It’s amazing how much dust can stir through the air when a working mother is rushing to get her children ready for a life changing event. Every blouse thrown from the closet into the bedroom causes tiny specks to dance through the air, visible in the glowing light sparkling through a dirty window. The vocabulary of frustration expressed when trying to find the right clean shirt helps shape a child for the teenage years. The less likely the right shirt is clean, the cooler her child will be in middle school.
Today was preparation for LC’s sister to get her first big-girl hair cut. For some reason six years had passed and [name] still needed her first cut. Actually, for two reasons no scissors had clipped any of her precious locks. First, because her mother wanted [name] to have long enough hair for her to style it to match her little girl outfits. Mother wanted her daughter to be stylish, even if she didn’t have time to dress and style her herself. She wanted the option to have braided hair for her jump suits, pigtails for her denim outfits, and a ponytail for when she went to day care. It took four years for [name’s] hair to grow long enough for mother to have those options. The waiting period, and the value placed on long hair, led to [name] believing — for the last two years — that getting a hair cut would hurt.
Lenhard Calvin Long loved his sister but the level of attention being paid to [name] over something that he had done since he was two tested his patience. He was giving up his Saturday morning to dodge shirts, memorize slang, and try to persuade [name] to understand that you don’t feel your hair when it is cut. He couldn’t think of a reward that matched his sacrifice, but he loved his sister.
Lenny, are you ready? Have you eaten breakfast and brushed your teeth?
Yes mother. I’m ready and [name] is just about ready. We’ve both eaten and brushed our teeth.
Good. What is [name] wearing? Does her hair match her outfit? I’ll be ready as soon as I find a gotdam clean motherflucking blouse.
LC wasn’t sure how to answer the question about [name’s] outfit, he put on last season’s baseball uniform and dirty bluejeans and was ready to soak in the attention of those noticing his athletic prowess through his belly stained jersey. He was certain that everyone who saw him would know that in the final game of the season he slid head-first into home base for the winning run just by wearing that shirt.[Name] has on a pink t-shirt with a blue jean skirt and her hair is down.
Perfect. Do me a favor while I finish getting ready. Go into the den and find her stuffed pig, the small striped one. It should be in the toy trunk.
LC went into the den and wished he was able to have a normal Saturday morning of watching television and eating bowls of cereal until the neighbors finished their breakfasts and came outside to play. He worked his way through the obstacle course of Barbie dolls, high heels and GI Joes, reaching the toy trunk and digging to the bottom for the striped stuffed pig.
As he worked his way back towards his mother he stopped in [name’s] room to check on her. She was sitting at her desk, bent over tying her pink Keds sneakers that matched her t-shirt. Her curly hair was flipped over towards the ground and he wondered how she could even see her shoe strings.[Name], are you almost ready to go? [Name] turned her head just enough to make eye contact and she whimpered, Yes.
LC walked closer and leaned down to be certain that he was seeing a tear on her cheek.[Name] it is going to be okay. Really, it won’t hurt at all.
He put his arm around her shoulder and did the best big brother hug a 9-year-old could give. He loved his sister. LC handed her the striped pig and [name] smiled and sucked in the remaining tears so mother wouldn’t see. He left [name] and reported to mother that they were indeed ready.
His mother was now perfect. Even with her unique language, she was always perfect to him. But when she finished doing whatever it was she did in the bathroom, she reached a new level of perfection. Somehow, when she left that room her teeth were whiter and her lips sparkled. Her eyes were more defined and her hair bounced, just by turning her head. Clothes that looked ordinary on other moms made his mother look like the women in television commercials. And when she walked, people looked her way. She was not an ordinary woman and he knew because of that, he would not be an ordinary man.
Now 10 minutes late, most people would risk missing an appointment. Victoria Long had no problem making up 10 minutes if an interstate was involved. She worked hard, she made more money than most women she knew and she drove a car that proved it. With LC and [name] secure she could easily shed five minutes and arrive for the haircut appointment within the fashionable late timeframe.
LC always hid his fear of riding in a car with his mother. Weakness was not a trait that was well received by the matriarch of the family. Which is why [name’s] ability to put off this haircut for two years was proof that she was mother’s favorite child. LC knew the focus was on [name] this morning because he didn’t even get in trouble for the uniform he was wearing. Still, he didn’t want to risk her noticing so he sat quietly buckled in the front seat of their Lexus LS 400.
