I don’t get my hair cut anymore because I am trying to find out if it will grow and how far it will go. But I used to get it cut regularly and I did it at the same place by the same lady who was my age, and my confidant and friend. A couple of hours every couple of months I would go into this place on the edge of Berkeley and Oakland, and she would wash my hair and massage my head and we would exchange stories. I would tell her about how the latest guy who’d lived in Antarctica for two years wouldn’t talk to me at work anymore because his girlfriend was back in town. Yes, he had a girlfriend, would you believe it! And she would tell me how her boyfriend finally found a place and she would probably move in with him because a homeless guy was trying to sleep in a corner of her house and it was terrible and she needed to get out.
She was cutting hair but she had a Writing degree. I had an English Lit. degree and I was selling running shoes. She had taken a creative writing class with James Franco and he had always sat next to the cutest, tallest blondes and she thought he was actually gay. I was fascinated by her stories about living in L.A. What did she do? Played lots of Texas Hold ‘Em. What was UCLA like? Lots of guys in tank tops.
I’d come back and it had been a couple months too long and my hair was a real mess. “You dyed it yourself, I told you not to do that.” And I know, I’m sorry, I was bored. She would fix it, and tell me to leave it alone, and let the natural color grow in, it’s so beautiful. And I’d say but it’s not, and she’d say but it is. But I’d say it’s fine, and doesn’t grow. And she’d say it’s soft, and feels nice to touch, and so leave it alone. And this time I had been seeing a guy at school but he started getting weird and hanging out with this other girl. And I thought perhaps too he was gay. All of these art school boys are, I think. And she’d say probably, like all of the actors. And she was Jewish and had been reading this book Tevye: The Dairyman and the Railroad Stories. And Tevye was hilarious, and so I read it, and she read The Worst Journey in the World, about an expedition to Antarctica from 1910-1913, because I told her it was the best book I had read since Dandelion Wine. And then we said our goodbyes. And I would see her soon.
And many months passed because I couldn’t afford to get my hair cut, and styled, and I was in school, and selling shoes, and I forgot, and my hair was a mess, and I trimmed it myself, and it was crooked. And I went back with crooked hair and a streak of blue. “What did you do this time?” she asked. “I don’t know, take care of me.” So she did. She washed my hair and massaged my head, and told me about how she loved her boyfriend, and they were living together and it was sweet, and he was growing up, but sometimes she was bored, because they never did anything but watch movies and sit around the house and she felt old. And I said I did too, because every night I did that too, but with my cat and dog. Because this time I had been seeing someone who also had split with his girlfriend, but really he just said that and it was a lie. And she said to be patient. And I said, of course.
My friend at work had thick wavy hair and he had never been to a salon. He asked me where I went and I told him and he went the next day. When he came to the shop his hair was crisp. “She’s pretty” he smiled. And when I went back she said “he’s nice., you should date him.” No, no, that was Antarctica boy’s best friend! I couldn’t date him, haha. There was this line between friends and lovers. And once it was crossed the other was ruined, you know, so I didn’t want to do that, even if we hung out and laughed and got along. And we knew that was true. Like the line between us, the hairdresser and the customer. We were friends in the shop, but it ended there. Because if we became more than perhaps we’d lose that confessional space to talk about all of our troubles with excitement and to listen with care. Instead we could end up like everyone else eyeing their phones and listening with one ear.
The last time I went she told me to leave my hair alone and I said ok. And then I moved away and I haven’t touched it since. I think maybe I will go back in a year, and it will be long, and it will be my natural color, and maybe she will be engaged, or married, and maybe, just imagine this, I’ll have a boyfriend.