My friends and I make up stories about people. I think I always take them too far.

Tom wakes up with his hand on his cheek. The pressure of the headboard on the top of his skull keeps the nice dreamy sleep daze there longer than if he used a pillow. Tom hates pillows.

When Tom pulls himself into the shower at 6:51 each morning, he takes a comb in with him. After washing his body and face, he begins. One lather with a mixture of Head and Shoulders Smooth and Silky even though he doesn’t have any dandruff problems. He combs the shampoo out and applies Pert Plus 2 in 1 Fresh! He lets the lather sit on his scalp to feel the menthol tingle. He stands with the outsides of his feet touching the walls of the bathtub and hums while the minty sensation travels down his neck. The water hisses and losses some of its warmth. When he is ready (there is no accounting for home long he will be mesmerized by the cool sensation) he will slowly turn and fully rinse the product from his hair, careful not to get it in his eyes.

Then the conditioning starts. He has his own mix for a starter formula. He keeps it in a mason jar in his shower caddy. He doesn’t tell anyone what’s in it. Not that there’s anyone to tell. It smells like lemons. Conditioner is applied in a ¼ inch layer and left sitting for 7 minutes and 30 seconds timed with the help of a waterproof digital clock stuck to the shower wall with suction cups. While he is waiting, Tom does bicep curls with full back-up shampoo bottles. He’s not sure it has produced any results.

Tom combs out the excess conditioner and rinses his head under the now cool water. The condensation has almost left the mirror by the time he exits the shower. He stands naked in front the sink and slowly draws another comb, labeled “DRY” in permanent marker, across the short nap of his hair. He ruffles his hair with a towel and draws the comb over his scalp from back to front again. He continues this pattern until he feels dry. Now it’s time for leave in conditioner, but not too much today. He’s going to see Judith at the Super Cuts on 38th for a trim of his Ivy League. She hates when it’s got too much in it.

Lynn, who works at the Super Cuts in the North Dale strip mall by the good Arby’s, likes the leave-in. Tom often thinks about the time she said it smelled like cucumbers.


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