When they dropped off the car with the valet he wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans and opened the back door to get [name]. He knew they would have to hustle as they just experienced driving 20 miles in 12 minutes. Even though they made up eight minutes on the drive, they still had to get in the building, up the elevator and in to the salon – all while dragging a pouting, sad, scared 6-year-old girl.
Mother wasn’t going to walk faster, she did her part to make up lost time, so he knew to rush ahead and poke the up button on the wall. To his surprise, the bell rung almost instantly and he was the only one in the area. He scurried to see how close they were and yelled, It’s here!
There was no change in pace for his mother and sister and he waited as long as he could, signaling with hurried hand motions. The elevator doors started to shut so he whisked back and did like so many men he had seen before – he extended his arm in an attempt to prevent the doors from closing. But they closed anyway.
He could hear his mother’s heels getting closer and as she turned the corner to the elevator lobby he was stuck, one arm out between two closed doors, one arm pushing against the door and two legs dangling as the cab began to move upward. Victoria didn’t move faster but arrived at the door the same time LC’s head was bumping against the top of the elevator doorway. The jarring of his bump was enough to initiate the emergency sensors that didn’t go off with his minor sized arm. The cab stopped and the door opened, dropping LC into his mother’s frame.
Well, you tried to catch it for us Lenny. Are you okay?
Yes mother, I’m fine. Maybe a little scared but I’ll
Let’s make sure we get the next gotdam elevator so we aren’t flucking late for [name’s] appointment.
LC’s father left the family two years after the haircut. He was a stay-at-home Dad who lost interest in being bullied by his wife. Lenhard Calvin Jr. also went by LC and had every desire to call his son LC3. But Victoria said no and called their boy Lenny. There was a time when it seemed as though Dad would become a regular drinker but he quickly reversed that downward spiral. Instead of drinking, he exercised, or planned a healthy meal. He wasn’t the traditional father, but he had to be a positive influence in some way for his children. As in-shape as he could be, as healthy a chef as he could be, he couldn’t continue down the path of a life only having meaning because he watched kids sporting events and dance recitals.
The weirdest part about their father leaving wasn’t that he left, it’s that he wasn’t missed. Mother never said a bad word about him and if he did come around to watch a game or to take [name] to a father-daughter dance it felt the same as if he just came in the kitchen to refill his workout water bottle. When he was there, he wasn’t there so when he left, he wasn’t missed.
Spending 11 years at home made finding a job harder than he would have ever imagined. He went to college and had a marketing degree but his dream was to be an entrepreneur, to find a niche and a way to make money off of it. Victoria supported his dream but when he couldn’t find a niche, when nothing sounded like a cash cow, when every idea fizzled in the planning stages he decided staying at home with the kids and support his wife’s developing career was the best idea.
By the time he left his attitude was that of hope and bitterness. With his looks he could easily find another wife but that wasn’t the reason he moved on, he didn’t want what he had. He still didn’t know what he wanted, but it had to be different.
He mulled it over and decided there were two options that would give him independence, a business, and not require him to start in the mail room and work his way up the corporate ladder. He didn’t have time for that kind of growth.
He considered being a hairdresser. My God he had good hair. A few curls when it was longer, just enough waves when it was shorter, and endless possibilities with super short cuts because of his thick, structured eyebrows and his ability to grow a full beard. He could pull off just about any hair style because of his natural good looks.
Part of what he liked about the idea of being a hairdresser was the ease of setting up shop. He could find a salon to rent a chair, set his own hours, get as much business as he wanted…the possibilities were endless and that’s exactly what he wanted. But, he would have to get a license and learn how to cut hair. Plus, he would have to fight the stereotypes of being a male hairdresser, especially as fit and good looking as he was, something he just didn’t have the energy or patience to do.
The other line of work he was considering was a car service. Victoria was always handing down her luxury cars to him, none of which were in poor condition. His current Lexus LS 400 would be perfect to drive people who didn’t want to go to the airport in a yellow taxi. All he needed was to complete some paperwork, get the proper insurance, tint the windows and do some marketing. He already knew how to drive.