Gotta Get A Life by HeadBoy
You count the cracks on the sidewalk on your walk home, again. Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen… Your life is a morass of dulled images of your co-workers, stuck in some Kafkaesque droning existence. You, you find yourself going through the motions of life, bumping off moments more so than experiencing them. You choke down dinner, rather than enjoy it, you pass out in lieu of falling asleep. In your 28 years, you’ve done nothing bold, nothing daring, nothing above average.
In school you were an adequate-looking teenager; spared the hideous acne of some of your fellow students, but denied the ravishing mane of hair and stop-traffic good looks of some of the others. In some context, you found that comforting, but you wanted so to be put up on a pedestal by someone, anyone. That was a fleeting period though, you gravitated to the clubs where the music was loud, the lights were dim and the ID cards rarely, if ever, got checked.
Your parents were never cruel, but never loving, your life, up to this point has been a series of calendars and a few moments of unintentional action that you just happened to be near, not an actual willing participant though. Frustration and apathy had fought to a draw in your soul, drawing their own 38th parallel and declaring a truce.
So you continue walking up the street, not looking up, not making eye contact, not wanting to be noticed and succeeding in your cherished obscurity. You tug at your slightly behind the fashion curve outfit, just stylish enough to blend in, not stylish enough to stand out. You walk by the same newsstand you pass every morning walking to, and every evening walking from, work.
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You stop long enough to buy a magazine, the guy behind the counter, the one with the buoyant personality and cream cheese smile says, “Thank you, lovely lady. And here’s your change,” like he always does. You smile back, in a mild, almost sickening way. You wonder why he is such a happy, seemingly content, person and your life is a testament to mediocrity.
You push the key into the lock on your front door, inside you look around your studio – nothing. No mirrors, no paintings or photos on the walls, nothing. You’ve lived here for six years and the place is a spartan Dentist’s office: white walls, white carpet, black sofa, black chair. You rarely go out these days, when you do, it’s to the old haunts you cowered in the corner of, an obscure oddity.
Things are going to change for you tonight. They must.
You collapse in the shower, and you don’t know why. Overcome with tears you are sobbing to the beat of some mordant dirge that only you hear. You cannot stop, you feel your eyes puff and redden. You feel your chest heave uncontrollably. Rapidly even. Like a wave that crashed on you, it passes. You stop as quickly as you began. You wonder why it happened, but do not know why it did.
All those years of feeling nothing at all have dulled your emotions and your perception of them to the point where you just ignore them. You don’t even notice how lonely you are. You pull on your robe and head into the living area, and sit on your chair. Your magazine holds your interest, but just barely.
An article about child TV stars growing up to be felons brings a smile to your face. “They’ve only covered this about a million times,” you catch yourself saying out loud to nobody but yourself. “Ha, Ha!” You speak again. “I’m talking to myself.”
“I’m listening,” you say, to yourself. “What do you have to say?”
“Why are you laughing at them? At least they have lived a bit.”
“What do you mean?”
“Who’s coming to your funeral?”
“What funeral, I’m not dead.”
“Not yet, but you might as well be.”
“Right. Leave me alone.”
“I can’t, idiot, I’m you.”
“I’m aware of who you are, but you’ve never spoken to me before, so why I should I speak to you now?”
“Because, I am here to help you.”
“Help me what?”
“Live? I live.”
“Well, if I exist, you’re just as pathetic as I am, remember, you are me. Right?”
“Of that fact, I am painfully aware.”
You feel yourself being pulled into the bathroom, shutting the door behind you to reveal a door-length mirror that you never use. You clean it once a week when you’re dusting, but pay it no heed.
“Look at you, Miss Drab.”
“Who are you calling Drab?”
“You. Me. Us. Take a look.”
“You look like the most mousy, wishy-washy piece of inconsequential sub-human that there is. Look at how you dress.”
“We’re wearing a bathrobe.”
“Exactly! It’s 7:35, and we’re going to bed. I want to live, damn it.”
“Hey, we don’t swear.”
“The fuck we don’t. At least on my end we do.”
“Fine, we can go out to a club and listen to the music, grab a soda and stay out for a few hours… Ohhh, how daring.”
“That’s not living, that’s existing.”
“Will you stop with that word?”
“Fine, drop the bathrobe and take a look.”
“We’re, er, I’m not comfortable looking at my body.”
“Fine, I will.”
