"Hair dressing" by David Muldoon

Hair dressing

Method: Ask the Impossible question

at the most possible moment,wreck

beautiful havoc

with consistency.



I was flowing.

I knew she didn’t need me,  I only

felt the power in her need.

Every working week in New York was a cycle. Sunday open mic at the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe, Monday French Jazz at Jules Bistro, Tuesday’s Salsa Night, Wednesday drum and bass or some weird European transvestite DJ somewhere, and my favorite night out on the town Thursdays, wherever’s clever. Then two days off, day at the park, trip to the suburbs, sleep in and fuck a hair dresser from California, all before another Sunday evening session starts all over again. Basically snooze, booze and you’re back on the grind.  Three years in New York at that rate were like seven years in a mid size city, ten years in the suburbs and over twenty years in the sticks. It was eat and be eaten.

When she walked into Astor Place looking for coffee beans, Jon gave me the head nudge. He was always on the side register and played Jesus, saving people from an endlessly long line just in time for their morning coffee. He was tall and could pull customers over with this really high and generic wave of the hand. It was saintly. The man was kind of benevolent.

That day Jon waved me over and sent me out to give this particularly attractive customer some advice on a coffee bean purchase. I immediately laid it on thick. I talked about every bean, what I liked and why. I then pulled her over to the register for a grind and gave it to her, free. You see at Astor Place it was all about barter.

I had a thing with the guys at the health food store, the copy place, even a vintage clothing shop down the block. I got newspapers free, bagels free, booze free, and this time I was destined for a free hair cut.  When she gave me her card and said that she’d gladly repay the favor, I was ecstatic.

I went outside for a smoke and consultation.

“She’s gonna cut you good my boy,” said Jerry, his sidekick responding with a grunty chuckle confirmation. “When you grease, you slide. You get nothing for nothing.”

“What would she want with a guy like me,” I replied.

“You got the beans,” he returned, pointing to his head. “Remember, it’s all up here.”

It’s really very primitive, the Village that is. You scratch my back I scratch yours. The goal: never spend actual money. It’s like concrete credit. Everything you need to survive someone else has and vice versa. So if you can give someone something and get something back, eventually you don’t need anything. It’s all word of mouth and slide of hand.

Jerry the Greek was a firm believer in the barter system. He had been at that newsstand for as long as there had been rain. He wore the traditional newspaper man hat and had an assistant that was the muscle of the operation. The assistant had a hairy mustache that was both thick in the middle and curled to a point on the sides. He never said a word, he only grunted. Even his laugh was a grunt. I think he was the younger guy of the team. Both guys took big black coffees no sugar daily. In exchange I got the New York Times, which coming from Miami was like reading contemporary philosophy.

Jerry the Greek saw so much so quickly that time seemed to stop for him. He was a walking headline.

“The more you know the less you know,” he said with a smoke in between his lips. A fast talking business man passed by talking on the phone like he was in the middle of a corporate takeover. Jerry put a New York Times in his hand and collected the money all in one motion. He’s the one who taught me the power of the regular customer. I am sure he pulled down mad tips at Christmas. He was out there through sleet and snow. Sundays was his only day off. He single handedly kept the Village Voice in business with his own bare hands, one stack of papers at a time. He had appeared in newspapers with at least two mayors, not to mention several foreign magazines and even a Greek documentary. The man was a neighborhood legend.

Having my daily sit down with him was like attending a lesson in modern day street philosophy.

“That lesbian manager is riding me today.”

“Too many cocks spoil the broth,” he replied, instantly tearing me out of some worthless work time dynamic. I’d vent, the other guy would grunt and Jerry would wax poetic. He was efficient in his delivery.  Then I’d be back in for another round.

The hair dresser knew I was a barter type guy. She also knew I was in need as I was the kind of guy who let things go for too long. Beard, hair, shower, I just like things to get to the point of disorder. She knew she could straighten me out, at least my hair anyway.

I waited until Thursday, called and got an appointment for Saturday at five o’clock. It’s not fucking time for the masses but anyone who fucks after lunch and before dinner has got it good. Fucking in the afternoon is a sign of physical wealth.

She lived in between the East and West Village, what I found out to be a couple of blocks from the Jewish university where I saw my old hippie friend Beatrice with a Hasidic guy. She had the blue skirt on and all. When I went to get one of those big breast hugs that she used to give me in high school, she backed away. She said that she would have to pray for a month if I touched her.  This hippie used to massage my feet with oil in English class right in front of the teacher and now she couldn’t touch a soul. Is it really just body or mind? Can’t they both intertwine?

I buzzed downstairs and, when the hair dresser opened the door, I could see a balding business man in an apron in the middle of her loft. I walked in and said hello in a professional way. It was an immediate buzz kill. She thanked me for the pound of coffee I brought her and asked me to put on a French press so we could all have a cup.

“Funniest thing,” she said to her client. “I met this guy in Astor Place and he really knows his coffee.”

I felt like a total rookie looser, a pawn in their game. The older people were the players and I the kid. I went through the motions as she finished this guy off. Where are you from, you know, all the usual chatter and then she let him go. We were in limbo though, and she looked a bit frazzled.

“Hey I didn’t have lunch. I’ve been working all afternoon. Do you mind if we get some sushi up the street.”

