I can still recall how he sat ramrod straight in my chair, not making eye contact...I had to reprimand him a number of times to hold his head up...like I do to the children. Leaning over him, I noticed his hands twisting unto themselves in anxiety, and I knew there was more to this than just a haircut. But like a bartender, I don't ask; I wait for my customers to be forthcoming with their information. I waited patiently, but his story wasn't one he was going to be sharing.
I removed the protective covering when I finished and he stood, all arms and legs, as he shook himself out. He placed himself in front of the mirror, eyeing his reflection...even I, a perfect stranger, could see he was uncomfortable with what he was seeing.
Honestly, if I thought he was good looking with his long hair, I was tongue tied at what a wonderful looking man he had become in the amount of time it took me to cut his hair. He retrieved his glasses from his pocket, placing them on. He unconsciously went to brush hair that was no longer there from his eyes and gave me an embarrassed smile when he caught me watching.
Something about him caused me to shoo the receptionist aside and ring him up myself. He paid and tipped rather handsomely...asked my name, thanked me and left. To this day, I know there was a little more than hair that I swept up...a little bit of him lay amongst the clippings.
That was over three years ago, and Daniel comes in on a regular, if a little sporadic, schedule to have his haircut. What have I learned, he is a holder of multiple PHD's, archaeologist, linguist...and a widower. The last blurted out one day when I asked why a good looking guy like him wasn't married. Sorry, I had replied, annoyed at my own nosiness.
I have seen him unhappy, calm, sad, lost...bruised from digs. He is the only client I have that *I* open up to. He knows about me, is concerned and really listens past the obligatory "I'm fine" that my customers want to hear before they go onto diatribes of their own lives. Daniel knows about my kids, my sick mother, my going back to school.
The last few months Daniel has sat in my chair, his smile has been infectious. Much better than the previous months, where his dark mood had bubbled over and bothered me for days. Today we chatted about how hard school is, my aching feet...personal things...never about the weather or movies. He recommends books that may help...barters tutoring for free haircuts...Laughing, I told him I would take him up on his offer.
With Daniel, I wash his hair, cut it, ring him up...since the first night when he wandered in, our routine hasn't changed. *He's* changed and I'm anxious to ask the reason why. As always, he hands me a generous tip, thanks me...but this time, instead of turning to sweep up the hair, I stand by the window and watch and what I see makes me feel a sense of peace. Daniel steps into the waiting cab of a black SUV parked in the No Parking Zone. The good looking older gentleman in the driver's seat gently runs his fingers though Daniel's freshly cut hair saying something that makes Daniel laugh. Something I've never heard in the three years I've *known* him. Daniel grabs the hand and places a gentle kiss on the palm...and I know.
I smile as I turn away from the window and go finish cleaning up. "Good for him," I say to myself as I sweep the clippings from the floor.
Author's Comments:Thanks as always to the people on my porch. Majel for the magic, Jo for the supportive emails.
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