23 January, 2021
I do my best to toe the line in these covid days. So I rarely start the car, rarely drive the twelve minutes down the 1,700 feet and six miles to people, conversation, culture, comida Mexicana, and gas stations.
But I went for a haircut today, fantasized showing up in a full Hazmat suit to selfishly protect myself, felt special securing parking just outside the door of the place on Pearl Street, designed for hipster guys four decades my junior. Vintage Beatles played on actual vinyl. A young woman clipping and chatting was easy among her bearded, high-and-tight colleagues, next to our station. She was thin and cute and had hair with five colors of dye and numerous tats. She commanded her part of the conversation with her clients comfortably and with humor.
My guy knows me and what I want. He “grapples”, Brazilian martial arts style. Ryan is young a Latino guy from southern California, with layers of family connections there. We always catch up on kids and family. He’s going to Sacramento next month to see his one-year-old nephew. He softens when he says this.
But today, months have passed since my last visit and I have become a corn field, a chia pet, a school science project. “What would happen if we just water the potato endlessly?”
Ryan says, “You got a lot of fuckin’ hair back here and everywhere, man.”
“I know. Trying to compete with Chewbacca, brah.”
A Japanese-American woman, maybe five-six, thirty-five or so, comes in, thick black hair down her back. I eavesdrop her set-up conversation with the cute clipper. She has cancer. She will begin chemo this week. She wants her to take it all off, but save it to donate.
She will be bald in a few months, anyway, after all. Might as well do some good.
I gasp to myself but am alone.
Their discussion is matter-of-fact.
“Oh, you definitely have enough. This is totally as long as they ask for.”
“Where should I send it?”
(Suggestions followed, very informed and detailed.)
“So, do you want me to buzz it close and tight, or…”
I missed the details, but they agreed on a typical boy cut.
As my guy turned me around, I met her eyes.
I nodded slightly, a little bow.
In her suffering time, she gave it away. Thought of herself last, or at least second. Not a whiff of vanity.
I imagine her thinking, “How can the hair I am going to lose anyway help little kids?”
Having been given this essential teaching, I made sure to pay closest attention as I settled up with Ryan, said goodbye, then deliberately stepped outside into the winter sunlight, appreciating my next breath.