Lisa walked into the finally mostly empty galley where James, ships captain, expedition leader, and professor of biology, was sitting and having a beer.
“Thank god the students are all gone. I need a beer so bad it’s not even funny.” Lisa said as she slid in to sit across from him. “Where did you hide them this year?”
“Behind some specimens.” James slid an unopened bottle over to her. “in a box labelled ‘chum.’”
“That sounds gross,” Lisa said as she popped the cap and took her first swig.
“Talking about gross… What was clogging the drain pipe?”
“Just lots and lots of hair.” Lisa sighed at the way too recent memory. “Huge ball of it.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t find out about it before all the students were gone, It was their responsibility.” James said and took a swig of his own beer. Then laughing he joked. “It’s not like you or I have enough hair to cause that kind of problem.”
Lisa chuckled and nodded. The professor was mostly bald and kept what little hair still grew buzzed very short. Lisa’s short pixie was more hair than his, but still not enough to create the kind of issue that had caused the over flow they had been stuck cleaning up.
“Those students were awfully eager to get off this boat at the end.” Lisa added. “The clogged drain wasn’t the only mess they stuck us with.”
“Very true. I considered keeping some of the bed sheets they left for you. The biomass on them could have made a great subject for your doctoral thesis.” James joked.
“Eww. Thanks, but no thanks.” Lisa laughed. “They were a rather uninspired bunch. Not that last year’s were much better. Not one of them asked me to unpack the microscope or help setting up a dissection when they weren’t being required to. Heck, when they were required to, I had to find them and remind them and they did the quickest half assed work possible.”
“It drives me batty. I have students that would have worked twice as hard, but by the time they apply for grants or scrounge together funds some other way, the slots are all filled with the students who can just call daddy to cover the fees.” James complained. “The university won’t let me set aside any slots for students who need grants. I had a hard enough time convincing the administration that my graduate assistants shouldn’t have to cover their own costs.”
“Thanks. I appreciate not having to pay to act as janitor.”
“You’re way more than a janitor. You’re great at instructing the students.” James said. “Talking about which, Professor Patton is retiring soon, once you finish your doctoral, you could apply to replace him. He used to run these expeditions with me before his health started declining. If you got the position, you could come every year.”
“It’s a thought.” Lisa said twirling her bottle. “I am definitely interested in the position, not so sure I want to sign up to play janitor for students who think this is a cruise ship vacation though. Maybe I’ll apply for the position but leave the expeditions to you and your next graduate assistant. I’m not looking forward to having to pull giant hairballs out of this boat’s ancient pipes year after year.”
“I just had a crazy idea that would make any student who isn’t one hundred percent dedicated think twice about signing up.” James said leaning against the table in a conspiratorial manner as a wide grin spread across his face. “And the clogged drain is the perfect excuse.”
Five years later:
Maggie stared at the to do list held on the fridge by a magnet.
- Go to CVS for
- Rx refill
- Aloe Vera
- Dr appointment at 12
- Check up
- Tetanus booster
- Covid test
- Get haircut, appointment at 3
It was written in her wife Lisa’s neat script. Sometimes it annoyed Maggie how organised Lisa was, other times she appreciated that it made her own life a little more productive so she wasn’t always the stereotypical absentminded professor. Today, it was just pissing her off. Sure the first item on the list was fine. The second item seemed a little patronizing, she’d been managing to go to the doctor by herself for years. The third item just felt like rubbing it in though.
It wasn’t like she was going to forget that she had to get the haircut. Maggie’s hair wasn’t just beautiful, it was kind of her security blanket. Feeling it and playing with it comforted her when she was nervous or upset. She’d been dreading the possibility ever since she had agreed to the unreasonable demand months
It had been Lisa’s colleague James who had suggested they could invite Maggie along on the expedition. He had come to the opening of an art exhibit of Maggie’s watercolors. The title of the show was “Micro.” It was a series of paintings of everyday things magnified 20 times. James had not only been impressed by the paintings themselves, but by how Maggie had written about observing the objects in her artist’s statement.
James felt the students could learn a lot about observation by taking a few drawing lessons from Maggie on the trip. Lisa had seemed much less keen on the idea. The whole conversation she kept just saying “I don’t think you will want to come” without explanation.
It wasn’t till they were in the car that Maggie asked Lisa why she didn’t want her to come along. Lisa explained that she would love for Maggie to come, and swore that she really did think Maggie would be an asset to the trip. She finally told Maggie she didn’t think she would want to come along because she would have to get her long strawberry blond hair cut off.
