Just now, I was able to book an appointment with a barber I’ve never met, to sit in a chair I’ve never seen, to give him jurisdiction of my crown for 15 minutes.
I will give him $25 and I will leave. It will have been a transaction of necessity and ease and I will be back in a month. I will walk the cobblestone back to my office and will, for the rest of the day, shed.
This will happen exactly four more times this year.
I will remember getting my summer cut back in Alabama.
Once a year, before it got too hot, us boys would load into Pop’s truck after taking a picture. Four with a year’s worth of hair and one with a beard. Pictures that would live in our photo albums and would move to Florida for them and to Mississippi and to Atlanta and to Durham and to Massachusetts for me.
We’d drive five blocks to the barbershop down by L&S Foodland. The property was in disrepair back in 1986. Even more so in high school when I’d carry ladies groceries to their cars trying to avoid the potholes. Exactly twenty-five years later, I’d read that the economy had eaten them up and they’d closed their doors and were trying to sell the property to the county.
I’d usually walk down to that same strip mall to get beans or olives, or whatever else a recipe called for that we didn’t have in the cupboard. I’d pass a laundromat, and dream about taking my clothes (which we hung dry) there to the crumbly laundry mat, breathe in the chemical scent and know once I put them in the dryer they would smell fresh. They wouldn’t be stretched, they wouldn’t be frozen from the moisture in them when the nights got below zero, they wouldn’t be faded and the holes would fix themselves, they would not be hand me downs or inexpensive or practical, and the elastic in my sweatpants wouldn’t be broken.
But on this day, my dad would drive. Past two stop signs. Past a flipped buggy.
They would see us tumble from the cab. Jostling. Trying to make sure we got a seat that had a months old Field and Stream or the funnys then bee lining to the penny gumball machine.
The barbers were: An old lady who was probably in her sixties, and a younger one in her early twenties. I’d pray to get the younger one, who was in my mind the most beautiful unisex haircutter of the ages. She had bangs and a perm for days and the softest smell of Laundromat and Aquanet. I would imagine she was a proficient roller skater and spent her off hours cruising the Square. I loved her.
I’d get the old lady while my brother would fall into the chair of my love. We’d both receive the same buzz. A cut he later would receive like clockwork in the service of our country.
The gal would fidget with my head for 15 minutes. Mumble and click her dentures. We’d all laugh at Mama’s House from the 13” television, in a strip mall, aware of those other boys walking through the parking lot with their bags full of beans and olives, trying to avoid the potholes. Pop would give the ladies $20 and we’d rub our heads on the way out. The hand feel of summer.
This would happen exactly four more times.