The automatic doors did not open immediately, but seemed to pause and consider the visitors waiting at the threshold first. After several minutes, the glass panel shuddered and cracked, sliding slowly open. Having been deemed worthy by the electric bouncer, Dasad and I rapidly passed into the Best Buy and past the greeter before the machine changed its mind. Walking out of habit to the New Release stack, I pointed out a few titles but met with no reaction. My reticent companion had kept to himself for much of the afternoon, which suggested some work-related problem, failed romance or indigestion. Either way time would work out the truth.
“You know, Murph,” he said to me as I checked the price tag of a Ben Hur Blu-Ray, “so much of your religion seems situated around full heads of hair and long-flowing locks. Did you ever think about that?”
“What do you mean MY religion? We were confirmed together, dude.”
“A technical fallacy,” Dasad said waving his hand. “I was half asleep during every one of those stupid classes. Between the skits, the singing and the guy with the guitar, I just sorta tuned out. Thus, by my reckoning I’m not really Catholic at all, just the theological equivalent of a platypus.”
“And the ten-plus years of private schooling? Religion classes? Sunday mass? And what does your Mom think about your new-found agnosticism?”
“A low blow, Murphey,” my friend said with a shocked look on his face. “My mother would kill me.”
“Not if my mom got to you first. After razing your ego, she’d lay waste to your reason; her eyes like tiny lasers would reach into your soul and cut away at the black phlegm that has collected over the years. By the end of the night, you’ll be sitting around the TV watching Glenn Beck and singing Kum-bi-ya.”
“Well played,” he continued with a smile. “Of course before you roll me under the bus, I’ve never told anyone about your little bathroom accident in seventh grade. The wet floor. Your face nearly in tears. The entire classroom staring. Remember that? Never laughed so hard in my entire life.”
“As I recall, you have told that particular story to several people already,” I said counting off with my fingers. “My brothers just before the second Pirates movie, Lloyd while driving out to Chicago, and the entire population of a Yahoo! chatroom . . .”
“Twenty users at the most . . .”
“No one heard it the first time . . .”
“To impress some girl in Montana, who may or may not have been a 40-year old pervert in De Moines.”
“Whatever. Listen . . .”
“I won’t even mention the whole underage-thing . . .”
“Look,” Dasad explained, “I’m trying to have a pertinent theological discussion here, but if you want to discuss a few half-truths and one or two minor online infractions with female minors . . . ”
“. . . or possibly another pervert posing as one . . .”
“Are you going to listen or are we going to continue interrupting?”
“Whatever, Aquinas,” I smiled bowing. “The floor is yours,”
“Thank you. Now think back to all your History of Art classes back in high school. If you consider the portrayal of Church patrons throughout the Renaissance, you might see an overarching physical characteristic.”
“No,” Dasad said, holding up a DVD copy of the Ten Commandments. “Take a look. Hair. Between Samson, Moses, and . . . heck, the entire Sistine Chapel. An entire ceiling-sized fresco, chock-full of curling beards and long-haired men. It’s the medieval Woodstock.”
“So what’s the deal, dude? Is hair some sort of magic talisman? A shield against evil? Is the devil bald?”
“He might be,” I said turning toward the game section “Lex Luthor was bald.”
“Well, that settles it,” he muttered.
“But who know? Lots of crazy people have been known to hear voices and stuff. Most of them look like deranged Christ-figures anyhow. Chinese settlers believed their long braided hair ensured their entrance into heaven. Then there’s the Amish. You always think that people with long hair are religious nutjobs, but maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe hair forms the critical component of some arcane biological transmitter. ‘A radio for talking with God.’ Maybe He does have something against the bald . . .”
“Terrific. And you wonder at my crisis of faith!”
“Dude, I’m messing with you. Why are you . . ?” I start, staring suddenly remembering the date. “Is this all because you’re turning thirty this week?”
No response. He stares at a stack of anime DVDs, which cinches it.
“Found one too many follicles in the shower this morning, eh?”
“It’s spring-shedding,” he said rubbing his scalp. “My body is simply airing it’s winter coat.”
“Right . . .”
“Look, jackass, if you want to mock me, then do it, but don’t mess with my head.”
“Well, Mother Nature does have dibs apparently.”
“Okay, firstly . . . ” We stopped beside an old Maytag dryer. “You suck.”
“Agreed.” It’s accords such as these that have kept our friendship healthy and stable over the last several years.
“Secondly and seriously, it’s getting a little scary, lately at least. I mean, work’s good and all. The money’s decent anyway, but it sometimes feels a little . . . well, empty’s the standard way of putting it. I just wonder if I’ll be in the same place five or six years down the line, working twelve or fourteen hour days to pay off another car or yacht or something.”
“A yacht? Where’d that come from?”
“Like I said, the money’s quite good, man.”
“Well, I wouldn’t worry too much about it all,” I sighed. “You’re an old man now, but you’re well-established. A job, a house, a car. All your own, or will be in a few years. You’re an adult in my eyes at least. Everything else will come with time and little luck. Plus you have the fortune to look back on your youth and not envision yourself wet and humiliated before the seventh grade class.”
“I still can’t stop laughing,” he said laughing louder. “You’re right. Whenever I’m feeling down, I look back on you trying to fan yourself with your Rescue Ranger lunchbox . . . all my problems just evaporate. Faster than yours did at least . . . ”
He was literally rolling in the aisles at this point.
“Yeah, yeah. Old man. Happy birthday.”
“Just promise me, you won’t post any of this on your stupid blog, okay?”
“No prob, man,” I lie turning to leave the store. It was the ‘stupid blog’ comment. Of course, with all the laughing I needed little coercing. “Nothing will ever leave this . . .”
Promptly I run into the automatic doors, and stagger backwards. Dasad is doubled over now. The check-out girls and zit-faced Best Buy reps giggle from behind the counter.
I sigh to myself and carry my wounded pride outside. None of this would ever happen if I had a mullet.
Happy 30th, dude! Remember that no matter how old you get, I can always kick your butt at Tekken.