click for homepage

                     The Barcelona Review

Author Bio



My girlfriend swipes at vaginas with waxing strips Monday through Friday. That’s what she does for a living. When I’m mad at her, I call her a certified pussy groomer, but other times, when I’m not mad, I respect her wishes to be taken seriously as a wax specialist.
       Recently, she’s been conspiring with her coworker, Christine, and on Friday, she comes home and tells me she has big news. They’ve decided to open a joint venture. Their very own wax palace.
       “Why should we keep paying these exorbitant rates for a tiny space in Pacho’s salon?” she says. “Christine and I are the only reason that place is still in business anyway.”
       While she’s talking, I realize there’s no way my girlfriend, soon to be an entrepreneur, will stay with me for another year if I don’t get a job, a real job, a steady one. A few weeks ago I asked her if she hated me and she said, no, she pitied me, and when I told her, well that’s probably worse, she said, you’re right, it is probably worse.
       I used to be a high school wrestling coach, a position I inherited from my stepdad, but was fired for, among other things, packing a lip on campus. The principal said I was encouraging players to partake in chewing tobacco because I looked so cool doing it myself. He didn’t say those exact words, but along the lines of it. The dip, plus my notoriety for referring to students as Fuckhead or Cocksucker instead of their God-given names, ousted me in the end. We never made it to CIF, but we had a good run.
       After that I worked as a personal trainer for a little while, sold Herbalife protein powder, thought seriously about becoming a firefighter. When I’m out of work, I buy my cousin’s weed, mark up the price, and sell it to high schoolers, younger siblings of the one I used to coach. It usually makes me enough to contribute to groceries each month.
       My girlfriend finishes telling me her big news and I kiss her on the mouth and congratulate her for being such a boss bitch. She smiles, then walks into the other room. I bet she’s calling my sister to tell her the exact story she just told me. I text my cousin to ask if he has any weed I can buy, then I go upstairs to take a shower. If I don’t shower, my girlfriend won’t have sex with me later. Even with the shower, there’s a likelihood she won’t, but the shower at least gives me a higher chance.

The summer ends and we get fall, which in Los Angeles doesn’t mean anything to anyone except students, teachers, and my girlfriend, who insists that September is her slowest month.
       Thankfully, once October hits, she’s fully booked, with people flocking to her before Halloween to ensure nothing will be hanging out of their leotards.
       In November, I get a job as a seasonal cashier at Kohl’s. My girlfriend uses my employee discount to buy makeup, a couple pairs of shoes, a set of frying pans. I feel useful.
       By December the wax demand slows, as people need all that extra hair to stay warm, and my girlfriend and I make the family rounds, dropping in on old relatives in Anaheim or Rancho Cucamonga we haven’t seen since last Christmas.
       My grandpa says, “You married her yet?” And I say, “Not yet, gramps,” and he says, “Of course you haven’t,” squeezing the hand he’s had grasped since my girlfriend walked through the door. He always offers her a fifty before we leave and she always says, “No, no, it’s fine, I’m not the one without a job,” and kisses him on the cheek. My grandpa usually pockets the fifty instead of offering it to me.
       My girlfriend loves my family. It’s probably #1 in the Top 5 Reasons She Hasn’t Left Me Yet. My mom and my sister, even my fucking grandmother, all get their pussies groomed by her on the reg, which gives my girlfriend a level of comfortability and intimacy with them that I will never have.
       On Christmas Day, we go to my mom’s house. Everyone appreciates the Kohl’s Cash coupons I stuff in their stockings. Over spiked nog, my girlfriend updates my family on her new business venture. The only thing they’re waiting on is a location. The first one they found, in a strip mall between a Thai food place and a CrossFit gym, fell through last minute when it came out that the realtor they’d been dealing with didn’t really have the right to rent it. He was just some guy off the street.
       “Location, location, location,”my girlfriend says. “Nobody wants to spread their legs open in a place that has mold growing up the walls.”
       Everyone nods in commiseration. I sip my nog. It's nasty.
       My sister says she remembers a place for lease on PCH and Avalon, but it might have been near a strip club. “Would that be a good thing or a bad thing?”
       Everyone agrees it could be a good thing.
       My brother says he’ll call a friend of his—“You know the one that owns the dispensary on Western?”—to see what realtor they worked with. My mom tells her to just keep praying and even though my girlfriend doesn’t believe in God, she says she will.
       After dinner, my stepdad asks if I’ve kept up with the wrestling team. I tell him I haven’t when really I want to tell him to suck my balls. He shows me the sports section of the local paper: Spartans head to CIF championship.
       I hand the paper back to him. He knows I don’t like reading.
       “This is their fifth time headed to CIF in the last five years,” he says. “Probably the best thing that team ever did was fire you.”
       Everyone laughs, even me, but no one harder than my girlfriend.

