Author: Silver Light of Hope PM
A hairdresser's effect on an anorexic girl. I'm REALLY new to this ...please, please read and review...!Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst - Words: 2,217 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 3 - Published: 01-22-05 - id: 1814160
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The hairdresser worked throughout the day. Although it was a bad habit, she sometimes thought, too: in time with the flickering of the eerie fluorescent lights, in time with the rhythmic scissorings of her compatriots, she thought. She was, in fact, executing that very act when the three little bells above the door tinkled dutifully to announce an arrival.
Marvelously on cue, her muddled philosophical ennui sublimated to rehearsed levity; her pensive eyes widened and brightened; her serious mouth furled slightly. The transformation was as preset, and perfunctory, as a caterpillar's. She emerged from her defensive and solitary shell as a fragile creature, no longer shielded from the weathering world.
Thus marked the diurnal death of the hairdresser, for beauticians are not permitted to be human. They are to be soulful confidants, those friends, those dreams, longed for but never attained, beaming angels with shatterproof patience who provide physical beauty and mental relief. The hairdresser felt the quick change from brooding human to inspirational cherubim alter every physiological process in her body; she was primed, pumped, set to spray any stimulus with a blindingly beaming countenance and a web of conversation and compliments.
At first, her focus was on the grinning and not on the customer, who had just removed her heavy winter's coat (strange, because it was a humid summer day). But the hairdresser's fallacious happiness soon melted - and threatened to falter - when her eyes slowly absorbed the pitiful sight before her.
The hairdresser's first observation was the neutrally apathetic one she had trained herself to mindlessly think: what was the customer's hair like?
The answer was flabbergasting even to a professional of her experience. It was stringy and thin, and broken; a muted brown mass that dangled limply just above her tee-shirt. And then, entirely without warning, her gaze shifted; her superhuman defenses failed. The hairdresser suddenly saw glaringly more than just a mandatory paycheck staring at her through sunken and sorrowful eyes. The most terrible and dangerous thing that could ever happen to the hairdresser had just happened. Her barrier shattered. She had begun to think.
The hairdresser could not help but take in the other hair, a fine, mossy coating that covered the girl's arms, and her bare legs, and even her face, like a layer of pale sprouts. It was as if a great deal of her hair had been ripped from her scalp and distributed all over her body - but what body? How had she even gotten through the doorway? It wasn't the lack of muscularity that was shocking - the hairdresser had seen thin, fragile-looking girls before - it was the lack of insulation, the lack of fat and muscle and meat and mass, that stirred the acid in her stomach and brought her blood to a standstill.
Her frame was, at best, skeletal. The hairdresser could almost make out the individual rods that held together her wretched flesh - the backs of her arms, the very joints that glued her knees to her thighs, and to her calves; the indentations of her sunken skull, the caverns of her stagnant eyes. The hairdresser wanted to hide for shame; it was as if she were God, or an X-ray machine, or a pervert, looking directly into the sordid core of someone's body, gaping at something she had no right to comprehend.
"Have a seat," the hairdresser said, still smiling.
The girl thanked her, and the hairdresser winced. Save your energy, she wanted to shout. You can't afford to talk.
With relatively little effort, the girl propped herself up onto the chair and rested her legs - or, rather, the bones of her legs - on the footstool, her gray eyes now fixating blankly on the pane of glass before her and her mind, no doubt, cursing God for her ugliness and for her gluttony. With bent legs, the little atrophying muscle the girl had left seemed even more pulled and diminished, and her frail and ragged frame seemed even smaller and more bent for a girl who had to be at least sixteen years old. The little unhealthy and bruised skin she had sagged, like an empty bag with nothing to support; it fell around the weak and exposed bones of her tiny shoulders and hung loose like curtains over her legs. Normally, the hairdresser would not be able to see the shoulder bones of a girl who was wearing a tee-shirt, but hers was too large for her, a tiny piece of clothing that fell like her own skin off the sides of her shoulders.
The next few moments passed in a blur. The hairdresser evaded conversation and kept mostly to herself, although the girl was very polite. Meanwhile, she brushed the girl's hair, trying to be as gentle as possible with someone so blatantly feeble, but she couldn't ignore how it separated from her head, in thick chunks, like the coat of a shedding dog, and soon she had to stop brushing it and began to gingerly trim the ends. She can't afford to lose any more than she already has.
"How short do you want it?" the hairdresser asked her customer politely. "Shoulder-length? Maybe a little shorter?"
"Shoulder-length, please," the girl responded, although she could barely speak through her chattering teeth. The black barbershop smock that concealed the girl's decaying body could not hide her weakness. She shook from the cold, and her trembles and shivers make it difficult for the hairdresser to adequately cut her hair.
And that face in the mirror! She could not help but imagine the girl as she might have looked with taut skin, with real muscles, with bright eyes that took in her environment instead of the foggy orbs that were sunk like lead bullets in her face, with fresh legs and arms and a shiny layer of glossy brown hair, and a bright smile instead of the calm expression of self-hatred that discreetly - but undeniably - was fueling the irrevocable decay of her body.
"How's school?" the hairdresser questioned, forcing interest to fill her hollow tone.
