I don’t usually encourage having houseguests, but for Alex's friend, Karl, I make exceptions. Karl will sleep anywhere. Karl makes the least amount of dirty laundry possible. As the father of two, Karl knows that waking a sleeping child is an offense that’s right up there with replacing my regular coffee not with Folger’s Crystals, but with ground glass, which is what I’ll do to whomever comes close to waking Sophie mid-naptime. (Jeff, I’m looking right at you, buddy.)
Thanks to the way they acted at my wedding, I have baggage about most of my husband’s friends; this is not the case with Karl, and in fact, Karl is the person responsible for keeping me from catching the next plane to Oh, Fuck Thisville during the category five shitstorm that was the last hour of our reception. But what I like most about Karl is that, unlike a lot of us, Karl doesn’t mind telling the truth on himself.
During his last visit, Karl and Alex came home from their ritual night out of drinking too much to stand in the kitchen catching up and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Karl was taking a pretty good ribbing over the XXXL cycling jersey he tried on that day that turned out to be a few too many Xs too small. “I’ve been eating too much ice cream,” he confessed, smiling. And here's a tidbit: Karl has hair growing out of his nose. "Not out of my nostrils, mind you," he said, but out of the top of his nose. "What the hell is that all about?" He said, shrugging. Karl said he could eat, no kidding, a gallon of ice cream at one sitting. “I’m still fast on a bike, though,” he shook his finger. And Alex and I joined in the chorus we’ve heard a hundred times when he said, “I’m a former New York State champion in three disciplines of cycling.”
When I consider that Alex actually hears criticisms that come from his friends’ mouths, but is deaf to the ones that come out of mine, I suppose we really should entertain more often. “Al, you’re getting crumbs and jelly in the peanut butter,” Karl said, cleaning things up, “and crumbs and peanut butter in the jelly!” He said this not as if he was discovering three great tastes that taste great together, but with a healthy amount of disgust.
“He’s been blaming that on me for years.” I told Karl, who told me he doesn’t know how Alex and I have been married for six years without a violent incident to speak of. And that’s when Alex pulled up his shirt and slapped his belly. “Jody’s a lucky girl,” he said, “there aren’t that many guys approaching forty with a flat stomach.”
Please cue the floodgates.
When Karl and I had exhausted ourselves listing every shortcoming Alex had, including the habit of mouth breathing all night at a volume that has me taking cover from the plane crash that’s happening in our back yard, and being that guy at the end of the bar who talks a little too much about Stevie Ray Vaughn, we took a deep breath and tackled my favorite subject: Alex’s renegade eyebrows.
I didn’t have to start first; Karl jumped right in. “And dude,” I think he began, “what is with your eyebrow hairs?” Just as Karl was about to call him “Lloyd Fucking Bridges” I lunged, and plucked one from its root, which wasn’t that hard, considering that I was able to wrap it around my wrist a few times before he even saw it coming. Karl and I marveled at it for a moment before I scavenged the junk drawer for the tape measure. I taped the hair to a piece of paper and squinted. “Two and three eighths inches!” I squealed. Alex came out of the bathroom with a Band Aid over his eye, pouting up a storm. We posted on the refrigerator it and its measurements, its turn ons and turn offs, and it remains there today. And if that isn’t a testament to unconditional love on everyone’s part, I don’t know what is.
So if you’re ever invited over for dinner at our house, and you find a hair in your soup or salad, the kind of hair that’s the stuff upon which Steven King novels are based, check the fridge. Lately I’m obsessed with thinking of ways to make it useful. Tonight I’m considering fashioning it, in a weird new version of origami, into the shape of the Virgin Mary and selling it on eBay. But I’m not sure I want to part with it; it comforts me in that, if I ever need a ride to the hospital in the middle of the night, it can either drive me there or watch the baby while I’m gone. Or I might decide to use it as a paintbrush for the outside of our house. I joke.
“Someday, you won’t have my eyebrow hair to kick around anymore,” Alex said, and sadly, I know that’s true. I think I spotted it making eyes at one of Karl’s giant bnose hairs, scheming in its little eyebrow brain about starting a master race of body hair that someday takes over the world.