After New Year’s, my brother comes through for me.
       “You know my friend who owns the dispensary on Western? He says the building next to theirs is empty. It’s not listed yet, but once it is, it’ll go quick. I can get you in first.”
       I thank my brother and ask him to let me take the credit for this one. He tells me to go fuck myself, but in a good-natured way, which means he’s gonna let me take the credit.
       That night I come home from Kohl’s with a bottle of wine. My girlfriend is watching one of her shows. She loves reality TV, especially the ones where attractive women curse each other out and throw poorly aimed punches at each other’s faces. I used to give her shit for it, but then she told me it was in my best interest to let her like what she liked because if it came down to me or her shows, she’d pick her shows every single motherfucking day of the week and don’t make her have to prove that to me.
       I set the wine down and say, “I got good news, baby,” and she says, “You got another job?” and I say, “No,” and she says, “How’d you pay for that wine then?” and I say, “Will you listen for a minute?” and she says, “I thought you promised to cut up those credit cards,” and I say, “Baby, hold up,” and she says, “What kind of wine is it? You don’t know anything about wine,” and I say, “Baby, please,” and she says, “You know I only drink red, right?” and I say, a little angrier than necessary, “Will you just shut your fucking mouth for one fucking minute?”
       My girlfriend goes silent, stares at me like she wants me dead, then turns the volume louder.
       “I’m sorry baby, I didn’t mean that. I lost my temper. Baby, I’m sorry.” I try to give her a hug and she stiffens, so I nuzzle my face into her neck. “I’m sorry I’m such an asshole. Listen, I got something I wanna tell you. Will you listen? Also, it’s rosé, baby. I know it’s not red, but it’s not white either. You might like it if you try it. The guy at the store recommended it specially.”
        I kiss her neck a couple times and she softens. She strokes the back of my head with her long fingernails. “Tell me your news,” she says.
       “I found a place. For your salon. I found the perfect place.”
       That night she blows me even though I haven’t showered. I text my brother thank-you. Afterwards, my girlfriend and I put a Disney movie on and fall asleep to it, holding one another.

The next morning, we share the sink to brush our teeth, stepping out of the way so the other can spit. My girlfriend makes a joke about the collared shirt I’m wearing, but the joke is actually funny, not mean, so I laugh, call her a bitch, in a funny not a mean way.
       We hold hands while I drive us over to the building. The realtor, waiting out front, waves at us. He’s wearing a tie, which I take as a good sign, a sign that this isn’t some guy off the street like the last time. He walks us through the building, empty and plain, but no mold, and I can tell by the look on my girlfriend’s face that it’s exactly what she’s looking for. She texts Christine some photos. The realtor asks her what kind of business she runs, glancing at me from the sides of his eyes. My girlfriend explains the waxing gig and I so badly want to say the word pussy just to see the look on his face, but I’ve done so well, she’s so happy with me, I can’t mess it up now.
       I stay quiet.
       “Oh, how interesting,” the realtor says in surprise. My girlfriend laughs politely and reassures him she has proof of income.

My seasonal contract with Kohl’s is up at the end of January, which gives my brother and me time to remodel the new salon on the cheap. My brother works in carpentry and I’m not bad with a drill. By Valentine’s Day, it’s ready. My girlfriend isn’t expecting us to be done until a week later so I plan a romantic reveal for her that night. I pick up a bottle of wine, red this time.
       When my girlfriend gets home from Pacho’s salon, she’s exhausted. The week leading up to Valentine’s Day being one of her busiest times all year. She asks if we can call off our plans, but I say, “No can do, baby.” She sighs, then gets dressed in this sparkly thing I’ve never seen before. She assumes I booked us for dinner somewhere nice near the beach like I do every year. I ask if I can blindfold her on the car ride over, but she refuses because it’ll mess up her makeup. I choose not to fight about it and luckily it doesn’t matter since she stares at her phone the entire way.
       We pull up outside the new salon.
       “What are we doing here?” my girlfriend says. “What’s going on?”
       “I wanna show you something,” I say, as I unlock the door and hit the lights.
       My girlfriend gasps. “Holy shit. I thought it wasn’t supposed to be ready until next week.”
       I shrug. “Surprise, baby.”
       She looks at me in a way she hasn’t in a long time and I think how now would’ve been a great time to propose if I had thought about it earlier. She runs a hand along the freshly-painted walls and heavy wood countertops. She circles back to me, puts both hands on the sides of my face.
       “I fucking love you,” she says.
       “I fucking love you, too,” I say, placing my mouth over hers and sucking on the tongue she offers me, before putting my hands up underneath her sparkly dress and, eventually, fucking her on the shop’s new tiled floors.
       When we’re done, I make a joke about how fitting it is that hers is the first pussy these walls have ever seen and she gives me a look that tells me to stop while I’m ahead.

