I cheated on my wife today.
Not the way you probably think. Sex had nothing to do with it. As an old flame of mine once told me, “sex is just love, without the love.” A curiously Zen-like statement, but since she was a former escort and stripper, I figured she knew what she was talking about.
No, I got my hair cut today. I know that might sound like no big deal to most of you, but my wife is a hair stylist, and she is –- or was -- the only person in this millennium to cut a lock of my hair.
But I’m not with my wife, or my son, at the moment. My last writeup had an impact on my life that went well beyond the printed –- or electronic –- page. Putting “pen to paper” for that writeup made it impossible for me to pretend that things were going well down in North Carolina, and I made that point clear as a bell. My wife, understandably fearful of uprooting herself and our son again, questioned me sharply. Her family, insulted at the fact that I had the nerve to call them out for what they were, made it clear I was no longer welcome in the state. To make a long, convoluted story short, I left, hoping that the act of leaving might force my wife to follow.
Hasn’t happened yet, but any day now . . .
I walked into the salon this afternoon at 4:00. The sign on the front of the store said simply “HairCuts.” No frills, no muss, no fuss. I sat down in the chair, and told the Vietnamese woman who was going to cut my hair that I had waited far too long to get a cut, and wanted it short, short, short.
As I sat down, a song came on in the background. “Same Old Song,” by the Four Tops. As I sat there, letting a strange woman touch me more intimately than any woman besides my wife had done in years, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of guilt.
A feeling of wrong. This wasn’t supposed to be happening. This woman’s voice, her breath, her scent, were all wrong. Then for maybe the first time in my life, I started to really hear the words to the song.
You're sweet as a honey bee
But like a honey bee stings
You've gone and left my heart in pain
All you left is our favorite song
The one we danced to all night long
It used to bring sweet memories
Of a tender love that used to be
My wife used to give me the most magnificent haircuts. To be sure, my hair always wound up looking impeccable after she was through with it, but it went deeper than that. Much deeper.
She took her time, agonizing over every single cut. She would sit in my lap –- not in a sexual way mind you, but just to get the right position to cut my bangs. And just when I was certain that she couldn’t possibly need to do anything more, she would prowl around my chair, looking for errant hairs to dispatch before she was done. I used to get so impatient at the length of time she would spend cutting my hair. Now, I don’t think there’s anything I own that I wouldn’t give up for just one more cut.
A sentimental fool am I
to hear an old love song
And wanna cry
But the melody keeps haunting me
Reminding me how in love we used to be
Keep hearing the part that used to touch my heart
Saying together forever
Breaking up never
I paid for my haircut today with a twenty-dollar bill. Twenty borrowed dollars that I received from a friend name Fred. You may know him as IWhoSawTheFace. I don’t have many real world friends. My own mother wouldn’t take me in at this difficult point in my life.
But Fred did. We met just before I left for North Carolina, and both of us mourned the lost possibility of further fellowship. But when I had the choice to sleep in my car or give him a call, he answered.
He’s opened his home to me in a way that leaves me profoundly humble and grateful, all at once. We’ve enjoyed some very intense –- some very interesting –- conversations since I’ve been here. To me, it’s like being around a walking, talking version of e2. I did so desperately miss conversations like that in North Carolina.
But to those of you who might think that e2 isn’t “real,” I have only this to say. It’s as real as you want it to be. So make the most of it.
So now my hair is shorter. Has anything else changed? Well, no matter how much bravado I try to muster, this I know . . . I love my wife desperately, and miss her more than words, written or spoken, can ever say. The simple fact that I nearly broke down in tears in a hair salon just because I couldn’t stop thinking of her tells me that I shouldn’t even try to play the hero.
I know what I want, and I should just make it clear to everyone.
Maybe I won’t wait for my wife to call tonight. Maybe I’ll just risk rejection and call her myself. Nothing that comes from that can be worse than not being with her.
It's the same old song
But with a different meaning
Since you've been gone