Your bathrobe falls off you against your will, and your eyes fix on the mirror. You are size 9, but rarely notice. Your hips have an almost perfect contour, and your legs are toned from walking to and from work every day. Your neck is a warm, smooth path from your shoulders to your face. You haven’t really looked at your face in ages. Every morning you brush your teeth and hair without paying regard to your reflection. Bits of darker brown run through your medium dark locks, the color of espresso with two creams. It is long, thin and straight, a sort of Morticia Adams or negative image of Marcia Brady look.
“We need a haircut. Otherwise we’re not bad.”
“Haven’t you ever wanted more than not bad?”
“I guess? Look at us! That is a great figure, guys would die to hold us. We’re nearly the perfect size, not one of those skinny waif things, but not a cow either. We have pouty, full lips that beg to wear something other than a scowl. Take a look at these hips; wouldn’t newsstand boy just love to rest his hands on them when he slow danced with us?”
“You know why.”
“No, I don’t.”
“He’s always happy, and he’s kind of cute.”
“Fine. He’s okay, but how do we get his attention?”
“By being bold with our appearance. By making a statement.”
“We’re not going to dress all slutty, are we?”
“No, but we can certainly stop dressing like some Eastern Bloc refugee.”
“Hey, I love this robe!”
“Why are all of our panties white?”
“Don’t we want, don’t we neeeeeed, more than practical?”
“I see your point.”
“Good. Then can we do something about our hair too?”
“Something that makes a statement.”
“We love our long hair, don’t we.”
“No, we don’t.”
“No. We really don’t.”
You pull on some jeans, disdaining the sanitary white panties that you discover you can’t stand, and pull a black t-shirt on over your head. You call your stylist, she doesn’t recognize your name, or voice at first (you’ve never made an impression in six years, you must be the most dull person this side of John Tesh), then she fakes an “oh yes, you aren’t due in for three weeks, right?”
“Well, I was hoping you would fit me in tonight.”
“We close at 8, that’s in about ten minutes, but…” there is a pause on her end of the line, you pray silently… “yeah, sure, what’d you need, a trim?”
“I was hoping to make a statement. Something bold perhaps.”
“Knock when you get here, okay? The door will be locked.”
“See you in a bit.”
You pull on a pair of black high-top sneakers, and head up the street, walking with a deliberate gait that you’ve never had before. You feel odd, there is a thumping in your chest that you haven’t felt; excitement. You look up from the cracks in the walkway, people still don’t seem to notice you, but you notice them. They look as dull and desperate as you always have. You think about what color panties to buy, what length your next skirt will be, and how much hair you’re going to cut off your head. You realize that eschewing panties altogether is something you won’t do again; too uncomfortable.
You see the sign that says Shear Artistry just ahead, your heart begins to pound harder. You like this feeling, foreign as it is.
“Hi,” you say, uncharacteristically, as you walk in the door. It wasn’t locked, after all.
“Oh, HI!” Your stylist says, with an octave or three difference between the ‘oh’ and the ‘hi.’ She seems glad to see you. You make eye contact, and notice how pretty she is with her pixie-cut hair, and thin, arched eyebrows.
“I need something new and totally different,” you say, not sure what you mean.
“This sounds dramatic,” she says, rubbing her hands together in gleeful expectation. “Please sit.”
“Thanks, I will,” you say, your voice finding a chirp it never had before.
“Wine?” she asks, holding up a bottle as she walks over to lock the door.
“Sure, but I usually just drink soda.”
“You were looking for different and new. Right?” she asks, almost victoriously.
“Something new then,” you say, letting her pour you a glass.
You feel a cape drape around your neck, and your long, stringy, hair get pulled through to drape down your back. She brushes your hair and the two of you drink a few glasses talking about what you are looking for. There is a strange ease to the way you talk with your stylist. Hairstylists and bartenders are genetically disposed to be easy to talk to, open up to, get personal with. It must have something to do with the smock.
You tell her that your life is unsatisfying that it seems like two of you have walked in here tonight, a shy, dull, girl and a young woman with emotions screaming to be released. Maybe your life isn’t that dramatic, but it seems that way right now. And right now is the moment you are in.
“Well,” she says, grabbing her scissors, “if you’re ready, let’s go.” Her voice sounds slightly tipsy, you have a giggle you can’t suppress.
“How short should I go?” you ask.