Her hair was already finished. It was, possibly, more ragged, more uneven, and thinner than it was when she began, but it was completed. It was not the hairdresser's place to say anything. It was the customer's.
"Do you like it?"
"Yes, thank you," the girl mumbled, her voice still shaky. It was growing hot in the salon, as the climbing sun's exertions penetrated the windowpane, agitating and jostling the air inside. But the girl, the hairdresser knew, would not feel the heat, or maybe even see the sun. Her thoughts were only on her ugliness, and how much the others hated her. Her skin, her eyes, were not instruments to measure warmth or to perceive depth or to allow her to move freely and comfortably; they were just cloths, covers, to shield the world from her inner hell. Behind the skin, just beyond the empty eyes, her poisoned mind would continue to pollute and destroy her liver, her stomach, and her heart.
The hairdresser removed the smock and she watched as the girl quickly replaced her thick coat, which served as the skin and body she didn't have. She did not wear the coat to protect her body, though; she warmed herself to rouse her mind, so that it could continue to allow her to destroy herself.
A stab of empathy rushed uncharacteristically through the stoic hairdresser's body. Her eyes threatened to water and her dumb smile nearly bent. The human inside her was taking over; she wanted to do more than keep her sanguine facade. She wanted to help.
They walked over to the counter, and the girl handed over the money.
"Would you like a chocolate?" the hairdresser asked softly, pushing the wiry metal bowl over the counter. "They're good," she added.
Her eyes searched the girl's, and faintly, so subtly and quickly that it could have been imagination, she thought she a flicker in the pupils that spread across the irises and down in the form of a little spasm in her mouth, a twitch in her body. For that one second, human met human, and their souls connected, and there was a pulse of understanding that consumed both of them - and then they both turned away, embarrassed to have slipped from their roles.
"Thank you," the customer said politely, and stretched over to take the candy. She knew what was expected of her, what she had to do. The symbol of defeat burned her tastebuds, and she strode quickly out the salon with a wave.
The expressionless hairdresser propped herself against the counter for a moment and watched the girl with her long coat. A few paces outside the door she spat out her chocolate onto the ground, and then she was gone.
It's not my place, the hairdresser thought with coldness, fighting the inevitable breach that her humanity caused in her shell. Another customer was coming soon; she cold not afford to become human, melancholy.
I have no part in her life.
The girl would run the three miles back to her house, although she could scarcely move as it was and although she would have to stop numerous times just to keep herself from fainting, and although her body was drawing its energy no longer from its stores but from the muscle it still had and from her vital organs and from her bones.
There is nothing I can do about it. Someone else has to help her.
She would collapse when she got home and up the hard wooden stairs. Her body would be too weak even to pull the covers over her shivering body, but it didn't matter. She didn't have to wear her baggy clothes now; she didn't have to be secretive. Now, thankfully, her family was out of town.
I'm just a hairdresser. I support people and tell them they're beautiful. I smile and cut their hair and send them on their way, whatever that way may be.
She would sleep through lunch that day, and she would not eat dinner that night or breakfast that morning, although the next day at lunch she would allow herself to consume exactly one cup of dry cereal, carefully measured, and a small apple.
There's nothing I can do.
The hairdresser's wandering thoughts soon allowed her to convince herself of what she had believed all along. Her scissors were like the jaws of time. They could cut, they could take away, they could lessen and diminish, but they could never give back.
For the next few days, the hairdresser's human side ruptured and disrupted her job. She found it difficult to smile falsely and remove herself entirely from the realm of empathy and human affairs. Her regular customers would become indignant at her sudden change, and she would lose a few of them; her fellow hairdressers, who would show up later in the day, would snip at her with their mechanical metal voices and scissors and tell her to get a grip on herself, that she would never make any money this way, that she had to be the person everyone expected her to be. And as her scissors would whittle away, and as more needy customers would come in to have their souls lifted and their spirits sheared, she would fall back into her regular pattern. She was normal within a week.
I think when it's appropriate for me to think.
Within a week, when the girl's parents would return from their cruise, they would find their daughter asleep on her bed, without the covers on her, and they would gasp because they had never really seen how her bare bones protruded or how much hair had fallen off onto the bed. They would try to rouse her, for at least an half-hour before calling the ambulance.
The voices and faces entered and left the beauty shop, in and out, mechanically every day, to the rhythmic scissorings and rambling gabble of trivial things. They came to change themselves, to find someone who did not know them but would love them, who would change their style and color and personality and let them hide everything they didn't like about themselves. The hairdresser's job was not to fix their minds, but their bodies. If she tried to purify their minds, if she tried to fix the root of the problem rather than the ephemeral problem that was the root of the hair, she would lose many, many wretched customers.
The doctor at the hospital also tried to fix the outside, by jamming needles through sagging skin and shoving tubes down the esophagus. Everyone played their valiant and worthless role to save her body, her shell. No one had thought to fix the pain on the inside.
The hairdresser would snip away at more hair with her scissors and the doctor would cut away at more skin with his scalpel while the girl's mind finished severing its own consciousness from the inside.
She would never be a customer again.