Spring break is upon us and my girlfriend’s never been busier. The new shop is open and she and Christine work seven days a week. Full Brazilians, she says, one after the other after the other. No love for the landing strip.
       I’m trying to sell Herbalife again and mostly failing. Nobody believes in it anymore after those people died. My cousin caught on to what I was doing with the weed and now won’t answer my texts, so I get a job washing dishes at Chili’s and my girlfriend and I barely see each other. She works 9-5 and I work 5-midnight. It’s depressing. My hands are dry and cracked from the soap and hot water. I come home smelling like garbage and old food. We don’t have sex anymore because where the fuck would we fit that in? I miss her.
       On my day off that week, I head to the wax palace with some flowers I bought from an old guy selling them at a stop light on Western. I tell the receptionist that I’m here to take my girlfriend to lunch and the receptionist swats my arm, tells me how cute I am. She says my girlfriend is with a client, but shouldn’t be longer than 30 minutes.
       “I’ll wait,” I say.
       Almost an hour later, my girlfriend emerges from the back with this guy. He looks like something out of an Abercrombie & Fitch store. He’s built like a road block, his arms fill out the sleeves of his shirt. I stare dumbly while my girlfriend places a hand on one of those arms and says, “I’ll see you in a few weeks, okay? Take care of yourself, Manuel.”
       He grins at her like he knows what she looks like naked and then turns to the receptionist to pay his bill. Once he leaves, my girlfriend walks over to me.
       “I have another appointment in 20 minutes, but I can get Panda Express with you next door if you want.”
       I hand her the flowers. “Who the fuck is Manuel?”
       “Excuse me?”
       “You wax his pubes?” The receptionist puts her head down, pretending to ignore me.
       “Manuel is one of my clients. It’s none of your business what part of his body I wax. Don’t be so rude.” She leads the way out the door.
       “Do you see his penis when you wax him?” I ask while we wait in line.
       “Are you serious?” She orders an orange chicken bowl and a medium soda.
       “Well, do you?”
       “I’m not going to answer your stupid questions.”
       “I thought you only swiped at pussies.”
       “I don’t only wax vaginas, you fucking idiot. I do eyebrows, upper lips, underarms.” She sighs as if to say, do I really need to explain this to you? “Men’s waxing is the biggest growing market in the hair-removal industry. We’re running a BOGO special for men right now. Manuel comes every few weeks.”
       We sit down with our food.
       “Should I be waxing mine?” I ask, and she laughs.
       “You couldn’t handle the pain,” she says, and though I know she’s right, I wonder what that says about me, what it says about Manuel, and what it says about the difference between the two of us.

I find Manuel on Facebook. He’s an elementary school teacher. I decide he’s probably not fucking my girlfriend, that actually, he might be gay, but still, I think about it often, too often. It drives a wedge in our relationship. She’s tired of me asking how many men she waxed today and I’m tired of hearing her tell me to go fuck myself.
       On a positive note, she’s earning more money than she ever did at Pacho’s. We buy a new TV and my girlfriend starts carrying a Louis Vuitton purse. I’m still at Chili’s, making minimum wage, but she’s so busy, she never mentions it.
       As summer approaches, I tell my girlfriend that we should think about going on a little vacation, just the two of us, and she says, “You know summer is my busy period. I can’t take time off until September.” So June and July pass and I spend my days at home sleeping and watching TV before heading to Chili’s in the afternoon. I make friends there, but not with anyone I’d want to see, or be seen with, outside of Chili’s.
       Then, in August, Dani gets hired.
       Dani is the kind of girl that would never be interested in me at a bar, or any other public place, but at Chili’s, I’m one of her best options. She’s a busser so we only interact when she trudges into the kitchen, wheeling tubs of dirty dishes on a metal cart, piling them in front of me so I can spray them with the power hose and load them in the washer.
       Dani is supposed to scrape any leftover food on the plates into the trash, but sometimes she forgets and I give her a hard time for it. “I’m sorry,” she says, “I’m rushing,” and I say, “Help me out, will you? Don’t make me do your job, too.” I smile though, while I say it, to let her know I’m only playing, that I’m not a bad guy.
       One night, Dani asks if I’m going out after work and I say, “With who?” And she says, “Everyone’s going out,” and I say, “This is the first time I’ve heard of it,” and she smirks and says, “Well, I’m inviting you if you want to come.”
        I shrug, try not to act like it hurts my feelings that I’ve been here months longer than her and she copped an invite before I did, but by the end of the shift, I’ve decided I’ll go out for one drink.
       At a dive bar in the same strip mall as Chili’s, Dani sits on my lap and drinks vodka red bulls. People around us flick quarters at each other’s knuckles and order rounds of tequila for the whole table. They’re all my coworkers, but I don’t know half of them. Chili’s is a big restaurant.
       At one point, Dani goes to the bathroom and when she comes back, she leans into my ear and says, “Can I ride you home?”
       In my car, parked outside, I put my hand in her pants and immediately make contact with a bushel of hair.
       “You don’t wax?” I ask.
       She looks at me like I’ve said something offensive. “What the fuck?”
       “I’m only asking because my girlfriend is a wax specialist. She runs her own salon. Over by the dispensary on Western.”
       “Your girlfriend?”
       “Don’t worry. She won’t find out about this, she barely remembers that I exist.”
       Dani shoves me away and opens the passenger door. “I knew you were a fucking creep,” she says, which I feel is both harsh and unreasonable, but I don’t argue.
       She gets out of my car and stumbles across the parking lot. I watch her, thinking about my girlfriend back home in bed. I start the car and pull up beside Dani who's veering this way then that. I roll down my window.
       “Let me drive you home at least. It’s dangerous out here.”
       She scoffs, but gets in my car and we drive to her apartment, speaking only in directions. Left here. Right at the light. Keep going. It’s the building up there past the sign.
        I make sure she gets inside before I pull away.