With several glasses of wine in her, Maggie was insulted that Lisa thought she was that vain and they had a bit of a fight about it on the drive home.
The next day when Lisa asked her if she was sure and warned her about how short a haircut it would be, less than an inch below the ear, Maggie regretted that she had not just listened to Lisa the night before, but had way too much pride to admit that Lisa was right.
She considered saying she thought it over and didn’t want to go, but couldn’t think up a reason she felt would actually convince Lisa, who seemed to know exactly what Maggie was think 90% of the time. She figured the chances of everything working out for her to go and actually needing to get the haircut were zilch.
First she figured that both the fine art department head, where she taught, and the biology department head would have objections. But neither of them did. Then she figured there would be problems with the funding, but strangely it all fell into place. All the things that normally go wrong went perfectly smoothly, for the first time ever. And Maggie found herself with no excuse to get out of going without admitting she just really didn’t want to get her hair, that reached almost to her butt, cut short.
Maggie took the list off the fridge, folded up the slip of paper, and put it in her pocket. She went to CVS, got everything on the list and 5 things that weren’t. Then she headed over to the doctors’ office. After an hour of being poked and prodded she had a very sore arm where she had gotten her tetanus shot and was generally a little tired and cranky. Though in all honesty, Maggie had been a little cranky all day. There were two hours to go before her appointment at her salon, and all she really wanted to do was take a nap.
She called Golden Touch Salon and Spa. “Hello, yes. This is Maggie, I have a 3 o’clock appointment with Beverly. I had a tetanus shot today, and now I feel really under the weather. I’m going to need to reschedule.”
She drove home and lay on the couch trying to convince herself that she really did have a legitimate reason to reschedule, and she wasn’t just using it as an excuse. When Lisa got home and saw that Maggie’s hair still hung over the side of the couch all the way to the floor, it was obvious that she thought it was a pretty poor excuse.
“I knew you were going to balk at the haircut. You should never have agreed to come.” Lisa complained as she divided the leftovers into two plates to go in the microwave. “It’s not like you can change your mind now without a very good reason.”
“It’s not that big a deal, I didn’t balk at the haircut, I just really didn’t feel well after the tetanus shot.” Maggie lied.
“Yeah sure, because it is so exhausting to sit still while someone else washes your hair for you, then sit up in a chair for all of twenty minutes.”
“I will reschedule it first thing in the morning.” Maggie quipped back “We still have 5 more days before we start quarantine.”
Lisa still wasn’t happy, but the microwave was beeping, so she let the matter go.
The next morning, there were new to do lists on the fridge, one for Lisa and one for Maggie.
- CALL SALON FOR NEW APPOINTMENT!!!
- Inventory supplies at dock.
- Pack (see packing list on top of dresser)
Maggie sighed and took her list. She poured herself a cup of coffee and went out to the deck, so she could have some quiet to call the salon. Reluctantly she took out the phone and dialed the salon’s number and sat listening to it ring and hoping no one would pick up.
Maggie nervously played with a lock of her hair brushing the ends over her lips, as she counted rings.. Brurrrring one, brurrrrring two, brurrrring…
~Golden Touch Salon and Day Spa, how can I help you?~
“Hi, I need to make a hair appointment with Beverly for today.”
~I’m sorry, but Beverly is booked solid today. Would you like me t~
“I’ll just call back tomorrow then,” Maggie cut in before the receptionist could offer her some perfectly reasonable alternative. “Thank you, have a good day.”
Maggie hung up and crossed off calling the salon from her list, since she had indeed called the salon, just as her to do list said to.
Maggie then left for the dock right away before Lisa could get a chance to question her about how the call went.
That evening Maggie braided her hair in the car before walking into the house, hoping that Lisa wouldn’t notice it and ask. She put her things away, and headed to the kitchen where Lisa was stirring a pot full of spaghetti.
Lisa looked at Maggie, and just stood there not saying anything, till Maggie came over and kissed her. As Maggie pressed her lips to Lisa’s, Lisa reached behind Maggie’s back and grabbed hold of the long braid.
“Explain.” Lisa way too calmly demanded as she held the braided bundle of hair between them.
“Beverly was fully booked today, I couldn’t get an appointment.”
“Did you make one for tomorrow? Did you ask if any other stylists were available?” Lisa asked, even though she was pretty sure she knew the answer. “Did you explore any other options.”
“Sorry, it didn’t occur to me.” Maggie said briskly.
