Conversation With A Hair Stylist
D. Harlan Wilson
". . . C an you believe they said that to me, my straight-and-narrow cousins? I really don't like my cousins. I could care less if they died, to tell you the truth. Seriously. Anyhow, I'm kind of artsy, kind of a creative spirit. What about you? I sense that in you, creativity. I sense everything in everyone. Take my receptionist, for instance. I mean, just take a look at her over there. You think she actually does any work around here? I'll tell you something: she doesn't. Oh, she likes to think that I think and that everyone else thinks she works all right, but I know the score, goddamn her. What a total loser. Really, when I'm over here at the wash basin, she just sits over there at the front desk with a bitchy look on her fat face and daydreams about her ugly boyfriend. I can see her in the mirror in the corner of the ceiling there, right now I can see her, doing nothing. See her? I get near her, though, and she makes with the scribbling pen and the stressed-out frowns and sighs. You see what I mean? I mean, you know what I'm talking about? That girl. What am I supposed to do with her? What do you think I should do? Hell with her, I say. She can go to hell, I say."

This as she lathers up my thick hair with wintergreen-scented shampoo. But my head is so sharp. My head, beneath my hair, is in fact like a ball of wrapped-up barbed wire. And she soon realizes it. One moment she is mindlessly scrubbing away, the next she realizes that every last one of her fingertips is not only punctured, but maimed. "Ouch!" she abruptly chirps. "Ouch! That hurts me, you fiend!" But I am feeling so comfortable and relaxed now; I simply can't be bothered. My eyes and ears stay closed, my body soft and still as, despite herself, she finishes the job and rinses my hair out. Over on the not-so-comfy recliner in front of the mirror, then, I regard her reflection with simulated concern and say, "Forgive me." She says nothing. Staring at me slot-eyed, she wiggles her gory fingers at my reflection--blood dribbles onto and stains the long, thin bib I wear--and makes warped shapes with her orange, sun-dried lips. I feel nothing. Still, as if out of duty, I take her hands one at a time and suck hungrily on her fingertips, until they have shriveled up like rotten little onion stalks and she farts euphorically, and finally strikes up another conversation with herself.

First published: November 1999