Between the Buttons
Bernie rubbed the 1/2 inch hair above his ear on the right side of his head. He stared at the screen and the flashing cursor. Nothing. No inspiration.
Sirena looked over his shoulder, patted him on the back. “Nothing yet?” she asked, her accent floating across Bernie’s studio apartment.
“Not one thing,” Bernie said back, reaching for a Marlboro 100 and making his chair creak. He turned and ran his fingers along the hairline of Sirena’s pixie.
“What are you doing?” she asked, looking at her writing partner, and his out-of-date plaid shirt.
“Don’t worry, it’s just for inspiration. I’m trying to write a haircutting tale here and I’m trying to get the creative juices flowing.”
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“Oh, and my head is supposed to serve as some sort of inspirational starting point for you?” Her voice had a smile to it, Sirena was amused. She was also reaching for a corkscrew to open a bottle of California’s finest red wine.
“It has before, my Aussie pal.”
“Fine, just don’t enjoy yourself too much, Mr. Bean,” she said, pulling the cork out of the bottle and pouring two glasses.
Bernie hated to be called “Mr. Bean”, even if his large eyes and dark, short hair were a similarity to the goofball character from British TV. He’d always thought of himself as a much more handsome guy than that.
“Thanks, Charlize, I’ll do my best to,” he reached up again and made the hair on Sirena’s neck bristle as he rubbed it. “Oh, that is horrible. Wow, do I hate that. Ouch! Pins! Needles! Oh, the horror.”
Sirena knocked his hand away, laughed. “Quit stalling, or move over and let me write the damn thing, eh? My ideas are always better than yours anyway.”
“Oh, the pain. The Sydneysider hits below the belt. The ref takes a point away,” he said, taking a long gulp of wine.
“And the San Diegan is stalling.”
“The San Diegan needs a haircut,” Bernie said, rubbing his, too long for his tastes, 1/2-inch hair.
“Fine. Get the clippers then.”
Sirena looked at Bernie’s record collection as he darted off to the closet to fetch the Wahls. “You have heard of the compact disc player, haven’t you? It’s the latest in home entertainment.”
“Don’t be a wise ass, I have a CD player, I just love my old records too much to get rid of them.”
“Oh,” Sirena said, still not accepting the answer, but leafing through the albums, finding an old Iggy Pop record.
“This,” she said, with a hint of nostalgia, “will do nicely.” She took the clippers in her hand. “What do you want me to do?”
“Buzz it off, maybe a 1/4 inch at most.”
Sirena flashed an evil smile. The two had been friends for years, and had a delightful time mocking one another. They also shared the same fetish – hair. Or, to be more accurate, short hair. “Want to let me take you all the way home?” Sirena asked, with an eager voice.
Bernie thought for a second; he’d never been completely bald before, always had some form of fuzz on top. Still, he loved the way Sirena’s hands felt, and the roar and buzz of the clippers peeling away his unkempt hair might inspire their latest opus.
“Sure,” he said, nervously. “Just remember, if it looks bad, lie to me and tell me how sexy it looks.”
“You’ve got a deal,” she said, downing her glass and pouring a second.
Sirena plugged in the clippers and flicked them on. She loved the way they vibrated in her hand. With no guard on the clippers, the teeth glistened against the light from overhead.
“Here ya go, Beanie,” she said, laughing.
“You won’t be able to call me that for a while now,” he said back, looking forward to the end of the Mr. Bean comments.
“And you’ll drive me wild with that sexy naked head of yours,” she said, plunging the clippers in. Right down the middle they cut away. The difference between having very short and having no hair is more significant than many people think. Bernie looked up, Sirena was all smiles and laughter. He felt the teeth dig in slightly as they mowed down his hair. Naked paths of near smooth scalp lay in the path. Sirena ran the Wahl’s back and forth multiple times. Bernie’s head felt warm from the friction. Sirena watched as Bernie’s head began to glisten in the wake of being rid of the dark brown hair.
“Nice, round skull, The Writer Formerly Known As Bean.”
“Oh, I hope that one doesn’t stick.”
“Naw, it doesn’t roll off the tongue.”
“Honestly, will this look good?”
“Actually, sweetheart, it’s pretty dammed irresistible, but I’m nuts about bald men. I’m shocked you haven’t let me do this sooner.”
“Dunno why I haven’t. Any stories coming to mind?”
She plowed the Wahl’s around Bernie’s right ear. “Naw, nothing yet.”
