Everyone at this party seems like a douche bag. Jonathan’s friends are all either Earth tone hippies or pastel yoga hipsters. Right when I’m about to go be alone in my room, I notice her.
Dyed red hair, so fresh there is a faded stain along her hairline, a pierced lip, a scarlet dress from the 1960’s. She’s smiling at me from across our big kitchen.
Jonathan sneaks up behind me. His muscles are so lean you can probably grate cheese on them. The only thing separating me from his genitals is a skin tight layer of black Lululemon shorts. Does he ever wear a shirt?
“Don’t worry so much, dude. You’ve been single for, what? Like a year? Let it go buddy,” said Jonathan.
“It’s been two months.”
Jonathan pinches my cheek. Creepy, like a stereotypical grandparent.
“Go mingle, ok buddy?” said Jonathan, as he sashays away.
I don’t take yoga, or have dreadlocks, so I can’t exactly keep up a conversation. I make a joke about being down with the downward dog to two girls in matching headbands. I scurry off like a puppy to the punch bowl.
“Steven! Get your butt over here! There’s someone I need you to meet,” shouts Jonathan.
Jonathan is next to the girl in red. She smiles that scarlet lipstick smile. She bites her lip like she might be nervous. I swear my glasses are going to fog up like a cartoon character.
“Steven Jarvis, meet yoga student Rachel. Rachel Starling, meet new roommate Steven,” said Jonathan.
“Hi new roommate Steven. Come have a drink with me,” said Rachel.
She heads to the punch, beckoning me.
“Don’t fuck it up, guy,” whispered Jonathan.
He pinches my bottom as I follow. Rachel grabs my hand. It’s hard to see behind foggy glasses. She pours us some punch.
“Everyone here seems like such a wanker. Except you. And Jonathan,” said Rachel.
“Thank you. Read my freaking mind.”
“So, Jonathan says you’re a musician.”
“Yeah I’m a rock. Like a rock star, without the star.”
She giggles. I am so charming.
“You dress pretty suave for a rocker. I love skinny ties. You need a hair cut though. You should let me cut it.”
“Sweet. I think there’s some scissors in the –“
“Not now loser.”
“So what do you play?”
“Um. I play guitar, tenor sax, ukulele – ”
“You should play me a song.”
I take her hand and lead her to my room. Please let me get laid.
She sits down on the old brown couch in my room. Could I not have tidied? Shirts and ties everywhere.
“What you gonna play for me?”
I sit beside her and withdraw my instrument.
“Really? Ukulele?” said Rachel.
I begin to play: C, F, G, A minor F.
“I heard there was a secret chord. That David played, it pleased the lord. But you don’t really care for music do you?”
Rachel gasps, “I love Leonard Cohen! Oh my God!”
“It goes like this, the fourth the fifth. The minor fall, the major lift. The baffled king composing, Hallelujah.”
She puts a hand on my thigh. I can see my reflection growing in her eyes.
“Hallelujah, Hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”
Then we totally make out. Hallelujah. An hour feels like five minutes. Then I drop the ukulele directly onto her foot.
“Oh shit! Sorry.”
She rubs the red mark as a bruise forms in the centre of her red flat clad foot. She checks her cell phone.
“Crap. My ride’s here. “
“Yeah. Plus, I’m not sleeping with you. Tonight. Although I kind of want to. But you’re taking me on a date. Coffee. Tomorrow.”
I look in the bathroom mirror after she leaves. I laugh at the red lipstick smeared in the stubble around my lips.
“Works every time.”
After that night Rachel and I are inseparable. She cuts my hair. She makes sure I take my Flintstone’s Chewable Vitamins. I sing her songs. We listen to Leonard Cohen for hours on end. He’s coming to town in a few months. We have to go.
We walk kilometre after kilometre through the rain. I bring a giant red umbrella to keep us dry, she wears that indigo raincoat. We say I love you for the first time under a rainy gray sky.
My world is perfect, until one day she starts to talk about Ricardo. He’s the new instructor at the yoga school.
“Ricardo? No man, no. I mean, I just met him, but he’s cool. I think he has better abs then me,”
I glare at my absence of abs then back at Jonathan.
“He knows she’s got a boyfriend. All she does is talk about you. And what a mope you are,” said Jonathan.
He tousles my hair. I hate him and his perfect abs.
Even with Jonathan’s, “reassurance,” I’m still worried. Rachel starts taking more yoga classes than before.
Her birthday is coming up. She had one shortly after we first started dating – we didn’t do much – so I have to make this special. I make a reservation at a restaurant on the top floor of a hotel. It overlooks the entire harbour. I buy a new skinny tie. I have my shoes shined to admire my reflection.
I’m sitting at the table staring at the single yellow candle and glow. I check my phone again. 10 minutes late. It’s ok, she’ll be here. I feel like the entire restaurant is glaring. Where’s his date?
Rachel is here. The dirty blonde roots of her hair are visible. The dye is fading out, like a tangerine sun set. She’s in yoga pants and that aubergine hoodie. Her make-up obviously put on in a rush.
“I didn’t realize this was a formal affair. It’s only my birthday.”
Oh right. Hey Rachel! Let’s go on a date to one of the most romantic restaurants in the city, on your birthday, and dress like we just rolled out of bed!
“You’re not mad. Are you?”
“No, no. It’s your birthday. Let’s just have a good time.”
I order wine. She orders tea. I order steak. She orders salad. She declines desert.