I was scared, scared I was going to have to pay but I went for it. The place was nice, a bit too dark for eating. There was that low romantic rumble that you hear in a lot of good New York restaurants. Our conversation was light enough but I kept the tone as low as the lights. When you try to be friends with a woman you can right off any chance of sex. That has always been my rule.  She had built up some sort of warm but professional barrier between us from the start of the afternoon in her apartment, but after a shot of warm Sake and a bottle of beer it was slowly breaking down. I kept her clear out of the big sister position by slimming down the small talk to the bare essentials.

When we got back to her building she said, “Well are you coming up? I still got to cut your hair.”

“No, I don’t want you to work on Saturday night. That’s a sin. We’ll do it another time.”

“Hey I owe you and besides, I like you, it’s not like work. And you really do need a trim.”

We went upstairs. She put the chair in the middle of her loft apartment, with my back to her bed. The lights were obviously not low but there was definitely intimacy in the room. She told me to wet my hair and instead of suiting me up with some black plastic bib she took off my shirt. I was in position. She faced me, put her hands through my hair with the scissors pointed outwards, sat on my lap and kissed the shit out of me. A big tongue kiss. Then she started cutting while she was still straddling me.

Being wet, being exposed, being in front of a full length mirror and two corner side big bay windows overlooking quaint ginkgo balboa tree tops street lamps lit from the second floor was immediately pleasing. Having your hair moved about by delicate but certain hands holding sharp stainless steel scissors that cost a thousand dollars and listening to the light bristle snips was intimately pleasing as well.

I had to grab her hips and I felt all the woman I had ever felt. There were no remnants of a girl left in that body. She was very positive, and young looking, but those hips spoke of at least two decades of sexual experience. She was rounder, higher and her legs were more muscular than any woman I had been with. Around her back thigh you could feel that she did Yoga, leaving her leg just meaty enough to be enjoyable to the touch.

She switched to razor blade for the remainder of the operation and she sincerely claimed that I was the first person she has ever sliced, right behind the ear.

“I must be nervous or just really into you because that was my first time.”

“Mine too. I’ve never had a sexy haircut before,” I replied.

“It’s not just sexy.”

That wasn’t a white lie that was a Puerto Rican lie. She had a kid uptown. But when I asked her to dance with me at a salsa night in the village she was so taken back by my courage that the Puerto Rican hairdresser from the Bronx took me on as her first official salsa intern. We danced all night and for weeks after that. She was probably the oldest woman I was with in New York but I never really could tell for sure. We went to salsa nights about three times a week for a good while. It was hot. When she ended up in my apartment she stayed for 24 hours. A relative must have come from afar to watch her kid so she could really let loose. She called the child during our sit in and she even called Chicken.

Chicken was amazing. He pulled up in a white, unmarked van. I got in the sliding door side and he pulled out a really elaborate fishing tackle box. It was blue on the outside and looked like the box I used to keep my Hot Wheels cars in. All divided up into little boxes with those labels that my mom used to make with her label gun that looked like something from Star Trek. There were fifty different types of weed. It was my first introduction to Amsterdam quality bud before even stepping on the mainland continent.  I picked the good shit, gave him a fifty and survived the transaction.

The Puerto Rican hair dresser and I smoked and fucked. We showered and fucked. We ate and fucked. And we did it all again. The radiator in my bedroom had broken, but being from Florida, I had no idea. Steam was coming out of the radiator along with a pleasant hissing noise and the whole room was constantly humid and tropical. My avocado plant was loving it, and so was this Caribbean specimen of a woman. It was a think tank some nights and a Turkish bath in the ghetto on others. Between the smoke, the heat, the vapor, the red lights and the music I’d say that it was all a bit timeless. My roommate was gone and so was the Brazilian girl that lived in the hammock in the kitchen.

We got out of that apartment twenty four hours later and after a whole bunch of foreplay and back play and side play and play with this, you play with that, and let’s play it again, we were dazzled and hungry. We walked down Prince Street and into the diner on the corner where the Beastie Boys used to go. They had the best egg and cheese bagels and old style diner coffee.

When we walked out of the diner, a Japanese guy with an expensive looking video camera and an assistant came up to us on a real high. We agreed to be in his short film and we did a little number by a phone booth on the corner. She did have flaming red hair and I a winter coat and military shorts on. He liked our style but more than that he could smell the sex on us and :had some weird fascination with a guy I had never heard of, a guy that eventually would change my life.

“You looka like a Tom Waits.”

He said it about thirty times. I never really knew what he was talking about until about a year later.

I didn’t get a haircut from the Puerto Rican hair dresser in the end so technically the Californian hairdresser was my first.

The Californian hair dresser was going to town on my mop as I day dreamed about my past experience. I was loving it. She put on music, took off her shirt and we both basked in the glory of an impending sexual encounter. Her apartment was red brick inside, had a wood floor and was really spacious. When she finished she blew me off with her hair dryer and then proceeded to sit on top of me for a good long time. Her steady hand was thrilling. She was a master of movement and her breasts were small but firm, nipples constantly hard and domineering; Her long hair was brown, straight, full and everywhere. We made much love. Not 24 hours worth or anything but it was a very solid and giving experience. She was so clean, I remember that. Long and thin and her labia majora was slightly protrusive and mature.

I didn’t stay the night because it was a house call not a late night number and well I was feeling quite civilized.

I arrived at Astor just in time for closing and met up with some of my working friends, sex still on my lips.

“Let’s hit an Irish pub,” said Prince.

“Yeah. I could use a cold dark one.”

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