“Oh, don’t give me that bullshit,” Lisa fired back letting her anger show. “You aren’t that stupid.”
Maggie could feel her blood boiling at that. Her ears were hot and her whole body felt like it was buzzing with anger, She opened her mouth to say something, and just closed it. She was just too hurt and angry to make words happen. She just silently walked right back out the door, grabbing her car keys and a sweater on the way.
First Maggie just drove around for a bit. Then she just parked over looking the bridge for a while watching the cormorants drying themselves and crying to herself, till it started getting dark. Then she drove to the diner and had a very lonely dinner at a table in the parking lot. She ordered tea and dessert after dinner and sat sipping it slowly till it was too cold to sit outside in just a sweater any longer. Then she gave in and went home. Lisa was already in bed when Maggie got there, so she went to the den and unfolded the futon to sleep on.
The next morning, there were two new to do lists hanging on the fridge. One labelled Lisa and one labelled Maggie.
- Call salon.
- If Beverly is booked today ask for someone else
- If you can’t get an appointment for today book one for tomorrow.
- If no one else is available either day, call another salon.
- Seriously, this is it. Your salon is closed on Sunday and Monday, if you don’t get this done today, you are going to have to get it done somewhere else. putting it off will not make it go away.
- Take cat to vet. 10am (if you can get an appointment at the salon for 10, cancel the vet appointment, I can reschedule it.)
Maggie took a deep breath and decided not to tear up the to do list no matter how much it pissed her off.
Maggie went to the deck and dialed the salon. Beverly was once again booked solid. in fact the entire salon was booked solid till Tuesday. Maggie called another salon, one a friend of hers went to, that not too surprisingly was also booked solid for the weekend. Maggie made three more calls, and still had no luck.
She briefly considered calling Lisa’s salon, but decided against it. Lisa’s salon wasn’t aweful or anything, but Maggie didn’t want to go to the place she felt was filled with scissor happy stylists. Lisa had suggested that Maggie should go there in the past, since it cost about a third less than what Golden Touch charged for a haircut. The fact that Lisa also frequently suggested that Maggie should get an extra 6 inches or so cut off so she would stop getting her hair caught in the car door, did not increase her trust for the salon. Lisa generally came home from the place with her hair looking neat and tidy, but way shorter than Maggie ever wanted her own hair to be.
She once again spent the day avoiding LIsa. It wasn’t till dinner time that Maggie finally entered the kitchen where Lisa was microwaving a bowl of leftover spaghetti.
“There’s more in the fridge if you want some.” Lisa said cautiously. “I wasn’t sure if you were going to be here for dinner.”
“Thanks” was all Maggie said, trying to avoid starting another fight. She took out the tupperware full of spaghetti and sauce and scooped herself some into a bowl, and popped it into the microwave as soon as Lisa’s was done. Whan Maggie sat down at the table with her bowl of food, she noticed that Lisa had waited for her, and she smiled. They ate together, in only slightly uncomfortable silence. After dinner, they sat on the couch watching TV cuddled close.
That night in bed together, Maggie felt Lisa’s fingers caressing her gently. The last of the anger was dying away, though the frustration it had been born from lingered between them. Maggie turned over to face Lisa. Lisa stroked Maggie’s long hair behind her ear, and finally kissed Maggie. Then held her till Maggie finally fell asleep.
The next morning, Maggie slept in till Lisa woke her.
“Come on sleepy head, you need to get in the shower.” Lisa chastised as she shook the bed.
“It’s Saturday, we can sleep a bit more and I can be smelly if I want. We don’t have anywhere we have to be.” Maggie complained rolling onto her stomach and covering her head with the pillow.
“I still have a long list of errands to run and I need you to come with me,” Lisa said “UNLESS, you have an appointment you need to be at you didn’t tell me about.”
Maggie reluctantly dragged herself out of bed and took a shower. She took her time in the shower, slowly combing the conditioner through her long straight hair hoping beyond hope that Lisa had simply given up on the insistence that the haircut was really necessary. The stated reason that the plumbing just couldn’t handle it seemed rather sketchy to Maggie. There were tons of ways to keep hair out of plumbing.
Maggie dressed and sipping a cup of coffee. Lisa kept glancing at her watch, and looking nervous, but not actually telling Maggie she didn’t have time to enjoy the coffee. Maggie was tempted to drag out the coffee drinking as an experiment to see how long it would take to force Lisa to say something, but decided to just finish the coffee and head to the car with Lisa. She left her hair loose, so it could finish drying.
