Roberto’s Taco Stand, and The Meaning of Life by Headboy
The after-effects of Roddy’s new look were somewhat mixed. Some of our neighbors loved it, called it “bold” or “nervy”, others just gawked. I loved it. She came by often after that first meeting and we became close friends. But somewhere along the line, either via the harshness of others, or the severity of her makeover, Roddy didn’t keep her hair buzzed.
A few months had gone by and she was wearing a pixie cut, still over the ears and off the collar, still short by anyone’s standards, but there was a forlorn look in her eyes. I wonder what it meant, but I never asked. Never thought it was my place. Besides, I enjoyed her company, she was uncommonly happy-go-lucky 90% of the time.
We were out at the Princess Pub one night, drinking Black And Tans, listening to Square Go (a local Scottish pub rock transplant to San Diego, good stuff and never a cover charge). Roddy looked over at me. “Let’s get outta here.”
We walked up the streets of Little Italy. The restaurants were packed, the streets crowded, so we headed over toward the ocean. It’s only about three blocks away, and you can be alone if you want to. Roddy did, apparently, and I was curious as to why.
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“Ben,” she said, rubbing the back of her head. “I’m a coward.”
“Huh?” I said, sounding dumb. At that moment I was, so at least it was an accurate portrayal.
“I’ve known you for about three months now, right?”
“And, well, I’ve got to be honest.” Her voice was measured, meaningful. “Ever since we cut each other’s hair, I’ve wanted to again. But I hate the way people looked at me. When I’m around you, I feel great. But I don’t see you at school, at work, at the store, wherever. People are so damn cold sometimes. They’re not used to a girl with no hair.” Her voice trailed off, she looked sadder than before.
“Finally, people stopped looking at me weird when it got long enough to comb, but what do they expect? Laura Ingles? I’m not like that.”
She talked for the better part of the night, I nodded. The beer had worn off hours ago, and the chill off the Pacific was starting to bite. Her eyes were puffy from crying, too puffy to drive. So I did.
We went home, to my apartment. Since I met her I’d done my best to doll the place up. I bought a simple, comfortable chair at a yard sale. It matched the futon, and the lamp I got at Target on clearance. It was my best attempt at growing up. That coupled with the fact that I put the comic books into the closet when I wasn’t reading them, and actually vacuumed on a regular basis helped beautify the place. Roddy beautified it more than used furniture could.
She took me into the bathroom. She sat me down and grabbed the clippers. I didn’t speak, I was afraid to. She didn’t bother using an attachment this time. Since I’d met her this had become a weekly ritual: she’d sit me down and clipper off the previous week’s growth, we’d shower, and have sex. Not just sex, wild, erotic lovemaking that made angels weep. The kind of thing that would make Morrissey smile. The sort of earth-shattering, time-stopping moments that everybody lies about having on a weekly basis. But none of it was me.
Roddy was taken to some place I couldn’t reach by all of this. Her Mid-America, small-town girl charm would melt away to reveal an energetic, primal beast. Who was I to complain? And if all I had to do was let her trim my hair to become the recipient of the kind of sexual experience that would make the sun imploding on itself all right, so be it.
But she’d always kept it 1/4 to 1/2″. Not this time. I had never been totally bald before. It never really held my interest. Michael Jordan looked great bald, but I wasn’t MJ. Worried, feeling a pang in my stomach, I saw the last remnants of hair fall off my head. She ran hot water over a wash cloth, wrapped it around my head, and smiled.
“What?” I said, curious about what thrilled her so. She raised a finger to her lips. “Shhhh.”
I was silent. She ran the razor over my skull. It felt liberating. It felt soothing, too. She was so intent on doing a complete job, her eyes focused, her tiny hands worked quickly. I wasn’t asked if I wanted this new look, it was given to me. Her gift, Roddy’s fantasy, she later told me, was to shave me completely bald. She’d wanted to since the first day she saw me.
Her hands caressed my scalp, it was a new sensation for me. I liked it. I looked in the mirror and was stunned by how different I looked. I didn’t think 1/2″ of hair could change my appearance so much. I don’t know if it was an improvement or not. My eyes looked bigger, more in proportion with my face. My head was, thankfully, round enough to carry the look. She trimmed my goatee while I sat, still stunned. I would need a tan on my head to avoid looking two-tone.
“Do you like it?” she asked, her face beaming with joy. Even if I hadn’t I wouldn’t spoil her fun. I nodded, still in more than a little shock. “Good,” she said, her voice firm, “cause you’re keeping it this way.”
In my head, the debate raged: Was I being ordered around? Did I like the new look? Did I like being ordered around? Was this the next step in our relationship?
Roddy took my hand, and made me rub my skull. “OOOO,” she said, “it feels great, huh?” Actually, it did. I could get used to this. I looked at the clock, it read 3:57 am, but I wasn’t tired.
“Ready?” she asked.
“For what?” I asked back.
She sat down, handed me the clippers and told me to “make us twins”. Her hair was soft, and easy to clipper through. A moan of pleasure came out of her mouth. She grinned openly as hair fell around her. The lather clung to the remaining bristles of hair on her head as I rinsed out the razor. “Slowly,” she instructed. I complied. With in a few minutes, her head glistened in the light, she too would need a tan on her skull. She pulled me into the shower, the water hurt hitting my naked head for the first time.
We got dressed afterward and walked across to Roberto’s Taco Shop. It was always open, and the smell of guacamole and rolled tacos was too inviting to pass up. We sat at the small, overly-bright, orange table munching our breakfast.
“So Roddy,” I asked, “what about the ‘I’m afraid’ conversation you and I had not six hours ago?”
She smiled that smile that leaves me powerless, wiped a piece of cheese off her lip, and said, “You think too hard Ben. If they don’t like me for who I am, I’ll stare back. Hell, I may even bark at them or something. They can all just get over themselves.”
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