I packed up lunches and sent the kids off to school. I fed and watered the puppy, watched as he pooped on the shoots starting to spring from the dusty earth in the backyard. Cell phone charged. Money in my pocket.
I put the earbuds in my ears and set Pandora to play Loudon Wainwright III songs, or those like his. I was thinking about a song he wrote about missing his dad, about his books still lining the bookshelves, his boots still standing in the closet, waiting for his return. There's something about the songs he writes that captures the difficulty of our human relationships, that exact thing that makes what should be so easy so damn hard.
I was in the mood for that.
Instead, I was treated first to Jeff Buckley's rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Now we're talking. I eased onto Sunrise Highway eastbound, the road my daughter calls "the high road," as in, "Oh, I hate taking the high road, Mommy!" So do I, kiddo, but that's what's gonna get me to Finale Salon, where Lenny will shape this head of hair into something presentable, I hoped. I know enough not to covet hot-girl hair, but I've been looking at the cover of Norah Jones's new CD and I think I might be able to pull that off.
Two songs later, the familiar chords of Hallelujah, sang this time by KD Lang, began. I turned it even louder. Didn't even know she'd recorded this song. I wished, not for the first time, for the talent to get up on a stage and belt out a song like this. The guts I have, but my vocal chords won't cooperate. I belted it out anyway since no one can boo me in my car, not when the kids are at school.
I wished, not for the first time, for the talent to write something like Cohen's lyrics. "Maybe there's a God above, but all I ever learned from love is how to shoot someone before they outdrew ya." Loving the music or not, fantasizing about performing or not, imagining the accolades of having contributed something like this to the world or not, this song is going to affect your mood. I pulled into the parking lot and stretched my legs, but the melancholy of the cold and broken hallelujah followed me into the salon and didn't come out with the fragrant and expensive shampoo or the temple massage.
Lenny took one look at me and lifted a wet strand. He tutted. It had been almost six weeks since my last visit. All of his hard work had morphed into a wide, curly mop.
"What are we doing?" he asked me.
"We are going to try to grow it?" I asked him. I waited for his approval, but it didn't come. He looked at me from a few different angles. I fumbled with my phone, googling Norah Jones and coming up with the image from the album cover.
He looked it over. He breathed loudly.
He told me we could try it, that it would take some shaping, that the shape of my face could hold that sort of 'do, but that it would take time - time to grow and once it had, time to blow it dry. He looked doubtful that I could accomplish either of these, but my hope raised when he said that it was really just a longer version of what I had already. And when I told him that I would probably be back in a few weeks telling him to cut it all off, he disagreed. Said that I should stick it out. Give it till September.
He snipped. And then he blew. I sat as still as I could, ignoring the pull of my phone and the Words With Friends that silently called to me. I sang in my head. "She tied you to the kitchen chair, she broke your throne and cut your hair, and from your lips she drew a Hallelujah." I tried not to move my lips.
"You look really fantastic with short hair," he said to me when he was done. Immediately, I wanted to tell him to just cut it then, if it meant so much to him. I would have too, but there were other ladies waiting their turns.
"I don't have the confidence to pull off short hair lately," I told him. It didn't mean to come out as a confession, but my voice didn't know that.
"Sometimes how we feel on the inside is reflected by what we see on the outside," he told me, sagely.
I wasn't paying for swivel chair psycho-analysis, so I said only that I was too young to have Nancy Pelosi hair. He smiled, but it was a sad smile, and he touched my arm. "Be happy," he said.
And I am happy. But when I got into my car, I started to cry. I didn't stop until I hit the high road, westbound.