There I was, lying still on the bathroom floor, fixating on the migraine that drummed away, vibrating through my temples and down my spine, perpetually.
Before you begin dying your hair, it is important that you make sure that you are wearing gloves. Although, for the actual dying process the gloves are only meant to protect your skin from being stained by the dye, they are imperative to have during the process of bleaching, as they guard your skin from chemical burns.
They say “you never love as carefree as you do the first time.” When you think about it, that is sort of like saying “you only set your bare hand on a hot cast iron pan once,” or “you never enjoy the taste of arsenic as much as you do the first time.” There is a reason that you never love as carefree as you do the first time, but you know that. Nevertheless, this is not a story about my first love or heartbreak. This story is hardly about cast iron pans or arsenic. Instead, this is simply a story about a girl that wandered through my life and the lesson she left me with at the end.
Bleach and Developer
Bleach is used to lighten the hair before adding other colors, developer is used to strengthen and even out the bleach so that the bleached hair looks even.
If people were water, then she wouldn’t have been a flash flood or a tsunami, instead she would have been the steadily rising tide, slowly enveloping and suffocating all that surround her. I thought she was harmless when I met her, she was like a dusty, autumn moth. Her skin was the color of paperback book pages, that crisp, off white, and the freckles that were sprayed over her face were like the text, each spot held its own meaning, but together they made a story unlike any other, a story I wish I had never read.
I was at a high school football game. It was a warm night, early September. Everything was still bright green and blue. Everyone was still riding on that beginning of the school year buzz. I was still struggling to make friends, but not for lack of trying. I was just coming back from a mission to get a sprite for a redhead, Leila, who needed it to recover from seeing the boy she “had been talking to for weeks totally tonguing some skank.”
I made the trek to the top of the bleachers, where the freshmen were all cast away. I scanned the lot of them until I found Leila stilling next to a girl I recognized from my homeroom. I had noticed her before because she had worn a Nightmare Before Christmas shirt that I was jealous of it and also because she had this really long, mousy, brown hair that fell to her hips, and I thought it was amazing. I approached Leila and gave her the Sprite.
“Thanks, Lia,” The girl said, not really to me, but to the space around me.
“Yeah. no problem…” I stood awkwardly by, waiting for something else to be said, before awkwardly sitting on the opposite side of Leila.
“This is Katelyn, by the way,” Leila sipped at her Sprite coily, “She’s pan.”
“She’s a pan?” I responded in tired confusion.
“I’m pan. Pansexual.” Katelyn snapped, she rolled her eyes and clicked her tongue, in a fluid, rehearsed movement. “It means that I can be attracted to anything, regardless of something as minute as gender.” I sat at stared back at her in sort of a stunned silence, she just flipped back her long, dirty blonde hair and sighed, “Josh Hutcherson is pasexual too.”
That was the beginning of the end.
Apply Bleach to Dry Hair
After mixing together your bleach and developer, apply the mixture to dry hair and allow it to sit for thirty to forty five minutes. If it starts to sting rinse your scalp immediately.
My friendship with Katelyn really began to really flourish with simple homeroom banter, but from there it escalated rapidly (I guess friendships really thrive when both the people involved hate everyone else in the world). Right off the bat, it felt like she understood my sense of humor in a way that I didn’t even think was possible, and she understood my life in ways no one else could.
It was perfect, because nobody else wanted talk to us, we were weirdos, people thought we were creepy. Since we didn’t really interact with other people, we could live in a bubble with each other. In a place where we didn’t need support from our families or our classmates or the world, because we had each other, and that was all we needed because we were awesome. It was the first times I felt like a person wes really connecting with me on a personal level, and I didn’t feel like an alien trying to figure out what the basics of human interaction are.
Rinse the bleach out under warm water. Be sure to take care when rinsing the bleach, so to avoid burns or further damage to your hair and scalp.
In April of ninth grade Katelyn and I fell into some drama and we stopped talking for two months.
Without her I was forced to hear what all of the other students were saying. I was thrown into a pit of snakes and gossip and false allegations. I had to face what my classmates thought of me. I suppose they mistook my tendency to cover up my whole body with hoodies and long sleeves, and my sleep deprived dry under eye skin, my over all small, coweress demure for hard core drug addiction. An honest mistake. I didn’t even try to stop the rumors. I didn’t care enough.“Hey at least they’re talking about me, at least they know I exist,” I would remind myself, as if it meant anything. Ironically, I just started trying my best not to exist to them anymore, I went mute, I sat in the corners of all my classes and I ate my lunch in the bathroom, praying to God no one would notice me.
Allow Hair to Dry
In order for the dye to properly set, it is imperative that the hair is thoroughly dried before the dye application is started.
It was scary and awkward and weird reaching out to her. I felt like I was admitting defeat or wrongness or something, but I really didn’t care because I knew that if I could just have her back in my life, some of the pressure would be alleviated. I knew that if I could spend some time with her she would make me forget why I was ad, she would make me laugh again, or at least smile and I wouldn’t look and feel so dead. I started the conversation that would rekindle our friendship the way anyone else would:
Me: Are you really pregnant?
And of course she responded with the same level of cordiality:
Katelyn: No. Are you really addicted to heroine?
I wasn’t actually addicted to heroine, but apparently after I stopped hanging around Katelyn I stopped being Lia, from “Katelyn and Lia,” and I turned into Lia, the girl who performed a disappearing act in her double XL black hoodie, the girl who always wore long sleeves, even in 80 degree weather, the girl who was probably shooting up in the bathroom during lunch. In the exact same way that in that time Katelyn became just some s***, just another ninth grade girl falling all over older boys, the girl who got pregnant in the ninth grade.
It was weird at first, we didn’t know where we stood with each other, so we moved forward as if we were spiders in a minefield, but it wasn’t long before we were back to normal.
And it wasn’t long before everything was ruined again.
Apply Hair Dye
After your hair has been allowed to dry you can begin applying the dye. Start by applying the dye to the roots of your hair and work through your hair until it is completely covered.
It was only a few months later, we were both fifteen, Katelyn and me. I was staying at her house for a couple of days that summer, before I moved back to Denver for good. The whole tone of the visit was melancholy and bitter sweet, but we tried to cover it with laughter. We kept ourselves distracted with movies and Mario Kart during the day, but late at night we would lie still side by side in bed, talking our hearts out to each other. It was during one of these talks, on the third night, she leaned over to me and kissed me.
I didn’t understand why people liked kissing before she kissed me, because when I kissed before, it didn’t feel romantic. When I kissed before it wasn’t special or magical, it just felt like someone elses cold lips pressed against mine, it was just a thing I did because I was supposed to. When she kissed me, it was a revelation, a transformation. Her lips were warm and soft and she held me close to her, and in that moment all I felt was Nirvana, and all I could think about was Katy Perry’s song “I Kissed a Girl.”
I liked her, a lot. I genuinely really liked her a lot, and that was really exciting because I had not gotten the chance to like someone a lot yet. I was a closeted, and with good reason. Although I had a really liberal upbringing, I lost any chance of being able to come to terms with the fact that I liked girls normally when I got moved to the American South three weeks into the seventh grade. The main reason I started to shorten my name to Lia, was because I used to get called “Fagnolia,” by the little baby frat boys on the island. I had been spending years pretending to like boys and feeling like I wasn’t getting something, now I was feeling something and it was exciting and it was great. And it burned out in three days. And I moved away.
Let the Dye Sit
So I started a new life, in a place I loved, at a school with people I liked. A boy wanted to be my boyfriend, life was looking good. Katelyn was still in my life, we still talked, we were still friends. We scaled our obstacles separately, there would be weeks of stereo silence, peppered with passive, one worded exchanges, but through it all we still knew we had each other.
When that boy stopped wanting to be my boyfriend, I started working on accepting that I like girls. As I chopped off my hair and invested in flannel I watched Katelyn reach another billionth monthiversary with her boyfriend. It still stung, but I wasn’t going to acknowledge why. Instead I just kept trying to find another girl who I could become attached to, but I could just never like them quite enough. I could never find that feeling again, that spark.
Katelyn started going to a lot of parties, so she started drinking a lot too. And then she started staying at her friends house all weekend and they would all drink. Then she started drinking on school nights. And then Katelyn started getting blackout drunk every night. She would message me every night, telling me how drunk she was and telling me how much she hated her life, and I was terrified for her life, but I was helpless, seeing all this take place from across the country.
I thought nothing could be done, but miraculously, Katelyn had managed to get a plane ticket to visit me at the end of July. Seeing her and getting to spend time together again was so comforting and beautiful. I felt like a weight was like my shoes were ten pounds lighter and the world was a little more saturated with color. I was just trying to be happy that my friend and I were together again, it wasn’t like I was thinking about that sour feeling I got when I thought about her boyfriend, in fact I felt so close to being over it.
I couldn’t be over it though, the universe wouldn’t allow it, or so it seemed. Once again she and I were side by side in bed, but this time in my room, in Denver, in silence. A cool summer breeze swept over us as she whispered to me “Lia, I think I’m still in love with you.”
My heart stopped the way does when a person driving a car slams on the brakes too quickly. This was not cute like the first kiss, I didn’t feel jittery or songful. I felt confused. “But you’re dating Collin,” I responded, as if reminding an amnesia patient.
“I know,” she said.
“You love him…” I continued.
“I know,” she repeated.
Again we were in silence, a silence that stretched far too long, but what was there to say? I loved her too, I never really stopped, I never knew what type of love it was, but it was there and there was a lot of it. That did not matter though, because she had a boyfriend.
She broke the silence with: “I think I can love both of you.”
“I think I can love both of you,” registered with me on a logical level, yes a person can have romantic feelings for more than one person at a time, a person can love more than one person at a time. It made sense to me, so I acted like I understood. When she kissed me I kissed her back and when she said she loved me I said I loved her too. I held onto her while she was there as tightly as I could knowing that soon she would be out of my reach again, back under her boyfriends arm.
After that visit she stayed with him for about a month and a half. I used to cry when she would skype me while he was in the room, when they would say they loved each other I would just hang up and pretend the call dropped. After they broke up she told me that she was going to be find a way for us to be together, and that it was going to work. And she made it sound perfect, because she reminded me of how alone I really felt in the world, and how no one understood me the way she did. I thought it could work, if I just worked hard enough and I worked to get to that life. Even if we had to wait to be able to be together forever, she could still visit, and she was going to visit that winter break. I thought that meant that things were going okay.
Winter break came, and I found myself inside an insidious puzzle game. Slowly she gave me clues, each one revealing another part of the horrifying big picture. It started with “Lia, Nolan (the boy she was staying with) is in love with me,” which soon became “he tells people we are dating,” and then became me reading her texts to him while she was in the shower. Me finding out that “he tells people we are dating,” actually translates to “I’m sleeping with him in the regular, and we say I love you to each other.” The funny thing about that was it was the “I love you,” that stung.
She didn’t know I read her texts, and I wasn’t going to tell her, but I after that I definitely became more distant from her, and more standoffish when she mentioned Nolan. She mentioned wanting to dye her hair, but that it would make Nolan mad, obviously I was all over this idea, so we made the journey down to Wal-Mart the day before she had to leave.
The dye was electric blue, we had the house to ourselves. I blasted the angriest, early 2000s, punk music I could find and I got to work on her hair. It was a tedious process, and Katelyn had a lot of hair. The smell of the bleach and dye was absolutely nauseating, I could feel the cluster headaches starting in my temples. After hours of work, and waiting. Her hair was ready to rinse.
She was rinsing for forty five minutes. She turned my tub blue.
After letting the dye sit, rinse your hair out in warm water with conditioner until the water runs mostly clear.
It is really difficult to clean hair dye out of a tub. If you let it sit for too long the stain sets and then you are stuck with hours of scrubbing.
At the end of her visit there were tears, of course, but at the end of it all I knew she was going back to him. She would always go back to him. That’s how girls like her are. After she left I just went into the bathroom and started trying to return the tub back to its original off white.
As I soaked the tub in homemade cleaning tonics and Oxiclean I thought about dyeing hair, and all the trouble it caused me. I thought about how bleach is a toxic substance, that can burn human flesh and shatter hair. I thought about how my hands looked like Violet Beauregarde’s and how somehow my entire bathroom had become stained blue. I thought about how I can’t really blame the bleach for being toxic and bad for hair, and I can't blame the dye for staining things. It’s my fault for bringing them in here. I ran my fingers through the dye, I turned them blue, I turned my bathroom blue.
I scrubbed and I scrubbed, and my cluster headaches grew more monstrous until I was defeated. Let myself crumple to the ground.
There I was, lying still on the bathroom floor, fixating on the migraine that drummed away, vibrating through my temples and down my spine, perpetually.