Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

We were together almost 16 years.  Next month, in fact, would have been our anniversary.  I was pregnant when we met.  And I was mostly faithful to him (the two times I wasn’t were totally his fault). We were even talking about living together.

Josh, my hairdresser, is AWOL.  MIA.  Gone.  Vanished.  For a month, I’ve sent texts and dialed his number at least twice a day. His phone now informs me that “at the subscriber’s request,” it is not taking calls.  Before that, it refused to take messages.

My last haircut was at Halloween.  I’m trying to remain calm, but the situation is now at DEFCON 1.  My hair grows faster than kudzu, and any day now, I’m going to be asked to play the part of a wooly mastodon in a movie.

For sixteen years, Josh tamed what Raymond Adkins, who sat behind me for four straight years during elementary school, called “The Golden Fleece.”  Raymond liked to raise his hand and tell the teacher my hair was blocking his view of the blackboard.  Yet Raymond was being kind.  At home in the Adams family, my brother called me “Cousin Itt.”

Josh wasn’t just the guy who cut my hair.  He was my second-string shrink.  He saw me through pregnancy, through parenting teenagers, and through a nasty divorce.  He was on my side in that divorce, a confidant who kept my secrets as well as any lawyer.  And the week after it was settled, he gave me flowers with a note that said, simply, “To Fresh Starts.  Love, Josh.”

Thirteen years into our relationship, someone found out that he wasn’t a licensed cosmetologist, something to do with being licensed in Florida but not in Georgia.  After that long together, I didn’t care. But  his boss did, so he lost his salon job and started working out of his house.

And that’s when our relationship completely surprised both of us.

At the salon, he’d had to hide his homosexuality.  At his house, he opened up.  He told this preacher’s kid about being kicked out of his church when he came out. The more he realized that I was his friend, the more he began to talk. I got the listening job.  I heard what he wasn’t telling me when he said he hadn’t been to see his parents in a few years.  Recently, he said to me, “My parents should have known something was up when I choreographed an entire trampoline routine to Hearts On Fire at the age of nine and forced them to watch.” It was sad but funny.

What I loved most about Josh, even more than the magic he did with my hair, was that he always made me laugh.  He could crack me up with a Paula Deen impression or a story about working up the courage to talk to a guy seated at a bar who turned out to be a midget stripper.  Even his business card was funny; it had this quote from Daryl Hannah’s character, Annelle Dupuy DeSoto, in Steel Magnolias:  “I promise to never allow my personal tragedy to interfere with my ability to do good hair.”

He gave me the card the last time I saw him.

Our standing joke was my offer to let him live in my house rent-free in exchange for blowing my hair out every morning.  He always politely declined my offer; that is, he declined until the last time I saw him.  He was moving at the time, and he said, “You know, if you’re serious, I’ll move in and take care of your place.  And you know it will look better while I’m there than it does now.”

I should have jumped on it.  Because now he’s gone, and I’m scared.  It’s not every day you find a someone who’s a hairdresser, shrink, comedian, and great friend all in one.  Someone who always makes you feel better than you did when you got there.

Josh Cesal is 6’3” tall.  He has black hair that’s probably shaved on one side, bad posture, and no driver’s license.  He wears Sally Jesse Raphael glasses.  He loves cigarettes, tequila, expensive food, and Kathy Griffin.  Despises Oprah.  If you see him, please tell him I’m looking for him.

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