This is The Modern World by Headboy
Like any other coffee house, in any other town in America, and most likely the rest of the world, the young ones sit. Young, alive, full of promise and angst, and anger and hope and love and confusion. A torrent of raging emotions, and raging hormones, locked in a battle royale. Mood swings are common, euphoria and depression walk hand in hand. It’s probably the lack of sleep coupled with the urge to drink, pop pills and be seen as much as age.
In the middle of all this, at least here, but she’s not without her counterparts throughout the world, sits Portia, the queen of her little circle. What she says goes, and what is about to go is about two feet of her hair.
Tired of the jet black, ironed-straight look of Natasha Fatale, Portia scoured about 50 magazines looking for the perfect no look. She found it in some obscure Italian magazine from 1967, Faciatza.
The girl in the picture looked like Twiggy, only with dark hair and almond-shaped eyes. They match those on Portia, the olive skin, the big eyes, the sleek lines, the classic European beauty that so many girls starve themselves to acquire and spend themselves into poverty trying to maintain. Portia had “it,” that quality that most guys swooned over and most girls envied.
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She hopped on her Vespa P-200 and motored home, through the crowded traffic. She barely slowed down, zipping in between cars like some television commercial trying to convince people how effortless life can be with a scooter. Portia traversed the twenty blocks home in no time, dropped her keys on the phone stand by the door, dropped the mail on the breakfast nook and headed to the bathroom with her rolled-up copy of Faciatza in hand.
She brushed her hair over and over, sparkles of light jumped off, lighter brown highlights shown through the black tresses, her wry smile appeared, as always. “Yup, it’s gotta go.” Her mind was made up, and when Portia came to a decision, there was no turning back.
Macy sat across from Portia, listening in disbelief. She had always wanted Portia’s hair, her own was so stringy and fly-away that if she let it grow much past her chin it started to fray and look horrid – like some Laura Petry flip gone horribly wrong.
“Port, what the hell are you thinking?” she interrupted.
Looking out over the slowly rolling waves of the Pacific from the roof of Gelato Café, Portia scrunched her nose toward Macy. “Not thinking anything really, just tired of all this hair,” she said, pushing the magazine toward Macy again so she’d look at the photo.
“But those bangs,” Macy said, still astonished. “They’re so short!”
“Good, they’ll be safely tucked under my helmet then when I’m riding through town.”
“You really want your ears exposed?”
“Wow, indeed,” Portia said, sly smile hidden by the cup of coffee rising to her lips.
The Hurry Ups were playing. Portia looked at her boyfriend, Carl, across the dance floor, he swayed to the beat as he saw her approach. An old Who song was rocking the floor, and blistering eardrums inside the 40 Watt Lounge. “I don’t mind… other guys dancing with my girl/That’s fine, I know them all pretty well…” the singer warbled in a decent Roger Daltry voice.
Carl smiled, even though he knew it was far from cool to do so in front of his hipster pals and the wannabes. He didn’t care, Portia was exotic, beautiful and all his.
The Hurry Ups banged away at another mod classic, not having any songs of their own. The Jam’s “Modern World” shook the walls and brought shrieks and hoots from the 100 or so in attendance. Portia arrived late in the evening, the crowd was already thinning, Carl had knocked back one too many café lattes and was buzzing pretty hard.
“Let’s get out of here,” Portia said, grabbing his skinny tie and pulling him to the exit.
On the way out, Portia kissed the bouncer at the door goodnight. “See ya, sweetheart,” she said. Not many people could call a 6’ 8″ mountain of a human being “sweetheart” and get away with it, at least not this one, but she could; the whole world seemed to like her.
Up the road, in Carl’s studio apartment, a place too Spartan for a 26-year-old with a career to live in, Portia broke the news to him.
“I’m going to cut my hair, and I hope you understand,” she said, eyes locking on his to catch his initial reaction.
Words fell out of his mouth, most of them were negative. Disbelief followed shock, which followed a stunned silence. His Portia had always had sleek, dark hair. Sleek dark hair that rested well down her back.
She described the cut she wanted, the squared-off back, cut above the collar, the choppy sides, cut over the ears, the bangs that rested high up the forehead. Carl swallowed hard, caught his breath and tried to talk her out of this idea. It was to no avail, she had made up her mind, and like it or not, Carl would just have to deal.
“But Port, you’ll look like Dorothy Hamill, or something.”
“Not hardly,” she said, showing him the picture from Faciatza, which she now kept folded up in the pocket of her denim jacket.
Seeing the photo didn’t help Carl any, if anything, it made it a more real possibility.
“So, um, who are you going to have do this?” He asked, his voice not remotely kind.
“Riley, like always.”
“What does she think about this? Her favorite head of hair?”
“Her favorite head of hair is connected to my favorite head of me. She’ll do it, or I’ll get someone else to cut it off.”
The two continued talking, but not much else was said. Portia left soon after, walking up the street to her Vespa. The cool night air kept her awake, and the abandoned brewery looked as spooky as always, with the vats visible through the broken windows, and the sound of cats wailing and meowing inside a near-haunted sound. Portia sung quietly to herself as she walked, “My Boy Lollipop” filled the air with her ready-for-the-pop-charts voice filling the night air.
“Beautiful voice, and a beautiful lady,” a voice said in the darkness.
