A while back I was talking with my girlfriends at a stoplight. It was cloudy, and I was gathering pieces, distracting myself while on the mend. We laughed at one of our friend’s latest escapades, and Mel’s eyes suddenly widened. I whipped my head around to see her target and my eyes locked on my favorite sweater. White, with a thick, gray stripe across the shoulders. And –
– and OHHHH.
I couldn’t breathe.
I tried to wave off the nausea with a laugh and weak smile.
It took him less than 48 hours to cut his hair.
(I know the significance of this is lost on almost all but me. Trust my experience; taking scissors to that perfect coif is not a decision of marginal magnitude.)
My professor once said, We look for evidence, not information. We search out the data with innuendos and attachment and meaning. We find patterns.
Empirical evidence, not just information. That’s what it was to me.
Proof that he was now different, and the different clearly wasn’t mine to claim.
New. New me, and you’re not welcome in.
How foolish and trivial it was. A haircut.
But really, it wasn’t just a haircut.
A month later, I turned into the parking lot of an apartment complex. It’s funny how time skews perception. I miscounted the speed bumps. In my passenger seat sat a returning good-luck token, with a note to dull the ache.
His parked car caught my eye. Right there on the front line, almost insultingly conspicuous. Catcalling. Hey, hottie babe. He’s here, you know. He’s been here. Where’ve you been?
I remembered wisecracking at Courtneyweeks ago, telling her what I miss most is the rides. In Courtney fashion, she said, That would make a great essay.
I shot the car a crusty as I walked up the first set of concrete steps.
A hollow wooden door. Regret on one side, bitterness on the other. Three inches. A chasm of pride, ambition, selfishness. Most of it mine.
I knew the layout of the room behind that front door. I remembered sitting on that black couch at the beginning of it as we quietly took down walls, brick by brick.
He asked, Scars. Do you have many?
Everybody has scars, I murmured. It’s the open wounds that really matter.
So much in those three inches. I clenched my hand, raised my fist.
I caught my reflection in the window. My untamable hair was thrown up on my head, and I was wearing no makeup except a vivid coral lip. My skin was browned from a recent weekend getaway. I looked young and vibrant. I looked like one of my favorite versions of me.
A passing thought of, If he opened this door right now, he would treat me like a stranger. The warmth of familiarity, the unvoiced admission of even-though-it’s-different-now-we-used-to-dance-in-the-kitchen-don’t-you-remember?….that was not going to be there. I’d seen it go before. It would be gone.
I didn’t knock.
And that’s all that needs to be said on that, really. That says enough.
Headed back to my car, I did what very well may be the creepiest thing I’ve ever done (and ever hope to do). I walked over to that damn car and shamelessly peered in the windows. A desire to exert control? Morbid curiosity?
It was messier than usual. An empty Mountain Dew bottle, hiking boots, and his favorite black-and-white checked scarf were littered across the backseat.
I knew nothing about why those items were there. Had he gone hiking? He never wears those boots. Why had he needed a scarf?
I remembered the day I saw his haircut. And just like that, I came to terms with my ignorance.
I. didn’t. know. And I wasn’t going to know. He was still the same man I’d known for so long, but he was changing day by day, hour by hour, choice by choice. Time and decisions I was not a part of.
I slid into my car. Flipped down the mirror and stared.
Here I am. Barefaced.
Ready to screw prudence.