The first stop was the hardware store, where Lisa again kept checking her watch, and she wound through the aisles, gathering items on her list very efficiently. Maggie was mostly just following along, feeling like Lisa had not needed her help for this.
When they finished with the hardware store, Lisa looked at her watch and frowned. It was obvious to Maggie, that something about the timing was not going as precisely as Lisa had hoped, but what exactly was a mystery.
“Want to grab an ice cream cone?” Lisa asked cheerfully when she looked up from her watch.
Maggie was suspicious, but was figuring playing it cool was her best option. “Sure, sounds great.”
They drove and parked in front of the local ice cream shop. Lisa went to the window and ordered two cones, a mint chocolate chip for Maggie, and a strawberry for herself. They sat on a bench out in front of the shop silently licking their ice cream, as Lisa kept discreetly checking her watch.
It was slightly windy, and Maggie’s long hair whipped about in the wind, the sun catching the strawberry blond strands making the shimmer like rose gold. After a particularly hard gust, a lock of Maggie’s long hair got stuck to the top of her cone. She discreetly pulled it off and sucked the sweet sticky spot clean.
It was a secret comfort of hers. She’d been a hair chewer as a child, till a rather drastic haircut put a very sudden end to it. By the time it grew long enough to chew again, she had gotten used to chewing her nails till they bled instead.
Lisa looked at her watch.
“It’s time.” Maggie had just a couple of inches left on the bottom of her cone, when Lisa spoke up. “You need to go into the salon over there. You have an appointment in 3 minutes. I’ll be over for mine in 30.”
“Really. You couldn’t just leave it up to me, we have 2 more days before quarantine.” Maggie said, looking across the street and seeing Lisa’s salon, Shear Pleasure. “How exactly did you manage to get a Saturday appointment, anyway?”
Maggie had forgotten the salon was across the street from the ice cream shop. She paid fairly little attention to it. She loathed the name. What pleasure could there be in shearing people like they were sheep.
“The only salons open on sundays and mondays around here are chain salons.” Lisa stated trying to not let her temper rise. “I gave you all week to just take care of it on your own, and it didn’t happen. Last week when I made the appointment for myself, I asked if they would mind penciling you in because I wasn’t sure whether or not you would need an appointment too, and pointed out that if you did need it, that they wouldn’t have to sanitize everything in between you and me since we are married.
“You have a few options, you can be angry and waste the appointment, and try to get one at a chain salon tomorrow. Then live with the bad results, or possibly even having to cut it ourselves because they are all booked too.” Lisa continued. “You can find an excuse to not come along on the expedition, and deal with the effects backing out at the very last minute will have on your career. You can show up at the boat with that hair of yours still so long you sometimes accidentally sit on it, and try to explain to the students why the fuck you don’t have to follow the same rules they do. Or you can act like an adult and just go get your damned hair cut like you said you would months ago.”
“I can’t believe you make your students go through this, just so you don’t have to snake out a goddamned pipe.” Maggie said as she got up and dropped the last bit of her ice cream cone in the garbage. “I mean how long does it take at most? A half hour?”
Maggie just left Lisa sitting there as she walked across the street, and put her mask on before opening the door. Lisa sat there feeling like crap. She knew the plumbing was just an excuse.
“Welcome to Shear Pleasure,” The chipper receptionist said from behind her plexiglass shield. “When is your appointment and who is it with?”
“It’s now.” Maggie answered sounding much less chipper. “My wife made it for me, so I’m not sure who it’s with.”
“Maggie?” the receptionist asked. Then after Maggie nodded, she continued. “Your appointment is with Greg. He’ll meet you at the wash station all the way in the back.”
Maggie slowly walked back past the salon stations. to the row of sinks. A man in his mid thirties wearing a black apron stood at the middle one holding a towel. Maggie assumed he was smiling, though it was impossible to tell with half his face covered.
“You must be Maggie,” he said only slightly less chipper than the receptionist had been. “I’m Greg, Lisa has told me so much about you. She wasn’t exaggerating when she said you have amazing hair.”
Being complimented on her hair wasn’t exactly what Maggie needed at that particular moment. Especially hearing that Lisa appreciated it, which seemed odd. Maggie had never really felt like Lisa liked her hair much at all. There were lots of complaints about getting tangled in it during love making. Complaints everytime a shed one was found anywhere other than in a hairbrush. And the way Lisa would tell Maggie she should just get a few more inches off, so she wouldn’t sit on it or get it caught in car doors so much, every time Maggie went for a trim. Maggie was sure she’d heard “It’s pretty, but don’t you find it annoying” at least a dozen times.
