This woman is cutting my hair, and I shouldn’t hate her for it, but I
do. Because of the production. Because it’s worth getting better hair
than you can afford if only for the months in between when people will
assume you’re a better person than you are, by which I mean you have
more money. I put on the clothes I knew had brands while she still knew
that I did it for her and thought less of me for it. But it didn’t
matter, because we’re both working toward the same end: an appointment
every three months and a twenty percent tip.
Since I’d come last, she’d gotten bigger, and while I thought she might
be finally fatter, the gain was too central to the middle, and I figured
she was pregnant but not pregnant enough to ask. I thought about the
chemicals they used here and if they’d be bad for the baby. I guess you
have to let people make their own choices about whether or not they want
a chemical baby. Or I might assume she’d looked into it a little before
coming to work every day, but you know you can’t trust people to do that
because hey, she needs the money.
She had that kind of job where you get to learn to tell the difference
between people who have money and people who don’t even when you don’t
have any yourself, and that’s why I thought she could tell I didn’t.
Maybe this time I tricked her, with my consignment pants that don’t fit
right and this top that’s not right for the weather; nothing’s right,
nothing’s ever right. Something is always wrong, and that’s how you know
someone’s poor, but at least, I thought, at least I could be poor and
have nice hair.
I wouldn’t put it past her to mess it up just to keep the natural order.
Make sure I couldn’t pay for nice hair, couldn’t trick the rest of them.
I thought of the haircut she’d give someone else, someone better, the
real haircut and treatment that she’d decided I didn’t deserve. The
fake one that she gave me that seems real but indicates to the rest of
the world I’m not meant for it.
Over the baby she wore high shorts and, though I saw her every three
months for years, I’d never seen that tattoo before, and as soon as I
did, it cut me.
It was the same one you had.
Didn’t have when I met you and then did have and still have even when I
don’t know you anymore.
The red toque from that Wes Anderson movie that when we saw it, you said
was real outsider stuff, and I let you say it because I already knew I
wanted to love you. I agreed with you it was outside the norm of what
you’d normally see at the theatre, and I didn’t say anything about the
other men who’d shown me the movies much further outside of the theatre,
about the music I listened to when I was with them and about how Pink
Floyd wasn’t really as far from the mainstream as you think.
I bet she wished she hadn’t gotten that tattoo and maybe that’s what she
was thinking about when she hit my head with the wrong end of the dryer,
or maybe she had an ex whose tattoo matched the one on my shoulder.
All we can know for sure is that she was the one with all the tools
while I remained confined under this plastic cape that made me just a
head to her, and it’s hard to treat someone who’s just a head with
dignity, especially when their hair is wet.
You take someone’s hair off them, someone whose hair is supposed to be
there, and they’re not the person you thought they were. That’s why they
do it to inmates. The moisture just simulates it.
I remember the other Wes Anderson movie, where he cuts his hair in the
sink before he tries to kill himself and fails. I remember thinking that
that hair’d be left behind when he was gone, clogging the drain if
someone wasn’t smart enough to pull it out before turning the taps on,
but you know how people are. They make things worse to make it easier
and then make it harder. You told me that you’d thought about that
haircut, that drain, and I thought that might make you more experienced
in life than you were. Now I know most everyone thinks of offing
themselves at some point. Especially people who watch Wes Anderson
What was the fucking problem, anyway, you had with my tattoos? They were
the wrong things, in the wrong spots, in the wrong colors. Up until
exactly the point that you got yours, they were for bad people, stupid
people, people who didn’t know that what you have to do in life is
pretend to be someone else if you want to get by. So what if that was
normal where you came from; don’t admit where you came from; people who
come from where you came from don’t get anywhere; don’t you know that?
No, I didn’t.
I knew how to unclog your drain, though.
When she got out the flat iron, I knew she was trying to cover up some
mistakes I hadn’t noticed. They put this giant mirror right in front of
you, but it’s rude to look at it, to look her in the eye, to watch her
work while I just sit there. I like to not talk and look out the window.
There were men in uniforms because of the armoury nearby, and there was
a guy who shuffled on by at one twentieth speed in a get-up that must’ve
grown onto him, because they don’t sell that kind of thing in stores,
and you can’t get it at the Salvation Army. The kind of garment produced
when layers of sweaters came together, bulked up, wore down, stretched
to someone’s knees, homogenized colors into a form of grey unique to the
clothes of the sort of man this was. I could pretend to look at him
instead of her, and we’d all be better off for it.
Do you remember, on the dance floor, I didn’t even see you come in, but
it was one of those nights when our bar was running an event, something
to do with the leftists winning or rallying support, but those events
were just the same as any other weekend night except with chalkboards to
tell you what we were all dancing about. I remember being happy and
thinking how long it’d been since I’d been happy and then wondering if I
knew what it felt like enough to know. I didn’t see you come in but, by
the time you did, I’d put my purse down in the corner and my drink down
on the ledge next to the sound booth by the DJ, who’d never want to play
what I wanted him to and with good reason, because every night’s a
celebration and nothing I ever wanted to hear would make people happy.
You came up behind me dancing and moved around the crowd of people until
you were right in front of me, and I thought maybe, maybe this one time
we were going to be all right, just for a while, and no one would hurt
anybody. I thought we had a truce of silence and that maybe for a moment
we could get on dancing near each other and off into the night again,
but then you leaned forward and when I thought you’d ask me how I was
doing or where I’d been all these years or tell me where you’d been
instead you told me, “I still love you. You know?”
I guess I did know or I hoped so and I might have even loved you back
but I knew I didn’t want to suffer and that’s why I said no.
How am I the only time that you decided to give up? What happened to
make you always want to come home late and leave so early? What demon
whispered in your ear what I would do to you if you came back? Why
couldn’t you have said something like that the year before, or the year
before that, or the year before that one?
Why couldn’t you have known someone before me who had loved you? Why
couldn’t you have learned when you were young what to do to people when
you care? Why did you think you always had to make it hurt to feel
something? What wrong thing had I done in life already to deserve you?
How long had things gone wrong before we met?
What address are the ruins at now? How many walls have you punched in
since last we talked, and who’s fixing them? What’s she telling you
about what happened between us and why she’s not the same? What have or
haven’t you learned since then, and shouldn’t you have known it already?
What devil made the world that made you first and second made me find
you? What made you come knocking at 3am drunk to tell me she was
pregnant when three weeks later, you wouldn’t have had to?
Why couldn’t you find someone else besides me to live for?
I teared up looking at the man outside with his sweater and wondered if
the stylist could tell or if she was used to people crying in her chair.
You’d have thought she was pretty and told me so. You’d have let me know
I wasn’t the only woman in the world and thought me better off for it,
when all I wanted was to be. I made up an alternate life where you and
my stylist had gotten those tattoos together, while we were together,
how Steve Zissou’s toque was meant to serve as a forever reminder that
as hard as I tried, there’d always be another one of me and that you’d
find them eventually. I looked at the scissors and the razors and the
flat iron and thought about which ones I could use to cut that tattoo
off her thigh.
But it wouldn’t be good for the baby.