Adam turned in front of the full-length mirror. It hung from the back of his parents’ bedroom door. He took in his reflection. Scrawny. His shoulders were too narrow. His neck was too long. His hair was too thick. It was getting too long and unmanageable too. He was starting to look like Ronald McDonald.
He had been scheduled three whole days off in a row, a truly rare occurrence. And he kept thinking about that advice he’d read online. Be Interesting. Watching anime and playing video games weren’t enough to get a girlfriend. Meeting people is just a matter of odds. He couldn’t spend all of his time inside if he wanted to meet girls. And here he was, with three whole days off. He had a plan. He’d go to the library. If he saw a pretty girl and was feeling very brave, maybe he’d go talk to her…It was a big maybe.
But first things first, he was gonna take care of his shit appearance once and for all. Taking a good long look at himself, he decided that the three things he needed to focus on most were clothes, hair, and skin. He needed some new clothes. He was still wearing stuff his mom bought him in high school. His jeans were old and faded. Sonic the hedgehog t-shirts probably weren’t helping him any. He just could paid. He could afford to drop some money on new clothes, and a haircut too while he was at it. He decided to go down to the Pheasant Lane Mall. Then he’d get a haircut and go to the library.
He’d never actually been to the library. He wasn’t sure he even liked to read. Other than mangas, he’d never read for fun. Oh well, it was something to try. If anything, he just needed a book to hold at the park.
He gave himself one last disgusted look and sighed. Meet a girl at the park? What a stupid idea. Apparently, he thought he was living inside of a chick flick or something. If only he looked like Richard Gere…
The bedroom door swung open and he gave a startled jump. His mom swept in, a distracted look on her face that quickly twisted into a frown when her eyes fell on Adam. She placed a hand on her hip and tilted her head.
“What are you doing in my bedroom?”
He jerked his head in the direction of the now-open door. “Just using your mirror.”
He didn’t want to admit that. He felt like a pussy, checking out his reflection like he was a chick.
Mom pushed into the room and set down the pile of laundry she held on top of her bureau. Then she turned to Adam, an amused little smirk on her purple lips and her eyes lit with amusement. “You thinking of a make-over?”
He shrugged and thrust his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “I dunno, Mom. I thought I’d go get some new clothes and a haircut…” He trailed off, his cheeks reddening.
Mom approached him, with a curious look in her eyes.
She reached out and shifted a tuft of hair out of his face. She eyed him skeptically, tilting her head one way and then another.
“Mom, speak. What?”
“I could come with you and help you pick out a new haircut.”
“Uh…I don’t know.”
She dropped his hair, and took a step back, planting her hands on her hips. “You haven’t changed your haircut in years. I think a change would do ya good. What do you think you’ll do different?”
“Come on, we’ll go see my stylist Lindsey. She can help you out. She knows all the young people styles these days.”
She turned on her heel and snatched her large purple bag from the wicker chair by the bed. “Give me a minute to put on my lips and we’ll go.”
He rubbed the back of his neck. “Mom, I don’t know…no offense, but I don’t know if I want to get advice from someone who says ‘young people styles.’ You get it, right?”
She pulled her tube of lipstick from her back and shut the door partway to apply lipstick in front of the mirror.
“It’s fine, Adam,” she said after running the lipstick over the edges of her lips. “Besides, when was the last time we did anything together?”
“Guess it’s been awhile…”
Not that he really wanted to spend time with her. Lately he’d been so angry at her. She was so rude to Dad all the time, just because he lost his job. It was like now that he wasn’t making money, she didn’t even love the guy anymore. It made Adam feel…weird…
Mom slapped her tube of lipstick back into her purse and then gave her short graying hair a fluff. “You think I should go back to dying my hair?”
Adam snorted. “Are we giving each other hair tips now?”
“Oh, I was only asking,” she scoffed, turning away from the mirror and adjusting her purse on her shoulder. “Thought I was ready to let it all go gray, but I still can’t get over this strange old lady I keep seeing in the mirror.”
“You look fine.”
“Oh, shut it, you liar. Come on. I’ll treat you to breakfast, since you’re up before noon and all.”
“Fine,” Adam sighed. “Guess you can help me.”
He followed her out of the room and down the stairs. This might be fun. Old or not, she was still a female. Maybe she could help him choose a better look. And if she couldn’t, her stylist friend probably could.
At the bottom of the stairs, Mom stopped. She peered across the small entryway and into the living room. She released a short grunt and cut her eyes.
Adam’s mood fell, as his foot hit the last step. Peering through the foyer and over the top of Mom’s head, Adam could see his dad was on the couch in his bathrobe. He held a cup of coffee in one hand and a newspaper in the other.
“You don’t need to look at the classifieds,” Mom snapped. “They put all those job postings online now.”
“I know that, Bev. I haven’t started my job search for the day. I’m catching up on the news.”
Mom shook her head and rolled her eyes. “We’re going out.”
Adam’s mood dropped further. His heart thudded slowly.
He followed his mom to the front door and hazarded one last glance back at Dad. Poor old guy. Unshaved, unshowered, his eyebrow furrowed and his eyes glassy and blank. He looked…lost.
‘He’s like an old version of me,’ Adam thought to himself. But why? Why were they both so lost? Why did they both have that same dead look in their eyes. Adam knew he had it too. He’d seen it himself in the mirror. He looked nothing like his younger self. His eyes had shine back in high school.
He climbed into the passenger side of his mom’s minivan.
She adjusted her mirror and then turned to him with her mouth tight. “Don’t end up like your father,” she snapped. “Grow up and be a man who provides for his family. You be a good man.”
And he was disturbed in that moment in a way he’d never been. But he didn’t know why.
And anger flashed brightly, spinning and bobbing with each thud of his heart. The too-thick coat of lipstick, uneven around the edges of her thin lips. Her yellow teeth. The sagging skin of her neck, giving her the appearance of jowls. It all made him so angry.
So angry that he shut his eyes so that he wouldn’t have to see her.
So angry that he kept his lips shut tight to keep from yelling.