“So, did you just need it trimmed today? We could add some layers.” Greg asked. As he gestured for Maggie to sit then draped the towel around her shoulders. “You know, you’d look stunning with bangs.”
“I guess Lisa didn’t tell you what was going on.” Maggie said in a gloomy voice as she lay back in the chair and let her strawberry blond locks fall into the sink. “I need it short. It’s a work thing.”
“Oh,” Greg paused as he adjusted the spray, and realized he was going to be giving an unwanted haircut and needed to switch to sounding sympathetic. “Don’t worry, you will still be stunning.”
Once Maggie was washed and her hair was held against her head by the twisted towel, Greg led her back to his work station. There was a big pile of folded clean capes on the counter of the unused work station next the his. Greg grabbed one and started shaking out the folds.
Maggie watched the leopard print satin unfurl. Then it was billowing around her and covering her lap. Greg fastened the cape around Maggie’s neck as she dreaded what was coming next. He untwisted the towel, so that Maggie’s hair, heavy with water, slapped down on her neck and shoulders.
“So,” Greg said, the cheery chipperness replaced by a straight to business candor. “How short does it have to be.”
“Less than one inch below the ears.” Maggie repeated from her memory of Lisa telling her just how short she meant when she’d said really short. “and I need layers.”
“So, like a chin length bob.” Greg said, placing his hand on her neck that was just about an inch below the bottom of Maggie’s right earlobe, “That will look nice, and it will be easy when you can grow it back out again.”
Greg swiftly combed out Maggie’s smooth healthy hair and sectioned it, leaving just a bit at the base of her neck loose. He went to his counter and switched to a different comb, and then picked up a very pointy pair of scissors. He gently tilted Maggie’s head down and combed the bit in the back till it was very straight. Greg flipped the scissors down into his right hand as his left hand pressed the hair against Maggie’s neck.
Greg started at Maggie’s spine snipping a straight line across her neck with the points of the scissors. Maggie felt the cold blade scrape along as it went. She bit her lower lip, fighting back tears.
After Greg took his hand away from her neck, Maggie heard the plop of her wet locks hitting the floor, and she bit down harder on her lip till she tasted the slight metallic tang of blood.
Greg was soon combing down another section of wet hair to stick against Maggie’s neck. Once again, the scissors poked her neck and slid around her neck. She could just barely hear the slight crunching snips and occasional plop of the wet hair hitting the floor.
Greg repeated the process two more times, before he let maggie raise her head and look in the mirror. The hair in the front was still twirled into little buns on top of her head, but when she turned about 30 degrees, she could just see the severed ends that lay on her neck. Her eyes felt warm suddenly, but she took a deep breath and held back the tears.
Greg let down a section of hair on the side of Maggie’s head, so it hung over her ear. He combed it down and used the comb as a straight edge making a level line between the short hair in the back and Maggie’s chin. For this hair, he sliced through instead of taking little snips.
Maggie watched in the mirror as the sheet of hair fell slidding down the cape into her lap. She looked down at the tangled bundle that now rested in her lap. So, so, much of the hair she loved, now just garbage. She moved her hand slightly meaning to tilt it to look at it better, but accidently sent it sliding off to the floor.
Greg stepped on the small pile of hair as he was checking to make sure his first cut was perfectly level. He combed her hair some more especially around her ear, and took a few snips. This time the hair he cut was so little, the wet clippings simply stuck to the blades of his scissors, not falling.
Soon Greg had another section combed down over the one he had just cut and was again slicing through the hair that rested on Maggies shoulder. When the long locks slid down to Maggie’s lap, she didn’t move her hand, so at least they wouldn’t fall to the floor and get dirty.
After Greg had cut all the hair on the left side, he went over to the right side and repeated the process. Next he combed the front of Maggie’s hair over her face, and trimmed the tiniest amount, just to make sure the sides met evenly in the front.
“And you said layers?” Greg asked.
Maggie nodded, and Greg started the process of combing the hair up, and snipping at it with the points of his scissors.
“Is this good? Or do you want the layers more obvious?” Greg asked after having only taken the tiniest bit off.
“I guess that’s fine,” Maggie said, as she turned her head looking and saw that the layers really just softened the edge of the cut very slightly. She was pretty happy to see that Greg had cut it almost exactly an inch below the bottom of her ear. She had to admit the feeling that Lisa’s stylist must be scissor happy had been unwarranted
“Lets get you dried off then,” Greg said, exchanging the comb and scissors for the hair dryer and round brush. “Then I’ll clean up your neck and make any adjustments.”
