Friday, April 11, 2008

The Devil's Haircut

There are a few dependable escape routes for me when life gets rough. Several of them are self-destructive and involve strip clubs, Patron and a blonde wig. But there are a few safer bets: shopping, going out to eat, getting massages by small Asian men with strong hands and getting my hair done. Hair salons are therapeutic and people touch me and stuff.

After going through one of the more grueling weeks of my life, I decided to treat myself to a haircut. My regular stylist wasn't in so I settled for some woman named Daisy, because I liked the name. How could a Daisy muck up my hair?

Once I sat in her chair, I knew something was wrong pretty quickly. Daisy, a middle-aged Jersey woman (with a questionable haircut herself), started combing my hair in silence. She says, apropos of nothing:

"My friend just died of brain cancer."

Okay. Not your average conversation starter but I can swing.

"I'm sorry." I muttered.

"It's alright. I'm doing better. I was doin' pretty bad but I'm better now."

"Oh, good."

"Well, I was doing better. Then I started getting these headaches all the time. What do you want done today?"

"Um...just a trim. Please."

"Splitting headaches. At first, I thought they were just sympathetic. My friend just died of brain cancer."

"Yep. I remember."

Snip, snip, snip. Scissors, sharp. Handfuls of hair fall to the ground.

"Just found out I have a tumor on my pituitary gland."

"Where's your pituitary gland?" I ask.

She takes her finger and taps her forehead three times.


Oh mother of god. This is a joke. There’s a camera somewhere, right?

"It's not as bad as it sounds. I'm being treated with medication."

Snip, snip. Sharp. My pretty hair, falling quickly.

"Just a trim!" I remind her.

"I just didn't want surgery. After my friend. The one with the brain cancer."

Tears begin to well. I convince myself that it's only hair. It will grow back. If you have to, Beth, you'll just shave your head and start from scratch. No big deal.

I flash back to my earlier years, when my mother would line her 5 children up at the barber's shop. I would scream in terror, she'd tell me years later. The only kid who had barbershop issues. I was also the only thumb sucker as well. (At least that neurosis would prove to be more helpful later on.)

When she finally finished, I gently, ever so gently, point out that one side is definitely longer than the other.

"Maybe one side of your hair just grows longer than the other," she posits.

Crazy logic. Crazy, crazy logic. Just agree, Beth.

"You're right. One side definitely grows longer than the other. My whole body is like that."

She trims the longer side, annoyed and silent.

I pay for my cut and walk out to my truck, where I promptly start sobbing. I think I'm going back to the strip clubs, where it’s safe and warm.

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