Friday, June 8, 2007

Coif of Hope

I was overdue for a hair cut, which I'd been putting off because I just couldn't get excited about it. Besides, I was having trouble with my oven. The gas was taking forever to ignite and when it did there was a dull explosion inside. Not to mention the murky gas odor I kept smelling. So I made an oven appointment instead, calling the 800 number in the Amana repair manual.

"Thank you for calling Maytag."

Maytag? Whatever. It was somehow reassuring to think I'd be helped by that man in the starched blue suit and silly hat. I went ahead and made the appointment, setting aside an entire day to wait for the doorbell to ring.

On the scheduled day, four hours and fifty-five minutes into my vigil, it finally did. I hurried to answer the door. My first thought on opening it was that something terrible had happened. My oven guy was shockingly disfigured. Perhaps an oven he'd been repairing had exploded? The purple stain of a birthmark spread across his entire lower face and mouth. His skin was oddly dimpled, like it had been badly upholstered to his frame. His large glasses were wrong--tortoiseshell, round, oversized--only adding to the grotesque effect. I couldn’t tell if his skin was always that color, or if he just hadn’t washed. And, most unfortunate, he was standing there with a sad, hangdog expression, like he’d rung a million doorbells and every single face had fallen at the sight of him.

I forced myself to let him in the house--was he contagious? I tried not to think about it--and he set to work, diagnosing the need for a new igniter and finishing up in about fifteen minutes. With the disfigured visual input, and his head actually being in the oven in a worrisome way while he replaced the igniter, it wasn't until he was filling out the paperwork on the kitchen island that I noticed his hair, his loose curls a rich brown with frosted highlights, the style soft, carefully arrayed. It was captivating, mesmerizing. He'd used product, perhaps mousse for hold, a volumizer for body, a finisher for shine. My heart expanded: I had a lift-off-the-ground, floating feeling.

This deflated, pockmarked man sporting dark stains over 30-percent of his body had hair fashion sense, a winning style. I could hear the chorus of hallelujahs every time I glanced at it. Perhaps he had a date that night, I fantasized, a loved one to impress. I sincerely hoped for him that he'd succeed. He was fighting back against inherent issues with charming valor. Maybe he couldn’t color or iron his skin, but by God, he could do something about his hair.

After I'd ushered out the Maytag man (no, he wasn't wearing a starched blue suit, though I hear they're bringing those back), the house seemed strangely empty. I wandered to the bathroom mirror and stood staring at my image, assessing my own coif: It framed my face poorly, was limp with split ends, forlorn and untended. But the least I could do was try. I picked up the phone and dialed.

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