Irinas Hair Shop
Irina cut our hair when
we lived on the hill. She was a blonde Russian woman who wore pale powder,
fake eyelashes, and blue liner. She rented the tiny beauty
shop on Polk—two chairs near the window, turned away from the sun.
One cut she told me about her ex—how he left her with no money. Their teenage
son was taller than her now, and stayed with his girlfriend too often.
Men all want one thing, she said. Even my own damn kid.
That time she styled my hair round like a mushroom.
My husband Leif and I were still newlyweds who stacked tofu boxes and refrigerated
safflower oil. We lived next to a Chinese beef jerky factory. Toxins floated
in our window. All the newspaper stories were about cancer. Skin cancer, throat
cancer, pancreatic cancer. We didnt have enough money for furniture, much
Leif became irritable the day of his trim. He swore while he was shaving in
the morning, cutting himself more than usual.
Whats the matter? I asked.
She flirts with me, he said.
What a bitch, I said.
I imagined him a small child on the beach at Long Island Sound, his mother
leaving him alone for a sec while she put on her suit. Something about Leif
was unnaturally vulnerable. He had serious asthma most of his life, and lived
with too much worry.
We went together. When she saw me, her face reddened. I picked up a Vogue and
sat quietly while she cut his hair.
You two are like a comedy team, she said.
As if to illustrate her point, Leif told her a joke about how much hair he
was losing because of my tofu lasagna, my tempe casserole, the lack of meat
in our diet as if I were poisoning him. I felt my hands get cold—though I tried
to fake a chuckle.
Irina laughed so hard she snorted, doubling over as though she were losing
urine. She cut his hair deeply, winking at me grotesquely. When we walked out
Leif was nearly bald on one side.
A week later, walking to the health food store we noticed her windows were
taped. A sign in the door said For Rent. The shop was dark.
We saw it as somehow our fault, purchased expensive algae tablets from the
health food store to fight off cancer. We swallowed bits of ocean each morning
before opening the windows.
Return to Archive