Riding on the Metro by HeadBoy
Snow was falling, D.C. was cold and Congress was not in session, so the streets were a nearly-eerie quiet. The wind whistled through the naked cherry blossom trees, waiting for spring to make them visions of loveliness and cotton candy-hued proof of God’s grace.
Mary sat, nose in a book, ash-blonde hair laying cozy on her shoulders, bangs hanging just past her eyebrows. Her life was a very ordered thing, work by nine, home by 6:30, lunch at 1 o’clock, sharp. Today was no different, she stepped onto the metro red line Tenley Circle down to Farragut North and off to work she went.
Off to work into your typical eight-story office monolith in our nation’s capital, near enough to the Mayflower hotel to smell the stench of cigars. Cigars and amour. The unhealthy stench of unholy alliances and dalliances. A place where guys named Newt and women named Monica came to see our nation’s morality collapse under the weight of their hypocrisy. A place where people met under the aegis of anonymity and infidelity. Mary would have none of that, her life was all direction and action. Frank’s, however, was not.
Exiting the metro, Mary bumped into Frank. “Oh, excuse me,” they both said in unison. Their eyes met, and while it was not true love, it was at least a mutual interest. Mary had eyes like emeralds, green pools of splendor, like Ring of Kerry in Ireland. Her face was youthful, looking at least fifteen years younger than her 45 years spent on this planet. She’d been carded at the local grocery store just the night before when she bought a bottle of Merlot. She was a young-looking, hyper intelligent woman, Frank was a young 28-year-old with bedroom eyes and a way of talking around things.
But Mary was always too busy for nuance, so she admired his directness – directness in one sense, sex.
After dinner the first day they’d met, Mary and Frank ended up at the Mayflower, Mary giggling like a schoolgirl doing something she knew she shouldn’t.
Frank dressed quickly afterward, and muttered something about having to go to a memorial for his father – a navy officer who had passed away recently. Mary wondered why Frank sounded so cheerful earlier, and so somber (in a forced way) now. She shrugged it off, figuring that Frank must not have been close to his dad and was attending the memorial out of family obligation.
She showered up, checked out of the hotel and returned to work the next day, acting as though nothing had happened.
As she walked by her co-workers toward her desk, the typical murmurs of “Sister Mary” could be heard. Derogatory comments about her straight-laced lifestyle. She was a bit proper, in an office full of people who were younger, less moral and much, much, less intelligent.
She never paid much attention to that talk. This day in particular, she thought of her dalliance, a one-time thing? What led her to do such a thing? His eyes, those dark lobes of road-worn brilliance? Maybe. Maybe it was just that she thought he was an intriguing type of person, and a younger man. She’d never been with anyone that much younger than she. It was a rush. A wild ride. But would it be a one-time thing? No.
On the metro home, Frank entered just heartbeats behind her. The touch of his hand on her shoulder sent shivers up Mary’s back.
“Oh,” she said, a smile revealing laugh lines on her face, “Frank.”
“Hey,” he answered, his jeans faded and his shirt unbuttoned too far for such cool weather.
“How was the memorial?” she asked.
“Huh?” he said, caught off guard, “Oh, it was okay. Mom was pretty broken up, and my sister had to be sedated. I’m going to have trouble coming up with the money to pay for all of this.”
Mary listened, but didn’t speak. Part of her thought, “My intuition tells me this guy is trouble.” Another part of her kicked into maternity mode and wanted to hug him and take care of him. She wondered why he’d be dressed like he was, shabbily, after attending a memorial?
She invited him up to her condo when they got to her stop, and she made him a cup of tea and let him vent. He’d sold his Lexus and given the money to his mom to pay for the burial and still needed plenty more money to take care of his sister. After twenty minutes, he ran out of tales to tell and Mary found herself in his arms. In her bed. In his grasp. If the first night with him had been earth-shattering, this time was better. Better, as in, the earth didn’t shatter, it ceased to exist.
As they lay next to each other, Frank told Mary of his fetish, his secret lust to cut a woman’s hair.
Mary sat up in bed.
Frank explained how sensual a woman’s neck was, like a crane, only more majestic and regal. And how seeing a woman’s ears exposed was better, to him, than hitting the lottery.
Mary looked at him, her eyes softened, her head tilted toward him and she began to listen to his ideas on scissors and clippers. How he longed to run a brush over her hair until it glistened, then comb away all imperfections, until it was a uniform sheet of ashen beauty.
Then he’d slide the scissors across the back, at the collar, and watch the snipped-off hair fall to the ground. He’d work his way forward, in a straight line, snipping slowly and methodically until he’d worked his way around to the front on both sides. Then he’d snip away again, this time at the bottom of her ears, cleaning up the back with his Wahl clippers, leaving the back tapered and squared off neatly.
The idea appealed to Mary, after nearly two hours of wild sex, coupled with no sleep the night before, made her a bit groggy. But it also was Frank, his personality was a dark thing, but an alluring one as well. Part of Mary’s head told her he was the devil, sent here to corrupt her orderly life. The other section of her head was screaming “Pinhead! This is the best sex you’ve had in your entire life! Do you want to turn that down? Get a haircut, it’ll turn him on, and be simpler for you in the mornings. It won’t take nearly as long to get ready, which means you can get some extra sleep and still catch your metro.”
“Okay,” she said, looking at Frank in his current state; guard down, frightfully honest and even a little vulnerable.
The floor of Mary’s kitchen felt cold under their bare feet. The lovely tile would be easy to clean up afterward, and Frank stood in front of Mary, brushing her hair like he said he would.
It took what seemed like hours, and she enjoyed every stroke of the hairbrush. He took great care to catch any knots before the brush pulled through them. The feeling was ethereal for Mary. It was for Frank too.
Mary asked why he liked this so much, Frank just smiled while he switched to a comb. The constant repetition soothed Mary, she could feel the tension leaving her body at an alarming rate. Not that she felt much to begin with, but this was definitely relaxing.
The scissors made slicing noises, barely audible little snips. Mary sat up straight in the chair, beach towel draped over her shoulders. She tingled inside, that schoolgirl thing again. She wondered how cute this would look, she hadn’t had short hair since her days in the Peace Corps when, as a cruel joke, one of her co-volunteers told the barber she wanted a crewcut. Not speaking the language, Mary had no idea until it was too late to stop. But, she was also in a remote village, so she never saw herself in a mirror until over a year after she’d been crewed. By then, it had grown out a great deal, and the shock was gone. It was more of a shock to see herself again, not seeing your reflection for 15 months, you’re a changed person by the time you see yourself again.
But there she sat while Frank snipped away, she could feel his warm, large, hands on her neck, tilting her head forward as he snipped away her straight hair into a shoulder-length style. It didn’t last long, he brushed it quickly, then, just as he said, snipped away again, this time slightly above the base of her ears. She could feel the cool evening air on the bottom of her lobes for the first time in eons. A rush of excitement flowed through her, she couldn’t wait to see how it looked when her finished.
Frank began talking as he snipped away, “So I have to get up pretty early tomorrow,” he said as he picked up the clippers, and held them as they cleaned up Mary’s neck.
“Oh yeah, why’s that?”
Frank ran the clippers over the back of Mary’s neck, the tingle she felt was indescribable. “I’ve got to go pick up my dad at the airport,” he said, and he continued the clippering.
“Your dad?” Mary said. You could actually hear the question mark.
“Yeah,” Frank said, removing the guard and squaring off the hairline.
“I thought you said you were at his memorial today. What’s up?”
Frank stopped. He looked out the window. He looked at the floor. He looked Mary in the eyes, and tried to think of something to say.
He stammered away a few half-thought excuses that didn’t even gain enough steam coming out of his mouth to make sense. He stood there, jaw agape, face white as a sheet, caught!
“Oh hell, I lied,” he said, dropping the clippers on the kitchen tile, cracking one slightly. “I was gonna sell your hair for the money. I really need the money.”
Mary sat there, stunned.
Frank did need money, he confessed as he spilled his guts to her. He did so in rapid-fire fashion, Mary caught, maybe, every third word. He vented and confessed until he ran out of breath, then he walked away.
Mary sat there, not for long though.
She heard the door slam, Frank was leaving. Would she see him on the red line tomorrow? Would he speak to her again? Did she want him to?
She walked over to the mirror to see how her hair looked, all cut off and buzzed at the nape.
“Why would anyone want to buy hair? My hair?” she thought. Did Frank actually like her, or was she just some easy mark? Some gullible woman, gullible and susceptible to flattery and a pair of far away eyes? Far away eyes, and a semi-goofball charm, a charm that was shrouded in his inability to speak directly, well until the last time he spoke, before he dropped his clippers and wandered out into the Washington chill.
Did he do this to other women? Was there some sort of clippered nape league of D.C. women who, unbeknownst to them, were part of some sucker’s club? What would her co-workers say now? Their little “Sister Mary” mumblings would probably grow louder. Or, they probably wouldn’t notice, not for at least a week; Mary could show up to work naked and it would take an hour or two before the staff would pull their collective head out of their collective ream of reports to notice anything.
Mary shrugged at all the questions in her head, she felt lucky that he wasn’t a deranged person who tried to convince her to tattoo his name on her ass, or empty her checking account for him. She’d heard stories of guys like that. Guys who would find easy prey and endear themselves to the unwitting. Mary was unwitting, and lost her ashen head of hair. She didn’t cry about it, not her style.
She felt the back of her head as she stared into the new women staring back. “This looks good,” she said to herself, “even if he was unhinged.” Then she walked into the living room to catch this week’s “Sopranos” and bolt the door in case Frank tried to come back.
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