Greg was twirling the ends of the sleek bob in just slightly as he blow dryed, it was then that Maggie saw the reflection in the mirror of Lisa walking into the salon and talking to the receptionist. Lisa walked over to Gregs station and leaned against the plexiglass partition with a very annoyed expression on her face. Greg turned off the hairdryer.
“Hi Lisa. We’re almost done, I’ll just be a minute. Sorry we took away all the waiting chairs.” Greg said in a friendly manner.
“What do you mean you’re almost done?” Lisa asked, her voice obviously on the edge of anger. “ This isn’t nearly short enough. Maggie did you really think you could get away with playing games like this?”
“I’m not playing games, this is exactly…” Maggie started, but then Lisa’s phone started ringing, and she held up a finger for silence as she looked at it.
“I have to take this call.” Lisa said gruffly. “I’ll be back in 15 minutes for my haircut. Get it cut the way I said,”
“I did. I’m not…” Maggie started saying to Lisa, but she was already halfway to the door. Maggie looked at Greg and went on in a quieter voice. “Really, I’m not playing games. This is what she told me.”
“It’s ok.” Greg said putting a comforting hand on Maggie’s shoulder since he could see she was close to tears. “I thought you said this was a work thing. Why is your wife the one telling you how short it has to be?”
“We work at the same university. The work thing is a, a trip run by her department.” Maggie explained. “It’s the rules for all the passengers on the research ship. She’s been going for years, it’s my first time.”
“Ah,” Greg said, sounding a little less confused. “Ok, tell me exactly what she said.”
“I don’t think I can tell you word for word, I thought this was what she meant.” Maggie said the frustration and hurt evident. “She said ‘Less than an inch below the ears,’ and something like layers. Layers wasn’t the word she used, it was something that reminded me of those skinny candles called tapers, so I asked her what it meant and she said it was kind of like layers.”
“So could she have said ‘Less than and inch below the ears, and TAPERED?’” Greg asked.
Maggie thought for a minute, before saying “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
Greg sighed. and put his hairdryer down on the counter. He picked up a sprayer of water and came around behind Maggie and looked her in the eye through the mirror.
“Tapered is only sort of like layers,” Greg began. “It really means gradually getting shorter and shorter as you go down the head towards the neck. I’m pretty sure what Lisa meant was less than one inch below the top of the ear, and that it needs to be very short against the head in the back.
“Do you want me to do it?” Greg asked as he indicted the spot ¾ of the way up Maggie’s ear he was talking about on the sides of Maggie’s head with his hand. “You’ve already lost well over a foot and a half of hair, this would be about another 4 inches.”
“If I had known how short it had to be before, I would have said no, but at this point…” Maggie got through her quivering lip, and looked at the floor so much of her beautiful hair already scattered in a circle dirty and tangled. “I guess, just do it.”
A tear was rolling down her cheek. Maggie wasn’t totally sure how much the tear had to do with the haircut suddenly being even shorter than what she thought she had agreed to, and how much it was about being hurt and embarrassed by Lisa chastising her like that in public.
Greg started spraying the water and rewetting Maggie’s hair, he didn’t bother to really soak it, he just dampened the top layers slightly. He started sectioning, working much faster this time than he had before. The hair he clipped to the top of Maggie’s head, was just sloppily twisted instead of made into careful buns.
“I’m planning to do a little bit of an undercut around the ears.” Greg stated as more of a fact than a question, while leaving a bit of the hair around Maggie’s ear down as well as the hair along the back of her head. “It will look a bit less like a Karen cut that way, if you know what I mean. Ok?”
Maggie just made a very slight nod to acknowledge what he was saying.
Greg dove right into taking things shorter, since he was basically having to start over at what was meant to be the end of Maggie’s appointment. He Just used the pressure of the comb against her head, to indicate that she should tilt her head down, to once again give him access to the nape.
He combed up a the hair, and just sliced the damp tresses off against the comb. The chunk of shorn hair, fell to Maggie’s caped shoulder, where it broke apart. Some of it spilled down to her lap, where she stared at it.
Maggie sat there, stiffly looking at the hair in her lap as she listened to the scissor crunching through the already too short hair at the back of her skull. Watching as occasionally some of the hair slid down from her shoulders and added to the fluffy pile in her lap. She watched as a tear fell from her nose, and made a wet spot in the middle of the pile.
