Monday, May 28, 2018

The Cut

It starts a as a bet. All the bands in town have long hair stuck in limbo between the late eighties and whatever is next. They flip their mullets using hairspray by the canful like they are the new guitarist for Poison. I'm watching them take smoke breaks on Tennessee Street when it hits me they look like they were punched out of the same factory in South Dakota. I imagine them marching in step while saying "Yabba dabba doo" over and over, feeling cool, but looking like everyone else. I'm no better rocking some asymmetrical, mullet, squib, hybrid not knowing if I am a lost skater or John Cougar. I can't shake the feeling the next day at work, so in between selling car stereos, I call all of the boys in the band. I leave them messages knowing they are at the music store, the garage, or painting houses. They all get the challenge shortly after six.

"Cut your hair off if you want to stay in this band. Who ever shows up with their old bullshit helmet head, pays the whole bands tab for this week at Bullwinkle's or you're fired. Meet at Johnny's at eight so we can ride in together."

Ya it's dumb, but no one wants to be the goat, so we all secretly make arrangements with whoever cuts our hair. I call McBeth (the nickname we call the woman that cuts my hair, because of her Shakespearean flare for drama). It's last minute but I know she will fit me in. She has wanted to fuck me for years (so she says) and I don't know if the flirting is a tactic to get bigger tips or if she has real interest. I act like I'm not attracted to her and she pretends it makes her crazy. I show up at her house where she has been cutting hair off the books for years. It's cash only but she is a very good stylist. She usually has beer and weed (I don't smoke) but it adds to the allure. I can trust her, because she knows what I want. She knows my hair will be in front of three hundred people tonight. Several other band guys and me help her stay in demand as the "go to stylist" of the A list. When I walk in she is playing some bizarre shit on her stereo, Suzy and The Banshees is ending and Sinead O'Connor starts to slither around the room as I get in the chair. The room is dimly lit and you would never know it was day time outside. I feel like I have wandered into the lair of a vampire, but really I have come to expect this kind of ambush and I am neither rattled nor surprised when she enters the room in rib high pleated pants and no top. Her whole act is more suited for an erotic palm reader, or a tarot stripper. We both silently enter into a Mexican standoff, where neither acknowledges her her nudity. She has great skin, small perfect tits and nipples that were obviously pinched for effect right before she entered through the beaded curtain. She takes off the gold chain holding my cross, and asks in a husky lap dance voice, what I want. I fight the urge to giggle. It is the greatest thing in the world to see how cliche the effort to seduce is, when there is no danger of actual sex. She is beautiful, a few years older than me, worldly, with a legendary resume of hedonism, I could only imagine. I am not like other musicians I know. I secretly wish I could to be like them, and I pretend that I am. I want to fuck, snort coke, wake up confused and naked, next to whoever was available last night. I don't know if it is fear, false morality, or the fact that my internal wiring finds very few women with the traits or pheromones, that turn the tumblers of my locks. I have had my heart and spirit broken. I have known love. I am too aware of my bullshit issues. I'm also afraid to dive into my base and darker desires. I am immune to McBeth and women like her. I am in search of some immaculate virginal temptress, like the one I lost. I am trying to grasp sand, or hold smoke. Because I believe once I had the grail, the soul mate, I carry myself with a kind of aloof armor.

I tell her I want it all off. I tell her, I don't want to look like anyone else that is in a band in this fucking town. A Sisters of Mercy song starts. And she dances a little as I talk. She throws a black cloth over the mirror.

"Should I just do what I want?"
She says leaning over with her hands on my legs.

"Just make me look cool, and take those ridiculous pants off."

I turn the barbers chair with my foot away from her, in a fake and indignant gesture. I hear the fabric buzz against her as she obliges my childish bluff. The next hour is a blur of incense, and spicy wet joint smoke she pulls in and releases, between metallic scissor swipes, and razor cuts. Two years of cliche, fall like feathers to the dark floor around me. She smokes, and sings along with the latest cryptic song on the mixtape. I have overheard multiple guitar players and singers describe this same scenario, but she dances like she has never heard it before. It is the mark of a true pro. She is a fantastic combo of lightly tanned and string line white skin. Her black panties adorned with small roses and lace, are the same she wore for my last haircut. I appreciate her commitment to pageantry, like the priests of my childhood altars, my father's clip on ties, short sleeve white IBM shirts and my mother's apron. I am deep in a contact high from the sweet leaf she exhales into my face. I close my eyes and sit back listening to The Cure, The Cult, Ministry, and all the other bands she collected in a embroidered notebook, after hearing their songs in clubs or on the college station. My hands are clutching the arms of the chair as she inadvertently rubs the lace seam of her undies across my index finger. The red bandanas on her lamps are making strange shapes on her moving walls. I twitch my pinkie against the musk spot behind the veiled fabric that hides the sacred folds, that ten band dudes could draw from memory, like sketch artists at a murder scene. She finishes and walks out wordless for dramatic effect, like a rock star leaving the stage. Like she imagined she would do at the end of a performance if she could sing. She emerges seconds later fully clothed, not amateur enough to follow through with the charade. She pulls the the black cloth off the mirror and I see a person I do not know. My left side part has returned and jagged protuberances stand up at different angles off the right side of my head. I hand her thirty dollars, fifteen for the cut and fifteen for the show. I say;

"Thanks honey."
I give her a hug as she looks knowingly at my naive face.

We part and I walk out into the harsh daylight, that I forgot was there. I get in my car, catch a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror and it is like the emperor's clothes have disappeared. A voice in my head I identify as my father, tells me I look like an idiot. Daylight is the enemy of musicians, delusions and lust. I turn the mirror away from myself and hit the denial button. I drive toward Johnny's house, praying to god my double dare worked, and that I am not the only idiot that cut his hair. A Bauhaus song comes on the college radio station. I convince myself I am a rock star and no one knows it yet. A mean truck roars passed me with a gun in the rear window. Over the music I hear;


It rips passed my open window like a train in the woods. Like so many times before, since I left my home town, I wish I was behind the counter at the surf shop, or paddling out to surf with my friends, or getting home to my Moms spaghetti and meatballs. I wish I was waking up under the stripped covers of my single bed, looking up at my collage of Van Halen, The Police and U2. I drive to Johnny's beating on my steering wheel, half out of anger, half to let people know I am a musician and that this science experiment on my head is not a mistake. I am no more a man now, than I was in sixth grade, arriving for the first day of school.