The sign across the street winked neon: Walk-ins Welcome. Bells jingled when I pushed the glass door. A sleepy-looking woman looked up from a magazine.
“Is it too late for a haircut?”
“I can take you now,” she said.
I followed her to the back. Chairs reclined against industrial sinks. She lowered the heft of my hair into the tub. Warm water pulsed over my scalp and her gentle hands worked soap into lather. Head wrapped in terry, I trailed her to the front window and perched in a chair before the large mirror. She unwound the towel and my hair, au-lait brown from the shampooing, cascaded down my back.
“Just a trim?”
“Cut it off.”
“All of it?”
“To my shoulders.”
“But you have beautiful hair,” she said.
I shrugged; time for something new. She combed with care, starting from the bottom. Shears rasped through the strands. I closed my eyes. With each snip, I remembered: Ben slowly unbraiding my hair, kissing my bared neck, sending shivers down my spine.
But he was gone. The blow-dryer seared my cheeks, scattering small bristles down my neckline. On the radio Elton John wailed about yellow brick roads. She swiveled me around to face my reflection.
Long clumps of gold covered the scuffed linoleum floor, my lap, the tips of my shoes peeking beneath the nylon smock. Piles and piles of my hair. My chest filled with unexpected pressure.
For some reason, I thought I would feel lighter.