Nothing is lost.
Yet in our world there is a beginning and end to everything. Such is the curse of time, for there is a story to all great love and it is told whether spoken or buried beneath the years.
Like life itself, love stories must begin with great hope and end in loss. Great love stories climax in the death of one so loved their departure rends the fabric of the universe in jagged impassable scars beyond the ability of mankind to repair. And the hero moves on with life as it was, bravely committing himself to ignore the yawning chasm to the left of existence into which he would plummet, forever lost, with the smallest misstep. And the heroine moves ahead gallantly performing all of life's functions as if her greatest desire is not to cast herself into the pit. As they began, all things of this earth will end, my children, and so shall all life and sun and the sky itself.
But do not despair for loss. Because locked deep within the mystery of all this life's endings has been hidden an answer to a question so powerful and so profound time itself would stand still should one attempt to hold the concept within the thin ephemeral film we call the mind's eye. Oh my children, there between the atoms are spaces; down between the quarks is where the dragons live. There before you is life from black stone. Hold your hand in front of you and then peer between your fingers and see it's all around, in the light from the moon and the droop of the cookies, still warm from the oven. It's in the methane rivers of Titan and the sulfur springs on Io, between the parables in the Bible and the sound of one wing flapping. Between the moment I conceived these words to their place in your heart the answer to our simplest question winks at you from across time. Across space. Through wires conducting leptons and babies sucking their first meal. Do not be deceived by your own mind, the master illusionist, who leads you right over it, past it, through it, under it.
Open your eyes, the ones in your heart, that place in your chest where you feel her warmth go. It's everywhere and not one lover will deny, we savor the stories we become.
All life is a love story. I cannot help but stand astounded, dear ones. Because when I started there was nothing. I was alone. And from there became the miracles.
Because when I asked, "Why?"
The answer became you.
To the aliens, all our music sounds the same. One of us bangs on something. Someone else rubs at a taut string and someone else warbles. It's a twelve-note scale if you're from the west. It's I-IV-V if you like R&B. You can dance to it. You improvise skat to it. Your world moves to it. Your parents think it's noise and all your friends like the one they were listening to that time that guy named Freddo puked up a pint of peppermint schnapps.
But the aliens think it's all the same. Because they don't have ears.
The aliens think our movies are nonsense. One of us pretends to be doing something another one thought up. One of us records. Others add pictures made up on computers, and still others track on music that all sounds the same. Over and over. Because they don't have pretend on their planet.
The aliens think all our books tell the same story. Someone's quiet life is disrupted by a storm or a monster or another of us who wants something the first one doesn't. And fights break out and then time works its wonders and everything stops at the end. Because it has to. Because aliens don't have clocks.
The alien on the moon holds up his thumb, or the little piece of him we would call a thumb if we met him and had to name the pieces of his body. And when he holds up his thumb and squints through three of his eyes, he only sees his thumb and not the whole blue earth behind it. Just like Edgar Mitchell did when he was there.
And billions of light-years away his six alien parents don't know he's got world-wars and dinosaurs and bombings and millions of incidences of first-kissing behind his thumb. They think he's gone to collect some gray rocks. Because in their world, gray is a flavor somewhere between rose petals and and the creaking of rusted iron.
He's been away a billion billion years but they still expect him for dinner. They care about him.
If you didn't have time, no matter how far away someone was, they'd be with you. It would be that way.
I believe in miracles and there have been a lot of them happening lately. Take for instance this little metal owl on my zipper. The hand-painted enamel. I rub it between my fingers when I'm nervous.
Take for instance all of these words that come pouring out of me. I don't know where they come from, but I watch them appear in front of me as if they have minds of their own.
Someone says something, and then two days later, it happens.
Someone says something, and then you realize it happened two days before.
But no matter what's going to happen, or what has happened, no matter how hard you think about it, you're always in the middle of now and you can't get out of it.
That means all this other stuff about when and then are stuff we've made up.
That means we haven't lost anyone. That last time we kissed. That last argument. That time we walked across the volcano, it all still is because we are always in this right now, and I know the steps I took down the path and up the mountain, so I still am.
As long as these words exist, so do I.
Because I am not a slave to time. It's something I made up.
To people who cut hair, everyone is a customer.
I have seen barbers snipping scissor blades over the bald scalp of a man reading a newspaper. I have seen stylists gingerly passing the business-end of a Wahl clipper over the head of a squirming 3-year old. There are barbers that go to hospitals to trim the hair of the terminally ill. There are mothers who lift a lock of silk-fine hair from the linoleum floor of barber shops in the Bronx, and then place that lock between the folds of a glassine envelope, press it in the pages of a book nobody has read and keep it for years.
And she will never again pass through the barber shop doors.
I go to a redneck barber shop. The barber shop I go to has on the wall the embalmed severed heads of several deer, an elk, a mountain lion, and the pelt of a 1500 pound brown bear. There is a picture of Pat Tillman with an artificial rose stapled to the corner. There are American flags and faded eight-by-ten photographs of men holding shotguns and freshly killed pheasants. There is a magazine rack bulging with creased and ragged issues of Field and Stream, Guns and Ammo, Car and Driver.
