As I mentioned yesterday, in anticipation of going into an office somewhat regularly, I decided to get a haircut. I wanted something between my usual Super Cuts and the mad expensive Bumble and Bumble of my previous life. I strolled down Hoboken peering in windows, trying to find a salon that struck my fancy.
I came across a gaggle of giggling guys lounging on a stoop, enjoying the warm air. I passed them by, too caught up in their laughter to fully realize they were in front of a salon. I back pedaled and paused in front of the door. The laughter quieted. “How do you guys feel about walk-ins?” I inquired.
A tall lanky blond answered, “Come on in.” I stepped over the jumble of lounging limbs and into the welcoming space. In typical Hoboken fashion, the floors were wood and the walls exposed brick. A row of giant mirrors echoed along one wall of the long, narrow room. Red velvet pillows crowded the window seat and soft Venezuelan house music quietly clumped through the speakers.
A beautifully tanned man followed me inside. He ruffled his short mohawk and smiled, motioning towards a chair near the back of the space. I dutifully followed behind him, mesmerized that I’d actually met a person willing to wear a neon green tank top outside of an 80’s dance party. The retina singeing shirt was paired with white denim shorts and flip flops. I was starting to have second thoughts about putting my hair in his hands.
Then he spoke. “Have a seat.” I blinked, dumbfounded, as he whipped out another dazzling smile.
His voice was amazing – smooth and thick like honey, but deeper and darker, more like molasses. His tone wrapped me in a warm cocoon of comfort and I immediately relaxed. “What are we doing today?” he rumbled as he fingered my limp, greasy strands.
“Whatever you tell me to, honestly. I’m half trying to grow it out, half relatively ok with the short flippy stuff, and wholly sure it needs some fixing.” He looked at me quizzically, blinking his dark wide eyes. “I just want it to look intentional, like an actual style. It’s coming in a little funny and this spot is still really thin. So I need tricks to cover that up.” His eyes widened slightly, eyebrows raised. Nervous, the words spilled out, “…from the chemo.”
He dropped his eyes briefly and fiddled with a comb. “Well, I kinda like what you’ve got going on. Let’s add some layers, shorten these bangs, and make the back a little wispier. Sound good?” I nodded, relieved.
He spun my chair to face him and leaned in closer. I noticed he had cut a notch in the neck of his tank top. As his torso moved towards me, a tiny square pendant swung forward from behind the neon fabric. An unblinking, technicolor Virgin Mary sparkled brightly, as she gently swayed on the silver chain. “Let’s get that mess washed,” he murmured.
As he lathered me up, he quietly asked, “So how are you?” I looked at him, weighing his words. Avoiding my eyes he continued, “Your health, I mean…are you…ok now?”
I quickly answered, “Oh yes! I’m fine. Totally fine. Feeling great. Just fine.” Why oh why did I mention the chemo thing?
“He turned the water off as he applied some new elixir to my scalp. “My sister’s hair came back in really thick and curly.” He smiled reassuringly.
“Well that must have been nice,” I responded thoughtlessly. Instantly I regretted my words and stammered, “The thick hair part – not the cancer part, obviously. I’m sorry.”
He patted my head as he turned the water back on. “I know what you meant. It’s ok.”
We sat in silence as he rinsed my head. He fingered a few wet strands and shook his head. “What do you use at home?” he asked with slight scorn in his voice.
“Um. I think it’s CVS brand dandruff shampoo,” I answered sheepishly. He gave me a stern look. “I know, I know,” I muttered. He slapped on yet another round of conditioner on my hair.
As he gently rinsed the pomegranate scented concoction from my hair, careful to direct the spray away from my ears with the back of his soft hand, I quietly asked, “And your sister? How is she? Is she still ok?”
He turned off the water and fumbled above my head for a towel. Avoiding my eyes he answered softly. “No, she passed.” He lifted my neck tenderly and wrapped the blood red towel around my head.
We locked eyes. “I’m Elly, by the way.” I slowly extended my hand.
He grasped my hand in his, a slight smile on his tanned face. “I’m Gabriel.”