She wanted her lover to cut her hair. He was in the habit of cutting his own with electric clippers, which was easy enough to do, since he was pretty bald on top. He always refused her requests to cut her hair, though, because he had cut a previous lover’s hair, and, disappointed at the result, she had cried and refused to be comforted. So, he had vowed then never to cut another person’s hair.
She had often watched him trim his own hair, standing by the bathroom door while he did the job in front of the mirror over the sink to catch the hairs as they fell. Then she would run her hand and cheek against the delicious nascent prickliness of his shaven scalp and face, which felt to her like the finest grade of sandpaper, and imagine him using the clippers on her.
She had worn her curly hair quite short for decades, striving for a look that was part skittish woodland elf, part mischievous schoolboy — not an easy combination for a middle-aged woman to pull off.
Her favorite part of getting a haircut was when the stylist took the shaver to the back and sides of her head to create definition and to shape the sideburns to subtle points or do away with them altogether, according to the stylist’s whim. She never interfered with the haircut, viewing it as something best dealt with between an acknowledged expert and a wild mop of hair that could be anyone’s, in the same way that a master gardener takes up shears to tame an overgrown shrub among many on a vast estate.
What she looked forward to most each time was the hum of the electric razor against the nape of her neck and around her ears, the kiss of the twin blades as they plucked hair and even stubble without damaging skin. On one thrilling occasion, the stylist had used an old-fashioned straight razor, almost daring it to scrape bloody troughs through delicate flesh. It was only the stylist’s skill, and her complete trust, that kept those barriers intact.
Finally, she got her lover to agree to cut her hair with the clippers. It took months of wearing him down, as they lay naked and spent after sex, her promising she’d be fine with however it turned out, insisting that this act could only bring them closer.
On a Sunday morning, she sat in a chair in the kitchen, a towel draped around her neck and shoulders, while he went to work. She could feel the clippers buzzing and scratching against the sides and top of her head, see the graying dark clumps of hair descend onto the snowy towel or further to the newspaper pages spread out beneath her chair. She gave herself over to the process, ceded control to him as he sought to bring order to the chaos of her curls, remove excess hair to reveal her perfect essence.
When he was done, he stepped back and paused, as if trying to figure out his next move, and then finally reached for the hand mirror on the kitchen table to let her see his handiwork.
She looked in the mirror and saw a sideshow pinhead peering back at her, a tiny uneven knot of tousled hair atop a moon face; red, ragged ears protruding like embarrassed afterthoughts; a slack-jawed expression of disbelief, with his mortified face behind hers. But she didn’t cry. That was her end of the bargain.
Bridget Goldschmidt received her master of fine arts (concentration in fiction) from Brooklyn College in 1991. She works as an editor for a trade magazine and lives in New York. She had a short story published in Flash Fiction Magazine and received honorable mention in a contest held by the same publication.