The sound of the cutting was louder this time. The scissors were bitting through more hair at once, and it was nearly dry. Maggie tried to tune out the repeated crunching. Tuning out the sound just made her more aware of the feel of chunks of hair hitting her shoulders and neck though.
After Greg had cut off the bulk of Maggie’s hair in the back, he started combing up and tapering it scissor over comb. Some of the very short clippings that fell, stuck to Maggie’s neck, the rest fell gracefully through the air, like rose gold glitter in a snow globe.
Maggie’s neck was getting sore and itchy, but she felt paralized, so just sat there enduring the discomfort. When Greg finally finished the nape, he tilted her head back up, then slightly to the side.
Maggie could see in the mirror as Greg combed the hair around her ear out only an inch or so from her scalp and chopped it off against the comb. Once it was all cropped, he folded her ear forward and started snipping around it with the point of his scissors.
As he cut around the other ear, repeating the same process, Maggie looked at herself in the mirror. She felt even more miserable than she had before. The bob may have been very short, but it had still felt like a purely femine style, this was crossing into masculine. Maggie wished she was wearing a dress and makeup. She was pretty sure, she was going to feel the need to put on makeup everyday for months to come.
Greg finally let the hair from the top back down. He swiftly combed it down and started snipping it around her head at the inch below the top of her ears as he had indicated. He combed the front forward, and trimmed it level to the tip of her nose.
It looked very heavy to Maggie in the mirror, but Greg started combing it upward and adding layers as soon as he had it even. He was layering it a lot more than he had with the earlier bob. Maggie had mixed feelings about the layers, they were making the cut look better, but she did just hate watching more and more hair falling.
“That looks like way more than an inch.” Lisa said as she came into view suddenly.
“I can get out a ruler if you like.” Greg said, “But I normally just used from the tip of my thumb to the the first knuckle.”
Greg held his thumb against Maggie’s ear, so showing that the weight line was just brushing above the wrinkles of the knuckle.
“You’re measuring from the top of her ear?” Lisa asked.
“Well of course I am. That was what we figured you meant by below the ear, after you said the last cut that was an inch below the bottom of her ear wasn’t short enough.” Greg sounded exceedingly exasperated.
“What did you tell him I said?” Lisa looked down at Maggie in the chair.
“Exactly what you told me. ‘Less than an inch below the ear, and tape something that means something similar to layers.’” Maggie said trying to keep her voice steady.
“I said ‘Less than an inch, AND tapered below the ear.’” Lisa said a bit too loudly. “As in, every single hair should be an inch or less from your scalp. and quite a bit less in the back.”
“Oh god” Maggie said, suddenly leaning forward and looking at herself in the mirror. “Oh no, no. I never would have agreed to that. You should have explained better. You should have shown me a picture.”
Maggie wiggled her hands out from under the cape, and started running them through what little was left of her beautiful strawberry blond hair. Tugging at it as though she could pull it long again. So much of it was already gone, she wished so so badly she could go back and say no. She wasn’t sure if she could submit to having anymore cut off, but she also couldn’t stand the idea that all the hair already cut off would have been cut off for no reason if she didn’t submit to letting it be cut even shorter.
“You should have just said ‘As short as I get mine cut each year before the trip.’” Greg said as he put a steadying hand on Maggie’s shoulder. “Isn’t this short enough. It’s only about 3 or 4 inches at the longest.”
“It’s James’ rule. He acts as captain of the ship.” Lisa said, still sounding upset, but less angry. “I had to talk him into the inch for the female students, he wanted to insist on the same buzzed to the skin he makes the boys get. I told him if he didn’t give a little on it, we probably wouldn’t have any female students come. Heck, I told him I wasn’t sure I was up for being bald myself.
“I told you you didn’t want to do this.” Lisa said to Maggie, a small tear running down her own cheek. “I told you not to come. I didn’t want you to cut off all your hair. It was so long and silky, and it’s such a special color. I just adored brushing it behind your ear. When you agreed to go on the trip, I got this horrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach thinking about you getting it all cut off. It’s like the feeling I get everytime you get it stuck in the car door, I always worry you’ll pull a big chunk of it out. it was so nice. Damn it.”
Greg sighed looking between the two women. Lisa standing there looking down at the ruins of Maggie’s hair scattered all over the floor. Wiping at a tear she was obviously embarrassed to have shed. Maggie leaning forward in the chair looking shocked; eyes wide, face pale, stiff, her fingers covering her mask where her mouth would be. He wasn’t sure what to do at first, he was a hairstylist, not a marriage counselor. But then it occurred to him, he should just keep being a hairstylist.