She runs her fingers through you hair, it feels more luxurious than before. You realize she’d brushed it to a high sheen, a more sparkling brown than you’d realized you possessed. “Judging by our conversation, you want bold and exciting. I’m going to take away all this,” she says, holding up the back of your hair, “to about here.”
Her scissors are touching your hairline in back, actually touching it. You feel a quiver in your stomach, a hesitation. For a minute, you want to get up and go home, sink back into your robe and slippers. Sink back into your practical chair and non-confrontational life.
You, of course, will have none of that.
“Chop it off!” you say, feeling bold, nervous and excited. Every emotion you can think of is racing through your body and mind. You don’t even hear your stylist describe the rest of your cut, you just nod and say “oh yeah,” with relish.
She gathers your hair into a ponytail, stroking it a few times with a brush and securing it with a rubber band. There is a slicing sound that gives you a tremble. Your knees suddenly go weak. You feel ill, thrilled and ill. Your eyes grow to the size of pie plates when you look at yourself in the mirror. You are being rid of your hair, and you aren’t sure why.
You have a vague memory of a conversation that just took place between you and your stylist. And a slightly more vague realization that you had a conversation with… yourself. Are you going insane? Are you losing your grip? You convince yourself that you didn’t really have a two-sided conversation with yourself, that it just sort of played out in your mind. You look back into the mirror, the stylist is behind you, working away at your hair.
Liberation? Obliteration? Defeminisation? You’re not sure which term applies. You’re not sure how you will look, not that it mattered much in the past. But it sure will matter now. The stylist crunches through your ponytail again. Her cut gets deeper, hair is breaking free and the tension on the back of your head eases away in a split second. There is, of course, no turning back now.
The scissors slide up your hair with authority, cutting away the dull you, and letting loose the confident one that had been asleep all these years. Or so you hope.
With a thump, the ponytail hits the counter, she begins shearing away again, starting in the back and working forward toward the left side. The rapid-fire sound of snipping fills your ears. You feel her hands comb your fast-disappearing head of hair into her fingers and snip. Pull, snip, repeat. Pull, snip, repeat. You see the tops of your ears sticking out from the side of your head, you’re not sure you’ll like this. They stay close to your head, and look rather well-shaped and appealing. So far, you’re not in a total state of shock.
You know this is the shortest your hair has ever been cut before. There is a rumbling in your stomach again. The overall excitement has dimmed, the moment of anticipation is gone; now all that remains is a transition you are undergoing. A transition in progress. A transition you’re looking at, but not really seeing. You have never felt this many feelings before and it is a flood of good and bad. And they are feelings that you’re not sure what they mean at all. The urge to run away courses through your body, but then it goes away. You hear the constant snip, feel the gentle, but authoritative, tug against your head. The moment of anticipation is gone, yes, but the thrill returned. You hear the stylist, with her Louisiana drawl, comforting you and encouraging you as she pretty much does whatever it is she wants with your head and you look on in a rush of disbelief and thrill.
You feel a spray of water hit your bangs, they are being combed down over your eyes. There is the feel of cold, deliberate steel against your forehead. The snipping sound is back. Now they are falling into your lap, gone for good. You look at yourself again, your eyebrows are too thick, but otherwise it is an improvement. You have lovely eyes. Eyes you’ve never noticed before. Your bangs ride high on your head, they’re barely there anymore. But they look good. They even look bold.
The stylist combs the right side of your hair, the last long sections on your head will soon fall away, into oblivion. Off the head, onto the floor and then swept up and into the trash can.
The wonder of your own face is a new thing to you, you’ve seen it all your life and never cared for it or against it, but you never looked at it closely.
Your eyes have a greenish tint to their hazel centers. Your lips are full and pouty, like you told yourself earlier, but didn’t believe. Your cheeks have the kind of tender beauty that models have to paint on, and most women sit and stew over in naked envy. Those eyebrows though, they’ve got to go, you’ll talk to your stylist about those before you leave.
You open your mouth to speak, but notice you are already engaged in conversation with her. She had a good joke to tell, and you heard the unfamiliar sound of laughter coming from your mouth. Not just your mouth, but from your belly. You were in the throws of the most fun moment you have ever had. The funeral dirge you’d heard all your life was giving way to some form of music that the scissors were making; a kind of New Orleans jazz, beating away the morose feelings and leaving something happy instead.
