It hangs dark thick smooth halfway between your eyelids. If you don't push it to the
side you can't see. Or you see like looking through a black mourning veil. From the
front it's shaggy. From the side a three-inch ponytail that holds the back half of
your head, sliced like in anatomy book figures, right left slice, top bottom slice,
front back slice. The ponytail starts at the slice.
I need a haircut, you say. Your hair is a permanent hat. When you want me to hear
you, you slide the front with your fingertips to the side, hard, so the roundness
of your brown eyes is undeniable. And your forehead becomes real. When you don't want
to know, you do a mild shake looking down so the front falls heavy and your eyes are
just bottom lashes.
I'm coming to your two-room apartment above the Rose Café with sharp scissors used
only for cutting hair. Nothing else. The stairs are wide enough for two extravagant
renaissance ball gowns to fit side by side. I feel small. The stairs are dirty, pissed
on, discolored and abused. I would not bring a ball gown anywhere near them. I walk
up. I like the way my boots sound against their grime. Your door is first on the left
at the top. You leave it a crack open so I know you're in there. I smell your cologne
in the hallway. I don't like perfume but you are different than what I like. I inhale
deep subtle jasmine and the way my dad smells after he shaves. Aqua Velva. I hear
you change the record from unfamiliar electronic reggae to Fleetwood Mac, Rumors.
I stand outside your door smelling you, listening to you, imagining you and your hair
moving around the little space. I wait. I don't knock. I don't do anything. If you
weren't expecting a haircut, I might stand there all day.
I push open the door. It creaks a little. You're facing the window away from the door.
You don't hear me come in. I stand in the doorway and watch you dance, singing with
Stevie Nicks. When you turn around and see me you don't flinch. You keep smiling singing
dancing. You dance over to me and I drop my bag. We harmonize with Stevie. When the
song ends you turn the volume down and pull a chair into the middle of the kitchen.
The heat is turned up high and your apartment is hot the way it always is. My house
is drafty. Your New York-in-the-fifties apartment with the uneven wood floors and
shared shitty bathroom in the hall. I wonder who cleans the bathroom. Looks like no
I take off my coat hat scarf sweatshirt. It's always T-shirt weather at your place.
You sit in the plastic chair and take off your shirt. I've never seen the skin of
your chest or back. I'm surprised by your lacey black bra. It's more girly than I
imagined you'd wear. I want to touch it but I don't. You don't seem to notice me swallow.
Here's what I want, you say. You do a sweep around the bangs with your right hand
and a cutting motion in the back with your left hand. Two inches. I move in a circle
around you, touching your hair, pulling it lightly out and down. I run my fingers
through your scalp to soften your hair and relax you. You close your eyes. I tug on
your earlobes. Your skin feels like a velvet painting. I pull my scissors out of their
protective case and run the blades against my shirt even though they are already clean.
You wait, still and patient in the plastic chair. I put my right thumb into one hole
of the scissors and my right middle finger into the other hole. I snap the scissors
a few times. They feel like butter. Always. With my left hand I comb the back of your
hair. The ponytail part. I let some of it fall from my fingers but keep hold of a
small chunk. I take the scissors to your hair and I begin.
I almost never cut straight across. I position the scissors vertically, blades pointing
down, and I start to slice. One small section at a time. Thick black pieces gather
around your neck and shoulders. I wipe them away from time to time. Occasionally I
blow them off and they float through the air around your body in slow motion. Sometimes
I turn the scissors vertical the other way, tips pointing up, to blend the sides.
I do the same in the front.
Close your eyes, I tell you. Then I take the scissors at an angle between vertical
and horizontal to slice across, keeping with the angle of your bangs, taking them
a little shorter, bit-by-bit. I blow the hairs off your face. This may be one of the
only times it's okay to unconsensually blow in someone's face. You shake your head
to help the hairs fall. Your hair settles. I run my fingers through it messing it
Shake your head again, I say. You touch your hair.
Feels good, you say.
Looks good, I say.
You can't shake the front over your eyes anymore. I walk around to the back to double
check my work. I comb the back with my fingers again then wipe your shoulders with
my palms. I blow on your neck. I want to touch the front of your clavicles. I don't.
But my hands rest on your shoulders a little bit longer.