“Hey, why don’t we do an outer space thing, where there’s not enough water, so to conserve the supply an all-female crew shaves their heads and turns out loving the look?’
“Great idea, I wrote that two years ago.”
“I’ve got it! Why not have some young lady bet her boyfriend she can beat his lazy ass in a foot race, and if he wins, he can shave her head?”
“Nice, it’s called ‘The Tortoise & the Hair,’ and I wrote it in early 2000.”
“Wow, have we written everything we can think of? Are we out of ideas?”
“No, we can do a Mike Hammer thing, with…”
“Last month. Last, bloody, month! How short is your memory?”
“I’m into short hair, I like short fiction, so, the short motif just carries along the same with memory.”
“Oh, that’s fucking Shakespeare.”
“Come on, let’s write.”
“Shouldn’t I finish shaving your dome first?”
“Oh, yeah, right. I thought it was done, isn’t it?”
“Nope, you’re gonna be smooth.”
With that, Sirena led Bernie into the bathroom and grabbed the shaving cream out of his medicine chest. Bernie caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, his head needed a tan, but it was definitely bald. Sirena wet a wash cloth under the scalding hot water coming out from the tap, she was enjoying this opportunity. Bernie was too, but he still had no idea if he’d like it in the morning.
Sex was not going to be an option, but this pair loved to flirt with one another. Flirt, and make one another feel confident as they went out into the dating world. The wash cloth warmed Bernie’s head, Sirena knew her way around his apartment as well as her own, they’d spent plenty of time around one another, writing, traveling to hair shows and swapping head shaving videos.
She began to scrape the last vestiges of stubble from Bernie’s head. “Wow!” she said, under her breath. Sirena was a sucker for a bald man. She pulled the razor over Bernie’s head multiple times, clearing away the cream, the stubble and leaving Bernie as naked as he’d made so many characters in their stories.
“How are those creative juices doing now?” she asked, beginning to rub lotion into Bernie’s scalp.
“Nothing yet, but… oh my Lord! What are you doing up there?” he asked, feeling the ecstasy of fingers on his barren skull for the first time. A delight he could not describe in a thousand words; so one would have to do. The one word was an astonished “Fuck!” That told Sirena she was turning Bernie on in ways their harmless flirtation never had before.
“Um, are you enjoying this?” she asked, her tender, feminine fingertips massaging Bernie’s skull.
“Uh-huh,” was all he could muster, weakly.
“So, what’s the allure? What’s the hook, what’s the thing that turns you on about a bald woman? We could use that as a starting point and go from there,” she said, closing the medicine chest to let Bernie get a good look at his hairless head for the first time.
He gasped, moved in closer to the mirror, put his hands down at the sink and studied his new look in the mirror. “My scalp is blue,” he said, a little sad.
“Of course it is, silly,” she said, “it has never seen the sun.” The din of “Lust for Life” shook the walls from the other room. “We’ll tan you up in the morning. Unlike the British Isles, you have sun here year round.”
“Yeah,” Bernie said, smiling a bit, “it does look okay, doesn’t it?”
They walked back over to the computer. Sirena began tapping away, feeling a slight buzz from the wine. Bernie refilled their glasses and watched as she typed the beginnings of a tale of a man and woman on a desert island, two strangers, stuck with one another after a plane crash.
The central theme familiar territory, like always, with Sirena and Bernie’s patented twist; she’s getting a haircut at some point in time. The question was: how and when?
Bernie and Sirena bandied ideas back and forth, phrases like “massive tendrils hit the floor” and “mounds of curl left her head, never to return” were tossed back and forth. A second bottle of wine opened, and was drained. The clippers popped out again, to give the edges of Sirena’s pixie a cleaning up. She giggled as Bernie asked, “So, do you trust me?”
The buzzing near her ear left a comforting ringing, she liked the sound and the feel of Wahls buzzing away at her hairline. The Iggy record ended, and some obscure mid-80’s band was next on the turntable hit parade.
“Read me back what we have?” he asked, looking at the cleaned-up, razor-sharp line on the back of Sirena’s head.
“Cari fell to her knees, she begged him, pleaded with him, ‘Cut this off me,’ holding the tangled mess that was, previously, her crowning glory…”
“That’s not bad. What do they have for scissors?”
“Um, the medical kit could have bandage scissors.”