It's this and that in the barber shop.
There is a barber pole out front. It spins in white red and blue spirals when the place is opened.
At the barber shop, men tell dirty jokes nobody thinks are funny, but everyone laughs anyway. And after paying Lee, they stand at the door and take big deep breaths before going back outside, like a swimmer jumping into a pool, or a skydiver gathering courage to step out of the plane.
In my barber shop there is always a game on the television. In the barber shop, it's always baseball season until football season until basketball season. Occasionally, when the Sharks are doing well, there'll be hockey on, but it just doesn't feel right to the sunshiney crowd. It's always baseball season at the barber shop and you know you shouldn't need a hair cut otherwise.
When you go to my barber shop you need to know the stats. Who's hitting what average. How many games out of first are the Giants. How many homers is Barry behind Hank Aaron, and what about the steroids? If you don't know, they'll tell you, and spend ten minutes doing it. Or you can talk about guns, or your car. The barbers know the difference between DOHC and push-rod technology. They know what octane does to gasoline. They know it's impossible to read women sometimes, and they all have wives who provide for them the love and enigma of life itself. They'll talk about pussy in hushed muted tones as if whispering the combination to the box the president uses to launch nuclear war, as if none of their wives have them. Because some things are just not mentioned in polite company. But lucky for us, it's never polite in the barber shop.
To the barbers at the barber shop, your hair is always too long and you will never go bald. They've been working in the same place thirty years and it just isn't the same since silicon valley turned the fruit orchards into industrial parks. They remember when they picked plums as children and their fathers taught them how to shoot their first .22. They all had a damned dog that brought home dead rats and ate the garbage.
Women don't go to my barber shop. Not that they wouldn't be welcome, but the guys in the back, the ones who managed to find the December 1999 issue of Playboy behind the copies of Time and Fortune, would have to find a way to discreetly conceal their viewing material and pretend they weren't imagining the skin beneath the lady's clothes. It takes a while for a guy to get out of that mode and no girl understands that, so it's best to not do it. And strange as it seems, with all the women who live in our town and all the times I've had my hair cut by Lee or Frank or Ozzie, I have never seen a girl pass through the front door. It's as if there's an invisible barrier of boyness that women find repulsive and men revel in the way a freshly-bathed golden retriever will roll in chihuahua dung on the finest Saturday in June.
Because the barber shop is a den. Its a place where germs are growing into molds that would someday evolve to flesh-eating rodents if they weren't creationists there. You can be very comfortable in the knowledge that Lee will never attempt to massage your head against your wishes. It's a place where men go to be away from the world in which they must maintain the illusion of control. If the fire marshalls would allow it, there'd always be campfire embers smoldering in the back by the toilet where the charred remains of a feral pig would lie for days before the barbers invited in the wolves to finish it off. If Frank allowed it, men would leave their clothes in piles by the back door. They'd get dressed for work in the restroom.
My mom isn't around to pick up the locks of my hair anymore. Over the years I've watched the curls hitting the apron turn from blonde to dark brown. And now there are traces of silver in every one.
The stylist across the street does great business. Girls cut your hair there. On the walls there are posters of fashion models, boys and girls, with well slicked hair that stands up on their heads in unnaturally attractive patterns. They ask you if you want mousse on your head before they finish. They insist on giving you a shampoo, even if your head is already clean. Their fingers on your scalp feel like tiny rays of goodness turning your thoughts to kisses on the nape of the neck.
They have goldfish who died and hamsters that appear to be having babies. The stylists all own cats. They are not dog people.
It is a different experience at the stylists shop. It's never any season there. There's no TV and the radio is always on the alternative rock station. It's very clean and clinical. Sort of like a doctor's office where you don't take off your clothes.
I have now discovered a place that exists between culture of my redneck barber shop and the frou-frou stylists shop.
It's called "Lou's". I have not been to Lou's. Lou's barber shop was a redneck place until Lou died. Then two lesbian barbers bought it and they kept the name. They kept the dead elk on the wall and you can find issues of Playboy in the back behind the dog-eared copies of Automotive Weekly and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
I don't know if they insist on shampoos at Lou's, or if they massage your scalp. I wonder if they have the game on.
I imagine their politics is a bit left of the redneck barber shop, but they have the rotating pole with the red, white, and blue helixes spinning out front. And I wonder who stands at their door after paying, taking a deep breath before emerging into the bright sharp world.
It must be strangely provocative to get a boy haircut at Lou's. Do the barbers talk to you about the game or your car or whisper about pussy? Do they know you want it slightly longer on top or that it's important to make the sides meet the edge of your beard? Do they understand the fundamental necessity of one-horsepower-per-cubic-inch, or the basic difference between Formula One and CART?
Maybe they have their own thing at Lou's. Maybe it's a whole different universe in there.
I'm going to try Lou's next time my hair gets long.
Life should be an adventure, I think.