Marie held a comb between her teeth, squinting as she eyed the neon sign
in the plate-glass window. She motioned to a young man with long hair the
color of bing cherries, who stood holding the sign, waiting for her
direction. "A little down on the right," she said finally, and smiled.
Marie had a high, rosy color to her cheeks and looked almost feverish. Her
straight shaggy black hair was pinned on top of her head, and she'd taken
her nose ring out. Newly developed biceps bulged under her tight white
T-shirt, and a tightly cinched black vinyl smock emphasized a tiny waist.
She'd been separated from Gavin for almost a year now. The last time I'd
seen my hair stylist, the bank had just approved her loan to set up her own
salon. Now, among sheetrock, dust and the smell of new paint, she sat me
down in an old-fashioned barber's chair as we looked in the cloud-shaped
mirror. After showing me around the place, we'd spent the next 15
minutes discussing why I couldn't look like Winona Ryder. "It's just not
fair, Marie," I said. "Why bother with haircuts and infinite hair products
that cost a fortune when all you get is the same hair you've always had?"
"Look, life is not fair. And hair most of all is not fair. I could
lie and say you'll look like Winona Ryder when I'm finished. But you won't. You
don't have straight, thin hair. And she doesn't have thick, curly hair. Why
do clients always want the opposite of what they have? Why can't you come
marching in here and tell me you want to look like Nicole Kidman? Now, that
I could accommodate."
"Because I don't want to look like Nicole Kidman."
"Good for you." She kicked a little pile of shorn hair away from
the chair and looked over at the new sign. "It's still a little crooked, Chuck," she
called. "Did I introduce you to Chuck? We went to high school together.
He's known me forever." Chuck, bored, waved at me lamely.
I settled into the chair. "Well?"
"Gavin is calling me four or five times a day," Marie said, without
expression. "He wants to get back together. He says he made a horrible
mistake. He says he'll do anything -- counseling, trial marriage, even
Buddhism, if that's what I want." Chuck, his back to us, snorted loudly. Marie
rolled her eyes. "Chuck's helping me with my sign," she said. "And he just
met Brian, whose hair I cut before you. That was Brian, the one you bumped
into, when you came in."
I tried to remember. "The little, um, I mean the short one?
"Snowboarder. He's cute, don't you think? Don't you think so, Chuck?"
"I dunno. I guess, if I swung that way." Chuck sat down heavily on the
window sill and inspected his split ends.
I looked at Marie curiously as she yanked a comb through my hair.
"You're not thinking of going back to Gavin, are you?" That didn't strike me as
Marie's style at all. She was a no-nonsense, in-your-face, completely
unsentimental person. She'd laughed her way through "Titanic." But now she
seemed to be a bit giggly.
"Well," she began, actually blushing a little, "I hate him, I really do.
But there's the baby. And, well, maybe he's changed."
"He hasn't changed." Chuck spoke up, examining the sole of his
shoe. Marie whispered, "Chuck doesn't like Gavin."
"How come you don't like him?" I asked.
"Because he's a total fucking dickwad," said Chuck solemnly. "I
know this kind of guy. I knew when she married him. I tried to tell her. But would
she listen? Noooooo." Marie shrugged. He adjusted one of his rubber
bracelets and continued. "He works in this stupid fucking place, this bar --"
"He doesn't work there anymore," Marie interrupted.
"-- which might as well be a whorehouse, where Willie Brown comes
in with his dates, and money gets thrown around. Hookers sit at the bar, people are
smoking Havanas, champagne is at every table, and I could see a million
miles away what a guy like Gavin would do. He's one of those guys that
needs approval, you know? He's got a pregnant wife, he's trying to impress
his bosses, who themselves fuck all the waitresses there. So he thinks he
has to be one of them. He starts fucking one of the cocktail waitresses,
this cheap little piece of trash who goes to co-dependency meetings, who's
got fake tits, and he's surprised that his marriage falls apart? And now he
wants to get back together with Marie? Gimme a break."
"I didn't know about the meetings," Marie said, then giggled. "How
do you know that?"
"I heard," said Chuck darkly.
"That's terrible." Marie laughed again. "Would you get the phone,
Chuck?" she asked as she started to spritz my hair.
"Do you want to stay with that snowboarder then?" I asked.
"Well, I don't know," she said, frowning. She watched Chuck sit up
and flip through her appointment book. "The thing is, I really, really, really like
Brian. He has such an amazing body. It's incredible, these great arms, this
ripply stomach -- I can't keep my hands off of him. I just love having sex
with him, I love it. I don't want to give that up."
"Can you fit this woman in tomorrow for a semi-permanent?" Chuck
shouted, waving the appointment book. "Maybe at 1? It says here you have a 'Joan'
at 2 for highlights."
"That's fine," Marie said. Turning back to me, she stopped
snipping. "Sex is very addictive, you know."
"I know. Well, are you in love with Brian?" I asked.
"Love!" Chuck interrupted, after politely saying into the phone "OK,
we'll see you here tomorrow at 1 for a semi-permanent, and you're sure
you know where we're located?" and hanging up with exaggerated delicacy.
"What the hell does love have to do with it? Gavin supposedly 'loves'
Marie. And now she's got her salon together, and she's independent, and
she's with this new guy, and she doesn't need that scumbag anymore. And of
course he comes crawling back, ready to fuck everything up again. He
doesn't want her to be happy. He just doesn't want anyone else to have her!"
"Did you write the 1 o'clock in?" Marie asked mildly.
"Yes, I did." He closed the book and sat on a three-legged stool as
if he were about to milk a cow. "Believe me, I know this guy. I've done that
stuff myself -- broken up with a chick and then get all upset and want her
back when she moves on. Nothing more attractive than independence in a
woman. It'll get us pigs back every time. And Marie," he started waving his
finger, "you know he'll do it again to you if you go back. You know he'll
start fucking some little piece of dirt the second your back is turned."
"I know," said Marie. She held her hand on her hip. "But, well, I
love him. I can't help it."
Chuck groaned and pulled on his long, plum-colored ponytail. "OK.
whatever. You didn't listen to me before you married that jerkwater. You
should listen to your guy friends, Marie. Guys know how guys
think." He looked at me curiously. "What do you think?"
"I don't know these people," I said. "She has great sex with Brian. But
she's not in love with him. She loves Gavin. She said before that she had
great sex with Gavin because she was in love with him. Hell, I don't know."
Chuck waved his hand in irritation, as if swatting away a fruit fly.
Marie placed a comb between her teeth again and smiled at both of us.
"Do me a favor? Shut the fuck up and let me cut your hair. And you, go fix that
Chuck and I exchanged looks. In other words: Case closed. Welcome home,