“Come on Maggie.” Greg said and gently pulled her back so she was sitting correctly in the chair. “We might as well finish this since going back isn’t an option. Don’t worry it will look cute.”
Greg took a steadying deep breath, he hadn’t felt this nervous about giving anyone a haircut since beautyschool. He hoped he hadn’t been lying when he’d said “Don’t worry it will look cute.” it was just what he said every time he was going to be cutting hair short with clients who were unsure about it for whatever reason. This wasn’t the first unwanted hair cut he’d given, just last week he had to “fix” the results of forgetting that there was 5 minute epoxy on a gloved hand before she reached up to put in a ponytail holder. The ponytail holder and all the hair it was touching had to be cut away. He told her it would look cute too. He was able to achieve cute most of the time, or at least what he thought was cute and hoped his clients didn’t hate too badly.
He figured he might as well start in the front, and get the worst over with. He flicked the comb up away from Maggie’s foreheadn, and combed the hair into his waiting fingers. Once the whole section along her hairline was secured between his fingers, he started point cutting downward to give it some texture.
Maggie watched numbly as hair that had dried by then, sailed down past her face. The rhythmic sound of snipping replaced the sound of her own hard pulse. 2 inch long strands got stuck in her tears and eyelashes. Smaller snippets landed on her nose. It stuck to her lips even though they felt incredibly dry.
When Greg released the now even shorter bangs section to rest on Maggie’s forehead, it didn’t come anywhere close to covering it. It was well above her eyebrows. Maggie felt totally defeated.
Greg combed up another section working his way back from her forehead and kept snipping. Maggie couldn’t believe how much more hair was falling. She had felt like she had barely any hair before this. It just kept raining down. The straight fine hair clung against her scalp this short.
As Greg worked his way further back, Maggie was able to look down at her lap. It was mostly covered in very short tangled clumps, but underneath what resembled a haystack, was a single long lock. Maggie carefully pulled it out from under the rest of the hair, knocking most of the loose pile onto her sneakers. She carefully folded up that one long lock, and clutched it in her hand.
She held tight to the long still slightly damp trophy as she watched a person she could no longer recognize in the mirror. That person, she knew was her, but felt like someone else, was so very small and vulnerable looking with almost no hair left,nothing to let fall into their face and peek out from. Nothing to feel brush over their lips. Nothing for them to suck ice cream off of or sea water out of.
Greg was once again cutting the hair at the nape scissors over comb. Maggie tried not to think about it, but couldn’t help imagining her scalp visible through the pale hair.
When Greg finally put the scissors down, Maggie closed her eyes and let out a sigh of relief, and waited to be released from the cape. Instead of being released though, Maggie heard a high pitched hum. Greg was holding a trimmer just a few inches from her ear. He put the vibrating machine against her cheek and started carving the wispy hair in front of her ear into a very short sharp point. He ran the angry little thing over the comb along the hairline in front of her temple. Then around her ear. Then up and down her neck over and over. Then again over the comb in the back.
Finally he got out the hairdryer and started blowing the loose hair off of her neck. Greg stepped over to his counter, and started choosing a styling product.
“Don’t bother to style it.” Maggie said in a weak voice. “I just want to go.”
“Ok,” Greg said and started taking off the cape. As he pulled it away, Maggie watched the jumbled clumps of what had once been her comfort spill on the floor, to be swept up later.
Maggie stood on shaky legs looking down avoiding eye contact. As she walked past Lisa, Lisa reached out and pulled her in close to her.
“I’m sorry.” Lisa whispered. “I’m so so sorry. It will grow back.”
Maggie just kept her head down and gave a slight silent nod, It wasn’t a nod of agreement really, just that she had heard the words. Maggie pulled away, and kept walking towards the door.
“You know it’s going to take at least three year for it to grow that long again.” Maggie overheard Greg say to Lisa as she sat down. Maggie kept walking towards the door, focusing on escaping.
“Were you happy with the services today?” The chipper receptionist spoke before Maggie could reach the door, reminding her that she was supposed to pay for letting someone hack off all her beloved hair.
Maggie waited for Lisa to get her own haircut inside the car while chewing on her thumb nail. Lisa finally came out, with her hair as short as Maggie’s though it looked very different since it was dark, thick, and curly.
“Honey, your thumb is bleeding.” Lisa said with a furrowed brow.
Maggie looked down at her raw thumb and switched to nibbling on her pinky nail. Lisa started driving them home.