The other day, Paul walked over to me and tried to give me his dusty hair-clipper kit. We'd bought it when Eli was still little enough not to care what happened to his hair, and had only used it once. Paul was forbidden to ever go near Eli with it again after what he did to his poor hair.
"I need you to shave my head," he said. I laughed at first. Yeah right he was gonna let me mess with his hair. But when I saw he was serious I shook my head no and then more adamantly from side to side.
Nope. No. No way.
Can you imagine? I rarely do his laundry because it's never the way he would do it. Why would I risk fucking up something he carries around with him 24/7? You can't just rewash a botched haircut.
"I've been to Supercuts three times now! The wait is ridiculous! It's not worth the money for the few minutes it takes them to buzz my head!" ...and they take only a few minutes BECAUSE THEY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING!!!!! I reminded him.
And so ended up outside on the patio. He sat on one of the patio chairs, with only a dusty, cobwebbed window for reflection.
"Could I in any way hurt you with these?" I asked over the chainsaw buzzing of the clippers. My shaky hand was almost to his skull. I took a deep breath and tried to force only happy thoughts into my head. Love. Peace.
...Because of what happened the last time Paul went surfing. It was the last day of our Spring Break and I was done. I'd kicked myself for saying: "Of course!" when, earlier that week, he'd asked if it was OK with me if he went surfing the last Sunday of our break.
He was heading out the door, surf board tucked lovingly under his arm, a spring in his step I've only seen when he is going surfing.
He tried to kiss me goodbye as I did the dishes.
"Nothing. Just go. Be careful. Don't drown..." I said.
An hour later the doorbell rang. He'd had an accident on his surfboard and landed on his knee. He said the pain had been excruciating. It was a good thing he hadn't landed on his head .
"You cursed me!" he said.
We joked about my magic powers. But his knee got worse and he kept saying I'd cursed him and while I obviously don't have magic powers, I'd started to wonder if he really believed I'd wished him harm. Wasn't that just the same as an evil spell?
I held the weap-- ahem--clippers in mid-air. My arm shook. I imagined accidentally carving out a piece of his skull, blood spurting. The peaceful thoughts would not come. Only fear of myself. Self-doubt.
"Go ahead," he said, "start at my temples."
Not the temples! I saw a vein pulsating. What if I...
Finally, a connection. Blade to scalp. The hair came off smoothly, like clearing a cornfield. Straight little rows. No blood. My shoulders relaxed. I could do this.
"Done," I sighed. Relief.
...Only he ran up to the bathroom and said I wasn't. I'd left patches, he said. The hair at his nape was jagged and crooked.
"You're gonna have to do it bare blade," he said, once again sitting down in front of the dusty window makeshift mirror, "It was too much hair. You didn't get close enough to the scalp."
For good reason...
He handed me the clippers.
I learned what "bare blade" means...stared at the gash of exposed white scalp right smack in the middle of his skull.
I tried to fix it.
I tried to fix it some more.
"Now I'll have to shave more off..." I said.
"NO! No! Just leave it." I followed him up to the bathroom and winced as I saw his reaction.
He seemed to be holding his breath.
He blinked a lot.
"You made me..." I whined.
"It's only hair. As soon as the sun hits it it won't be so obvious. It'll even out..."
Was it a test?
If so, we were both relieved. All I had power over, really, was a bad haircut.