For Lauren Becker
Ruby had a crush on Tom Selleck’s mustache. Her locker was wallpapered with magazine pictures of him and it just about killed her when he shaved it to play Eisenhower. “For a goddamn TV movie,” she said when I asked if she wanted to watch it at my place. “A goddamn TV movie” over and over, and I could hear her throwing pillows and blankets around her room, like a self-contained hurricane.
Father Shannon gave me ten Hail Marys for inviting her over when my parents weren’t home, on top of the thirty for impure thoughts.
The Monday after Ike premiered on the History Channel, Ruby showed up to school with a shaved head, shinier than Eisenhower’s extended forehead. She didn’t say much about it, and the other kids laughed and cracked jokes all day, but I knew it was her way of grieving for Magnum P.I.’s facial hair. At lunch I saw her in the library logging on to selleck-itis.com, tears rolling down her cheeks.
The day after that she drew a mustache on her upper lip with a Sharpie. To be fair, Mrs. Scholl, our history teacher, kind of asked for it when she started class with an Eisenhower quote.
Tom Selleck’s mustache was back when he appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and Ruby had started to act normal again. Her hair was about as long as mine by then, a regular army-style buzz cut. She’d been kicked off the cheerleading squad, shoveled down to the dregs of the high school caste system. I’d always enjoyed a purgatorial place, myself, smack dab in the middle, and despite warnings that I shouldn’t be seen with her, I couldn’t help myself. I still saw her as that angel in the hallway, bending over to pick up her backpack, her jeans pulled tight against her ass. If Jesus’d had an ass like Ruby’s, no one would’ve wanted to kill him. Hail Mary, full of grace.
That night we watched Conan on her bed, under the blanket. I had sneaked through the window after she gave me the all-clear that her parents were off drinking wine and watching C-SPAN.
During the monologue, Ruby was running her hand slowly inside my pants, and by the first commercial break I was fighting with the clasp of her bra. Our Lord is with thee. When Conan announced Tom Selleck, she pushed me onto my back and straddled me. She leaned forward, getting as close to the TV as she could, and rocked back and forth. Her breasts practically smothered me. Blessed art thou.
The way Ruby moved with such fury made me think she’d had practice, but it was the first time I’d had sex. The only thing that kept me from coming too fast was the thought of my next confession. With how often Father Shannon preached against it, I was pretty sure premarital sex was on par with dishonoring your parents, or coveting your neighbor’s wife’s goodies, and murder.
When the show went to commercial, Ruby’s pace slowed and she stopped hunching over my face. She pressed her fingers to my upper lip, rubbed. “You should grow a mustache,” she said, her teeth reflecting the colors from the TV.
Things took a bad turn in the second part of the interview, though, when Conan brought out an electric razor. “No,” Ruby wailed, bouncing so hard I thought she would crush my pelvis. She pulled off me and hurled a pillow at the TV. In the chaos I came all over her blanket, blessed is the fruit, but that was the least of my worries. Ruby was at the TV, the bluish glow like faint graffiti on her skin. She beat on the screen with her fists as Tom Selleck looked into the camera and shaved off half his mustache. His face seemed to hold there, in the close-up, as Ruby alternated between beating her hands on the screen and kissing it, whispering “not the mustache” and, “oh, Tom.”
Conan went back to commercial, and Ruby slumped to the floor. Suddenly riddled with goosebumps, I realized I was still naked. My thing was limp and shiny in the TV light. Pray for us sinners. I started to hunt for my underwear, which had been flung somewhere amid a pile of stuffed animals in the corner, but Ruby tugged at my leg hair. So, I sat and put my arm around her shoulder.
“He can’t keep doing this to me,” she said. “I can’t take it.” She kissed my lips lightly, then leaned down and kissed my thing, too. Now and at the hour of our death. “You should get dressed,” she said, and turned off the TV. The room was lit only by the streetlights as I got dressed and headed back out the way I’d come in.
The next morning I shaved, like usual, but skipped my lip. I leaned real close to the mirror and tried to assess, from the minute stubble, how long it would take me to have one like ol’ Magnum. I went to school that day feeling as much like a man as I could imagine. Partly from the decision to grow a mustache, partly because I’d had sex the night before. Sure, I hadn’t come inside Ruby, but I figured that was a technicality.
Ruby showed up fifteen minutes late to Geometry, our first period class. She had a fake mustache glued to the top of her forehead, and even the teacher, Mr. Pratt, couldn’t help laughing. After a few minutes he ended up sending her to the office because no one could concentrate. I guess if I was asked to pinpoint it, that’s the moment I’d pick to say the mud really started sliding downhill, as Father Shannon would say.
Principal Riley, who didn’t put the “pal” in anything, sent Ruby to the school counselor, who called in her parents and suggested they send her to a therapist. After three sessions in therapy, Ruby was put on Seroquel. And a week after that she was put in Northern Hills hospital, after her parents found she was putting pictures on the internet of her vagina with fake mustaches where her pubic hair should have been. By that time I was masturbating sixty-seven times a week and skipping confession in favor of the letter-writing campaign I’d started.
I had taken a secret vow to write Tom Selleck a letter every day that Ruby was in Northern Hills, asking him to keep his mustache. My own hair growth had seen a few setbacks, coming out too soft and patchy, so I had gone back to shaving. Magnum P.I. was my last hope, so I asked him, please, to keep the mustache. For me. For Ruby. Forever. Amen.
Read more about Ryan here.
Read more about Jose here.