“Yeah, and it could look horrible, so they have to just crop it all off. We could have her get sick to her stomach, ’cause she’s so terrified… and her ears can be ‘lovely, clean-shaped objects of desire.'”
“Where in the world did you come up with that bit of nausea?”
“Hey, I’m not the one at the keyboard, pounding out odes to ‘fringe.'”
“Funny as hell. How about we say, ‘He had strong hands, they cut away what took years to grow. The hair fell off her head with amazing ease. You never think about it before you get massive amounts of hair lopped off in one go, but it doesn’t put up a fight. It never does. Three feet of hair, massively tangled due to a lack of shampoo and conditioner, no combs or brushes, just the tropical heat of this unintended island paradise. The two were forced together by fate, like some type of Adam and Eve. An Adam and Eve without the benefit of God’s Caress. An Adam and Eve from two very different worlds; hers was one of San Francisco, money and posh surroundings, his a much more simple life. A life lived in the countryside of the mountain border of California and Nevada.
‘There were days when she would have herself pampered at some spa, hot oil treatments on her flaxen locks. Money spent on a team of experts, caring for her hair, washing and treating it, trimming it on occasion, but never cutting it more than a fraction of an inch. Never letting the world see her neck or ears. Never letting the thought of short hair enter her mind. Short hair was the stuff of bitchy career women, the assertive type that would have to be a bulldog at some point during the day. Not her, she was every bit the lady who spent her days lounging and her nights rubbing elbows with the elite.
‘He cut her hair to nubs at the sides, hacking away at the envy of the girls at the club back home. She felt a strange pang in her stomach, an odd, uneasy, feeling that some part of herself was being lost.
‘In fact, it was. A part of her that she’d never been without, not even back at school, when all of her friends submitted to nearly uniform bobs did she cut her hair. Not even when she was a little girl did scissors ever touch her hair for more than maintenance. Now, with her wealth far away, and all the comforts of the flash mansion she called home gone, she was having every bit of her life changed, even if she hated the thought. He had taught her to build a fire, the two had built a lean-to for protection against the night air and frequent tropical rains, she knew her way around a kitchen as a gourmet chef, but catching her food? Never done that before. Now the last vestige of her proper, and civilized, life was gone, cut away, hacked away, chopped away. She shed some tears as the hair that hung down to her mid-back was sliced away from her eyes. He cut her bangs to less than 1/4 inch, they stuck out at jagged angles and would not lay down, even if she had a comb to care for them.
‘She couldn’t see how it looked, there was no mirror, she’d have to settle for the reflection in the clear blue lagoon nearby. Her hand reached up to feel the back of her head after he cut, and cut, and cut, and cut away the wavy, flaxen, hair she was so proud of. The hair that on the island became progressively more and more unkempt and unruly. Knots, tangles and split ends drove her steadily crazy. The unthinkable slowly became the necessary.
‘When she touched it, shivers hit her spine and made her knees weak. To her, it felt like the bristles on a wire brush. She had no idea how it looked, and she was certain that she didn’t want to. She knew it was going to be unseemly to see herself naked, ears exposed for all the world to see. Fortunately, all the world at the moment consisted of a rugged, dark-eyed man with strong shoulders and a survival instinct that she would be lost without.'”
Sirena looked up from the screen, rubbed the back of her own short, delightful, hair and saw her reflection in the window above the computer. She liked the way her forehead looked and how shapely her ears were, and how happy she was when Bernie convinced her to cut her hair three years ago. The cutting away of her thick, impossible to handle, hair was a blessing. It looked much more flattering too. Since she had hers cut off, guys began to notice her in numbers that she’d only dreamed of before. Shaving Bernie’s head tonight had been a long-delayed way of thanking him and upping his appeal.
Sirena knew that the women he came in contact with would love the confidence he had always walked with, that “damn swagger” she always called it. That swagger would serve him well now, the look fit him. His buzzcut had always made Bernie look a bit too much like a military guy, like a sailor on leave. She looked over at Bernie to get his reaction to the story, and saw him, fast asleep on the sofa.
Sirena grabbed a blanket off the shelf, covered him up and kissed his newly bald head. Her lipstick left a perfect replica of her supple lips on the top of his naked skull. She smiled, stared at it for a moment and knew she was where she should be: writing into the wee hours, with a trusted friend who never tired of trimming her hair. A friend she thought was cute and smart and funny. A friend who she could shave every few days to satisfy her fetish and his.
Life is good.
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