Thursday, August 9, 2007

Hair changes

I can't help but think that hair is something larger than a fashion choice. I did not come to this conclusion lightly. I came to it years ago, when I was working as an office manager. I'd been growing out my hair for several years--three, in fact--ever since I'd moved to the Northwest.

I was at the office one morning, working diligently at my desk, doing everyday tasks like filing, letter-typing on a Selectric (yes, it was that long ago), and kicking my DOS computer every time it crashed with an unsaved file on the screen. I took my job seriously, rarely entertaining notions of leaving the building, even on my lunch hour, since it usually meant spending hard-earned money. Besides, I had an inkling that the only thing keeping me there at all was the unswerving discipline of sitting at that particular desk, talking on that particular phone, typing on that particular keyboard.

All of which made it especially odd one morning when I suddenly stood up and announced to my co-worker over the cubicle partition that I had a hair appointment. She looked surprised. I was surprised, too. You see, I actually didn't have a hair appointment. But I didn't think about that, really. I simply left my desk and walked out the door. No one tried to stop me, but why would they? It was perfectly believable.

Even to me. Like I'd been called by some invisible force, I headed down the street to an office tower, rode up the escalator to the shop of the woman who'd trimmed my hair half a year ago, and found her in. She had no customers. I sat in her chair and she set to work.

For the next two and a half hours (I'd asked for a perm--it was still the '80's), I zoned out, letting go to the process. At one point, I remember, the stylist asked if I needed my hair done for some special occasion. I said not that I know of. Because no one had had a chance to tell me that in fact, I was about to embark on a long journey. No one had had a chance to tell me that around the time I'd stood up at my desk, my older brother had finally gotten his way, putting a bullet through his temple not far from my parents' home. Thousands of miles away, I couldn't hear the wailing sirens as they drove down my folks' driveway, filling my mom's heart with dread and mourning.

When I returned to the office, my new curls smelling of chemicals and coiled tightly, like a crash helmet, over my head, I heard there'd been a call for me, a long distance call from Cleveland. As my parents gave me the bad news, I couldn't fathom what had happened, and bizarrely, I couldn't fathom why I'd been doing something so frivolous at the time. It was truly morbid, like I'd been getting ready for a party, not a funeral. Then too, I later saw, in the instant my brother had left me, I'd begun a journey to adjust to a world without him, to cope somehow. The first step had been as mundane as a new hair style, and there would be many such acts, acts where I'd go through the ordinary motions unthinking, moving on with my life, wading forward, inevitably, through my irretrievable loss.

Over a decade has passed, and my hair has gone through many changes since then. My older brother, though, has remained the same, frozen in time at the age of thirty-three, leaving those of us who loved him to survive with the infinite silence he left behind.

No comments: