“You got 20 minutes, Girlfriend,” said Donald when I arrived on Friday.
“20 minutes? But you were rushed last time we got together…”
“What can I say, Sweetie? I’m busy.”
He sat me down and got me comfortable. At least, he got me physically comfortable. Inside, I was a jangle of mixed emotions. We’d been together nearly 5 years, and I’d been completely faithful, never even thinking of being with anyone but Donald, yet… yet…
Something was undeniably wrong.
I’d suspected it last time we’d been together, the way he rushed to finish, the way he didn’t ask what I wanted or needed, the way he didn’t even seem to care if I was satisfied or happy. The way I couldn’t reach him on his cellphone between the last time we’d seen each other and Thursday night, when he finally returned my call and said we could get together on Friday morning.
My doubts about his feelings for me intensified when he ran his fingers through my hair without taking his rings off, sighing loudly, “Girl, what did you do to your hair?”
That was when I knew, without doubt, that something bad was happening.
Donald had never talked to me that way before. He’d always complimented my hair: its color, texture, sheen, abundance. He’d always admired my hair, and often told me how beautiful it was. Nothing like that came out of his mouth on Friday, however, and I began to feel more than a slight chill in the room.
“You don’t like my hair?” I said.
“Did you think I would?” he said, flipping a long strand away from my face. “Who are you trying to be?”
My heart almost stopped. Never had he spoken to me like that. All these years together. My absolute and complete fidelity, love, admiration, respect…
Was it all over?
Was Donald tired of me?
“20 minutes, Girl. You better tell me what you want. I got people waiting.”
“I want you. I don’t want anybody else.”
He looked at his watch. He chewed gum. He gazed at his fingernails. He looked at me in the mirror. I couldn’t breathe.
By the time I got home, I was weeping copious tears of regret and shame. What had I done wrong? Hadn’t I been loyal, generous, undemanding, flexible? Hadn’t I always been clear about my needs and desires? Hadn’t I been unfailingly affectionate, even, loving, to a fault?
All I’d done was trim my own hair.
Not liking it, I’d asked Donald to “fix” it for me.
Isn’t that what he was supposed to do?
When I looked in the mirror at home, I knew it was over. Donald hadn’t liked my hair, and he certainly hadn’t approved of the fact that, despite the fact that I’d cut my own hair for over 20 years before I’d met him, I’d dared to do something to my own hair myself. Clearly annoyed, Donald had spent only 20 minutes with me, practically bragging that someone else was waiting, not listening to how I wanted my hair to look, fixing it however he wanted it to be.
This was the second time in a row that we’d gotten together and that I’d been completely and totally unsatisfied. Furthermore, I’d left Donald feeling lonely, unhappy, sad. That isn’t a good way to feel in a relationship.
Just as I was wondering what to do, the phone rang.
“Donald? Is that really you?”
“Why you acting so surprised, Girlfriend? You act like I never call you.”
“You never have called me. Ever. Not once in 5 years. I’m the one who always calls you.”
“Well, you didn’t seem too happy this morning when you left. You feel better now?”
“Oh. Sorry to hear that.”
“Did you want to get together…”
“Can’t, Baby-girl. I got plans. Just thought I’d call and see how you felt.”
“Okay, Honey. ‘Bye.”
I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept getting up and going into the bathroom, turning on its harsh light, staring at my hair and what Donald had done to it. He hadn’t done what I’d asked for.
Was this how I wanted to spend my life? Was this how I wanted to look?
In the morning, when I called Donald, he was not pleased. He didn’t want to see me. He didn’t even want to talk to me. He said he thought my hair had looked just fine when I’d left him Friday morning.
I told him I was unhappy.
He said he had to go: he had things to do.
So, I’d been right. That was it. It was over.
We’d broken up without even saying it.
My years with Donald were 5 of the happiest years of my life. 5 years when, I admit, I’ve looked better than I ever have. Donald did amazing things with my hair, cutting and styling it into imaginative and compliment-worthy shapes, even dying it into strange and strikingly brilliant colors.
But they were always colors and syles which Donald had picked for me, not in consultation with me.
And now he had abandoned me.
All I wanted to do after I realized that it was over was to try to efface the damage Donald had inflicted: I didn’t like the cut or the color. I got in my Jeep and drove until I found a place that looked like it had someone who could help me. The red-and-white stripes on the old-fashioned Barber pole beckoned.
When I went in, only one person was there: Ricardo. He smiled. He motioned me to sit in the large, padded chair. He listened patiently to what I wanted done with my hair. He nodded sympathetically when I asked if he could repair the damage Donald had done. Yes, of course, he said, he could help me.
Sighing, he reluctantly lifted the clippers to my head and shaved off the parts of my hair that were too bizarrely damaged to be saved, shaking his head continually, tsk-tsk-tsk-ing at what had been done to me.
“You are a very brave woman,” he said, in a tender whisper when he finished and he was sure that I was completely and totally satisfied. “And very, very beautiful.”
Ah, Ricardo mio, he made me feel I could start again, my head held high.
updated August 2017