A week later, I come home and my girlfriend is filling up boxes, packing what looks like my things into them.
       “What’s going on?” I say. She throws something across the room at me. I duck, but it still hits me. Luckily, it’s only a pillow.
       “What’s going on?” she says. “What’s going on? I’ll tell you what the fuck is going on. I had a new client today, this young thing, first-timer. We’re chatting, she’s sweet. She waits until I’ve dripped hot wax all over her labia before she tells me, your boyfriend recommended your salon after he realized I didn’t wax my pussy. What do you think about that, huh? You want to tell me what the fuck is going on?”
       I’m shocked and amazed at the lengths some women will go.
       “Listen, baby. I can explain. It was a stupid mistake. Besides, nothing happened. I touched hair, that’s all. Just hair. I told her to go see you! I told her about your salon!”
       She laughs, but in a way like she doesn’t find it funny. She wraps my GameCube in one of my flannel shirts, as if to protect it, but then tosses it in a box anyway.
       “You know what?” she says. “I’ve been waiting a long time for you to give me a reason to leave you that would keep your family on my side. Your mom and your sister, even your fucking grandmother, they’re some of my best clients. You know I couldn’t lose them.”
       I let her say her piece. I realize there’s no way I’ll be allowed to stay the night. It’s her name on the lease after all. I grab one of the boxes and head for the door.
       When I get to my brother’s, he laughs and laughs and laughs. “You’re a fuck-up, bro,” he says. “She was the best thing that ever happened to you and you choked.”
       I sleep on his couch with my clothes on. 

Come fall, I’m still alone, but have moved from my brother’s couch to my mom’s guest room. I’m pretty much forced to quit Chili’s because of the vitriol coming from Dani and the other bussers, who formed some kind of mutiny against me by never scraping the leftover food into the trash, and it’s a couple months before Kohl’s will hire me back for the holiday season.
       As my girlfriend expected, my family, though they love me, are fully on her side. I tell my mom to tell my girlfriend to forgive me, but my mom thinks it’s in my girlfriend’s best interest to move on with her life.
       One afternoon, my sister comes over. We eat leftover chicken wings she digs out of the fridge.
       “You need to get a job and move out of here,” she tells me.
       “I’m looking.”
       “Your ex’s wax place is hiring a receptionist. You should apply,” she says, and though I know from her laughter she isn’t serious, I don’t think it’s such a bad idea.
       After she leaves, I drive over and drop off my resume with the current receptionist.
       “I’m trying to take your job,” I joke, but the receptionist only looks at me confused.
       A day later, I get a call.
       “What are you fucking playing at?” my girlfriend yells over the phone. “Are you trying to harass me?”
       “Not at all. I’m seriously applying for the job.”
       “And what in the world makes you think I would ever hire you?”
       “You pity me, remember?” To that, she’s quiet so I say “Listen, I’m desperate.”
       She sighs into the phone. It makes the line crackle.
       “Come by tomorrow,” she says. “I owe your mom a favor.”

I’m a receptionist at a pussy groomers now. That’s what I do for a living. Turns out I was born for customer service, likely the reason Kohl’skept hiring me season after season. It’s repaired my relationship with my ex-girlfriend some. As a receptionist I’ve proven I can be reliable in a way I never could as a boyfriend. I’m even bros with Manuel now. I thought you were dating my girlfriend, I told him, and he said, nah, bro, I’m gay, and I laughed and said, yeah I guessed that eventually. My mom and my sister, even my fucking grandmother, still come every 4-6 weeks, regular as clockwork. Make sure to tip your specialist, I remind them, and they roll their eyes at me, tell me to make sure I’m not late for dinner.

© Victoria Hulbert 2023

The Barcelona Review is a registered non-profit organization