“So? Did you dye Jeremy’s hair again this weekend?” my customer asked as a huge grin spread across her face.
I smiled back. This is the same customer who said the aqua hair dye looked awesome, or at least what she could see of it on my arm. I chat with her regularly, often about Jeremy.
“Not this weekend,” I replied. “The last dye job wasn’t that long ago and it still looks good.” I finished up her order and handed her back the change.
“I wonder what colour he’ll pick next,” she mused. “I know, lime green.”
That’s one colour I couldn’t picture Jeremy choosing and I told her that.
“It’s too close to yellow,” I explained. “Jeremy hates the colour yellow.”
The customer smiled and leaned in toward the cash register. I automatically did the same.
“Yeah,” she whispered conspiratorially. “He probably wouldn’t want to be considered one of those.”
I froze. “What?” I blurted, although I knew exactly what she was getting at.
“You know,” she continued, drooping one wrist. “A fag.”
I blinked, not knowing what on earth to say and she repeated herself, presumably thinking I hadn’t heard her.
“Considering he dyed his hair pink before, I don’t think that’s a big concern of his,” I replied. I was aiming for dry although I admit my voice was probably closer to cold.
Jeremy hadn’t meant to dye his hair pink, he’d been trying for purple, but it ended up cotton candy pink and he kept it for a month, so I figured that was close enough. There was no way I was explaining this to her, not after that comment.
“Oh,” she sounded startled. “I guess not then.”
She went and sat down, then came back about ten minutes later.
“About earlier,” she said awkwardly. “I’m sorry if I offended you.”
I nodded. “Thanks,” I replied, feeling pretty awkward myself. “I find that word offensive.”
With that, she went back to her seat. One of my coworkers wandered over.
“What was that all about?” she asked in confusion. “You look mad at her.” I shrugged.
“She told me earlier that Jeremy wouldn’t want to dye his hair lime green in case people thought he was a fag.”
My coworker glared over the counter. “You know, I don’t think I like her either,” she mused.
I thought back to Jeremy’s comment a few weeks ago, when he told me he’s never coming out of the closet ~ that he’d taken away the door, welded it shut, then hid it behind a wide screen TV ~ and I wondered if he’d had any similar conversations with people he thought were more trustworthy and less judgmental. And I felt a lot more empathy.