Sissy wonders if the ice is melting or it's freezing rain coming down. What the hell is a fifty-seven year old woman doing calling herself Sissy? She tells me about her daughter's New Year's party.
"She is going to one party and her boyfriend is going to a different one. Both in the same town. Can you believe it? They've been going out for three years, but it's not going anywhere. That's their generation -- nothing like us back when we were their age. We couldn't wait to hook up. They can't stand the idea."
I wanted to levitate out of the barber's chair.
"What are you doing for New Year's? My boyfriend and I are going to the Elks uptown."
Me, I was going to stretch my money and go down to my favorite pizzeria and get a fucking special pie, the one with three cheeses and four meats. Fresh basil and charred crust. Sit there and listen to my neighbors congratulate themselves on making it through another year with their faculties intact. Bring a bottle of Vitiano. I can get that shit from the A&P for less than a dime. Jamie once claimed that it's the best red sauce wine you can slug. My days of collecting Barolos are over. What are you gonna do when your pockets are empty?
This hair cut was gonna set me back twenty bucks. Sissy droned on.
"How long have you lived here?"
Since the days my hair grew down to my arse and the Puerto Rican nationalists set off molotov cocktails on Third and Willow. Before the crooked landlords started burning tenants out of their apartments. You gotta love this place where greed is its own reward. There's purity here.
When I get a hair cut I want to enter the slipstream and let the thin white strands fall from my shoulders like fucking snow. I don't want to talk. And I sure don't want to listen. But Sissy is good with the clippers and I figure I should be able to put up with fifteen minutes of jawboning. I'm not that much of a curmudgeon yet, am I?
Sissy asks me whether or not I want her to wet it. I tell her, "No thanks. Just leave it the way it is."
"You're just a natural guy," she snorts. "Hope to see you again." Give me a thousand such encounters and I'll give you a life.