“So, I was thinking after we could take a walk around the harbour then could see where–“
“Leonard Cohen is tonight Steven.”
Shit. I don’t have tickets.
“Let’s go get tickets.”
“It’s sold out.”
“There’ll be scalpers.”
“It’s fine. I already have a ticket. Ricardo surprised me today. That’s why I was late.”
Of course he did. I spend all this time worrying about him and he beats me to the punch. Rachel ditches me on her birthday to go to see Leonard Cohen with another guy. She kisses me good night and says that she will see me soon.
At home I walk past Jonathan doing headstands in the kitchen.
“You’re home awful early fella, what happened?”
“Fuck off Jonathan.”
I slam my door so hard I think it knocks over Jonathan in the kitchen. I sink into bed and listen to anything but Cohen.
I didn’t talk to Rachel the whole next day, or the day after that. She finally calls me.
“Hey Houdini, where you been all my life?” said Rachel.
“You’re mad at me, aren’t you?”
“I don’t know. Would you be mad if I went to a concert with another girl?”
“It was my birthday. You forgot to get tickets, so you should be the sorry one. Ricardo is my yoga instructor. And I love you, dumbass.”
“I love you too. I’m sorry.”
“I will take that under consideration. Look, I’m going to yoga. Then I’m going to lunch with girlfriends. I was thinking we could spend the afternoon together?”
“That would be good.”
“Ok. I’m going to drop by first and drop off some stuff. See ya in a bit.”
Jonathan and I are sitting at the kitchen table debating the legitimacy of Nintendo Yoga when Rachel comes in.
“Hi boys! Topless again Jonathan?”
“As much as possible,” said Jonathan.
Rachel walked in and shed hands me a ham. Wrapped in saran wrap. On a platter. A Black Forest Ham.
“Well, this is unexpected.”
“Don’t ask. It was a gift. I don’t think they realized.”
“Ooh! I’m making us omelettes!” said Jonathan, grabbing the plate out of my hands. He starts ransacking the fridge for ingredients.
“I gotta go meet the girls. Have fun boys. I’ll be back this afternoon, ok?”
“I Love you.”
“You too,” said Rachel.
I flopped down on the old sofa while Jonathan cooks. I strum my guitar. Maybe I’ll write a song for Rachel? A few minutes later there’s a knock-knock at my door.
“Bad news buddy. You have-ta come see this. You’re not gonna believe it,” said Jonathan.
“What dude? Just tell me.”
“The ham, Steven. The ham is a lie.”
The ham is a lie?
“Hams don’t lie, Jonathan.”
“This one does.”
I enter the kitchen. The ham is sitting uncut on its platter. There’s a carton of brown free range eggs. There are some onions and green peppers. There’s a block of orange cheddar cheese.
“So, how’s this a lie?”
He knocked off the flat front of the ham, like it’s some kind of meat plug. It’s hollow on the inside. Jonathan pulls a freezer sized Zip-Lock bag out of it. He dumps its contents onto the table. Love notes. Tea bags, drawings of her, and rose petals.
“This is not ham.”
“Bummer dude. Ham’s a lie. I guess Ricardo’s a big liar. And an ass hat.”
He pats me on the back and leaves the kitchen. I unfold a note. Blue lined, loose leaf, Hilroy paper. Ricardo spares no expense when professing his love. I read the note. He had fallen for her when they kissed at Leonard Cohen? So he fills a ham up with love? Were they out of conventional methods at “Stalker Hallmark” that day? I crumple the note in my fist.
“I can’t believe talked me into this. Even for you guy.”
Jonathan and I are driving in his shitty black Toyota Tercel hatchback. Jonathan, actually wearing a skin tight black Under Armour long-sleeve – although driving barefoot. I’m in the passenger seat, wearing a black turtleneck. The ham of lies, resting upon my lap. This is a stealth mission.
“I could get so fired for this.”
“You could have just lent me your car. I could have done it by myself.”
He glares through me.
“Keep your eyes on the road, Jonathan.”
“So how did she take it?”
“Bad I guess. She just kind of screamed at me. Then, we had a big cry party.”
Rachel had come back that afternoon. I picture Rachel’s make-up running down her face like little tar lines of sadness. Her roots, growing up beneath faded tangelo hair. Whoever said if you love someone give them away is a jackass.
“Did she say if she was going to date Ricardo or not?”
“I don’t know or care man. She had an awesome thing with me, and then it all came down to a break-up ham.”
“We’re almost there.”
Jonathan slows the car. I position myself on the windowsill of the passenger side. I look around the deserted city streets for any witnesses. It’s a ghost town at 3:59 a.m. I look up at a starless sky as that tingling feeling of doubt creeps up my neck. No, this must happen.
“Don’t hit a window. Hit the side. If you smash a window Steven, I swear.”
Jonathan hits the gas. I hurl the ham of lies like a grenade against the side of the yoga school. The pork bomb explodes against the brown brick wall. Little bits of pink porcine flesh rain about the doorstep of the building. The notes, drawings, tea bags and rose petals rain like perverse confetti on the Ricardo and Rachel parade.
“Who’s the swine now?”
He squeals the tires around the corner – we were outlaws fleeing the scene of the crime. The pig is in the poke.
The next morning the yoga school opened at 6:00 a.m. The owner will find pork matter and love notes scattered on their doorstep. Hopefully Ricardo will be fired.
A few weeks later I bump into Rachel. She pretends I don’t exist. She has a faint violet hair dye stain around her forehead.