The top of your head was getting the excess weight cut away, your stylist tousled your hair to give it a messy look. The highlights you had noticed earlier this evening were now gone, cut away. Your hair was several shades darker now, as if the espresso was still there, just hold the cream. It made your features look more exotic and European, rather than girl-next-door. The pixie cut you saw on your stylist was now emerging on your head, a slightly longer, messier, version though. It exposed your jaw line to the world and made your neck a slopping work of art. Audrey Hepburn would beg for a neck like yours.
“There’s still too much of a Meg Ryan effect going on here, don’t ya think?” you hear the stylist ask.
“What do you suggest?”
In fact, she didn’t suggest. She turned on the clippers with a pop, followed by a purr. They chewed away at the back of your head, reducing your hair in back from about 2 inches to around 1/4 inch. The sides were shortened in quick order too. The hum and purr soothed you, and you loved the tickling sensation.
You watched her blend the sides to the top, still pixie-like, just a bit more of an orderly look. The purr of the clippers died down and you felt a brush dusting off your face and neck. A warm dollop of shaving cream was spread on the back of your neck, sending heat through the whole of your body. You sat very still as she ran the straight razor along the hairline.
“Very orderly,” she says, with an obvious pride. “Very nice.”
“Oh my god!” you say, with a look that erupts across your face. A grin so wide it makes your cheeks hurt. Your neck muscles sting from this smile of yours that you can’t wipe from your face. You touch your hair, it bristles and dances, then returns to its rightful place, close to your scalp. You run over it with your fingers again, it runs back again, obediently. The sides are short, so is the back. The top is less than 2 inches, and the bottom of the back has a clean, razored into submission, feel. You look into the mirror, stunned at who you are.
“How’s that for making a statement?” your stylist asks.
“This,” you reply, enjoying your beauty in the mirror, “is incredible.”
She waxes your eyebrows, and shows you how to apply make up that will flatter your features. You give her a hug, and a large tip. You love the soft, bristly back and sides, and the semi-sloppy, but obedient top. You absolutely love the bangs, high on your head, exposing you to the world. The look flatters your face, a face you had never really seen until now.
“If two of you did walk in here tonight,” she says to you, “only one is leaving.”
You blush. Through the red erupting on your face, you ask how often this cut needs to be trimmed. “Every four or five weeks should be fine,” she says. You hug her again, giggle and bounce out the door as she lets you out and locks the door behind you. You spin in the crisp evening air, wave to her, still watching as you walk – dance really – away.
The street leading up to your house is nearly deserted, but you can’t help look at your reflection in car windshields and mirrors. Thoughts of what dress to buy that will show off your legs, and still let you keep your dignity, waltz across your mind. You find yourself remembering the black dress you mocked as “Posh Spice’s second skin” and suddenly you want to wear it, feel it hug your body as you run your hands down it to smooth away any rumple and reveal to the whole world a body that is tone and ready for action. You are a virgin, and in no hurry to lose that virtue, but you are set on never again having to go home and choke on microwaved dinners with a magazine.
You know you’ll have to dress up your place too. If you’re going to make friends and have them over, you can’t have them see your place as a cleaned-up prison cell. You can afford some new clothes and a painting or two; you’ve always put your check in the bank and saved it for a rainy day. It isn’t raining, but you’ve spent your whole life up to this point being cautious, now you are going to be an adventure.
A man passes and you grin, not that weak grin you only used to show when cornered into acknowledging someone’s presence, but a full-faced ‘glad to see you’ smile. You offer a coy wink, or the closest approximation of one you can offer. You feel like a new person, but you still have to learn a few things about flirtation.
The passer-by smiles in appreciation of the effort, he winks back, only in a much more schooled way. You hear him say “gorgeous hair,” and look back to see him looking over his shoulder at the back of your head.
You don’t notice yourself walking past your apartment and straight up to the newsstand. You see the guy behind the counter closing up for the evening. “Hey, howdy,” you say, the words are English but sound foreign coming out of your mouth.
“Hey pretty lady,” he says, like always. He looks up to see the new you. His jaw drops with a single word, “wow” coming out. It is obvious he is impressed. Shocked, stunned, impressed and very obviously aroused.
“You look so good,” he says, finding his bearings.
“Are you finished here?” you ask. Your words are direct, but there is a gleam in your hazel-tinged eyes.
He nods, and offers up a “yes.”
“Feel like going dancing?” you ask. The look in his eyes says more than yes.
It says, “Hell yeah!”
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