“Thanks,” she said, walking toward the shadowed person coming up the sidewalk from the opposite direction.
“You wouldn’t have any spare change to go with that lovely voice of yours, would you please?” asked the man. He was in his mid-to-late-40’s, disheveled and wearing a Rasputin-length beard.
“Probably,” she said, in her characteristically happy voice, digging into her jacket pocket. She handed the homeless man $5, looked him in the eyes and said, “I’m sorry it’s not more, but I hope it helps, my friend.”
“It does, and don’t you ever change, not a thing about you, Miss. And God bless you.”
“You too,” she said, walking up the street.
Fear clung in Portia’s throat as she watched TV to fall asleep. One of those entertainment news magazine shows was doing a feature on Jennifer Aniston’s latest hairstyle; a hideous chop job that was more punishment for her previous long, straight, boring thing and the “Rachel” than anything remotely contemporary or stylish.
For the first time since making up her mind to cut her hair, Portia wondered if she would look horrible afterward. But she knew when she woke up the next day, she had an appointment. The question was, would she show up?
The voice of the homeless man rang in her ears as she drifted away… “don’t you ever change, not a thing about you, Miss.”
Morning came, Portia showered and massaged her head with a vigor as she shampooed. The water from the shower nozzle was its typical near-scalding hot. Portia liked an insanely hot shower in the morning. She liked the feeling of her fingernails scratching in the suds as she moved her head from one side to the other to stretch herself awake, and wash away the night’s dreams. Dreams of Macy, Carl and the homeless man standing in front of her telling her not to go through with it. The picture in her hand, Portia walked through them.
Portia was never one to give a second thought to dreams, so she ignored this one too. She pulled on her clothes, grabbed her helmet and headed out to the parking lot to ride her Vespa the 12 blocks to Riley’s salon.
Portia wandered into Riley’s cozy salon, with her copy of Faciatza, now tattered and folded but still recognizable, and felt her heart pulsate in her chest.
“Hey, Port, here for the trim?” Riley asked, her face all grin and freckles. She had a sunny disposition and a wall full of memorabilia that screamed London, circa 1965.
“No,” Portia said back, beginning to shake. Finding some sort of calm amidst her new-found terror she showed the picture to Riley and forced a smile. The look on Riley’s face said it all to Portia; fear had found its way to Riley’s face too.
The two sat and talked for forty-five minutes, going back and forth, Portia vacillated between chickening out and appeasing her friends, but in the end decided to go for it and trust fate. Portia didn’t want to look foolish to her friends, but they’d always looked to her for fashion’s next wave. If she was going to be a coward in life, it wasn’t going to be with regards to hair. She’d decided, and with a confident nod, she looked at Riley… and that was that.
The scissors seemed to already know the path. This amazed Riley as she felt them guide her hands as they snipped away feet of hair. Snipping away, hair fell into Portia’s lap from over her shoulder; Riley must have been working quickly. Cutting sounds filled her ears, and obscured the sound of traffic from the street. She stared out the window, watching the passers-by watch her. The cutting came in quick, short bursts, followed by the sound of a water bottle spraying mist onto her head. The mist felt cool, almost too cold, but Portia sat still, watched a man standing in the window, jaw agape, as if he were watching a roadside collision. But no, he was watching hair, lots of it, being cut.
Much snipping had reduced the shining, gloriously beautiful mane of Portia’s to just below her chin in a matter of seconds. A shiver down Portia’s spine made her shake for a moment. Riley smiled, but the two did not speak. Riley combed the mountain of hair straight down in front of Portia’s eyes. She felt the blades graze her forehead, leaving an angular sweep of bangs that brushed the far side of her left eyebrow, dipping slightly over her eye.
Riley snipped away the sides and combed them back over the ears. There was much more snipping and clipping. Hair fell about, resting just below the ears. Portia felt a tingle throughout her body, a rush of exhilaration. She felt the teeth of the comb ramble across the side of her head as Riley combed the now short hair behind Portia’s cute, petite, ears. Behind the ears, Riley trimmed the hair shorter to help keep the front section in place more easily. Visions of Jennifer Aniston’s tonsorial assassination danced in Portia’s head as she was afraid to look.
Underneath the back of her hair, Riley clipped Portia’s thick head of hair down to something more manageable. The ends in back curled up, not knowing what to do. They had never been this short before, and acting as if they had a mind of their own. Riley decided to play that up, giving Portia’s hair a sort of mini-Marie Tyler Moore look with a tidy flip in the back starting just at the ears. Portia’s hair had warm chestnut highlights sowing, smooth sides and sweeping bangs, a totally different look than before. A totally different look from the magazine picture too, really. She didn’t seem to mind, “I can make it look exactly like the picture if you’d like,” she said.
Portia touched the back with one hand, looking in a hand mirror, seeing the back in the bigger mirror behind her. She tilted her head from one side to the other, examining the new look, the short sides that swept back not even an inch long, the little flip in the back, the bangs that drew attention to her eyes, always a good thing. She looked up at Riley, smiled and said thank you. Where Macy’s hair would look fly-away with this cut, Portia looked alluring.
She didn’t know how she’d be able to wear her helmet on the ride home without wrecking the new ‘do. So she parked her Vespa, wandered across the parking lot to buy a magazine and a cup of coffee and watch people. They would be watching her too.
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