes!"
Double D slowly opened his eager eyes to see what he believed would be a divine masterpiece. His mouth opened speechlessly when he laid eyes on Eddy's "vision". The wig had been teased into the shape of a sea urchin, with strands of Double D's own hair at the back, falling to the nape of his neck. "What have you done? I can't wear this ragtag hairpiece to the concert!" He inspected the spikes. His hair felt as much of a sea urchin as it looked. "Surely this violates some clause in the choir's dress code."
"Nah," said Eddy. "No hats and no neon dye jobs. You're in the clear!"
Double D flicked a spike with his finger. It didn't budge."Don't you think it's rather... trashy?"
"Forget trashy. It's trendy! The kids will go crazy for it." Eddy thought of Nazz with a smirk. Heh, maybe Nazz will think HE'S crazy for showing up with that screwed up rug on his head. She's as good as mine.
"It is unique," said Double D, attempting to be polite and hide his lack of confidence in the result.
"Jimmy couldn't come up with something more modern and'chick'. It's an Eddy original. I call it: the Mohullet."
The name was not reassuring. "I just don't know," said Double D. "I don't think it suits me. Don't you think that the audience, and my fellow singers at that, will realize that I could not have possibly concealed this beneath my hat?" He was all but ready to rip the toupee off his head, crawl home, and attempt his own solution. Perhaps he lacked Eddy's arsenal of hair care tools, but he could no doubt come up with something if he set his neurons firing.
Sensing that Double D was going to relieve him of his styling duties, Eddy thought fast. He had an ace up his sleeve, though he did feel guilty about using it. He made his best limpid, sorrowful eyes at Double D. "B-but, I did all this just for you," he sighed with false dejection. "All I wanted was to help you for your big night." He turned away to hide a face edged with disgust at himself for manipulating his friend's emotions. All for a girl.
Double D was putty in Eddy's hands. It hurt too much to disappoint anyone, especially Eddy. "Why Eddy, I had no idea you were so emotionally invested in my singing. Of course I will attend, displaying your artistry." He looked into the mirror again. It is only one night, and then I may return to the security of my hat. Besides, if Eddy wishes to see me on stage this way, it is a small sacrifice for his happiness.
So focused was Double D on the mohullet that he failed to see the pinkness of Eddy's face deepening into red. Eddy didn't want to see Double D on stage wearing a mutilated rug. He just wished that Double D could leave the choir and wear his hat so that everything would be normal. Instead, he was leading his friend into certain ridicule, which in their adolescent world meant certain death. What HAVE I done? Eddy demanded of himself. I can't stop 'im now. Maybe he'll back outta the show on his own. And maybe Nazz will give me her phone number and round second base with me. Eddy hoped, but his luck had run out.
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