I had an appointment with Rico at Olympus Hair Salon. The stakes were high. Regina and Baron, our uppity neighbors, had sent an invitation to a gala cocktail party. I wasn’t going to let Regina outshine me, no matter how skinny she was, no matter how smooth her Botoxed skin was, no matter how her silken hair shone. I would place my fate into Rico’s masterful hands. Maybe a new do?
I walked into the salon ready to let the maestro perform magic. Instead, Jose Luis, second in command, greeted me at the door.
I wasn’t going to let Regina outshine me, no matter how skinny she was, no matter how smooth her Botoxed skin was, no matter how silken her hair shone.
I expressed surprise, trying to cover my disappointment. Jose Luis said, nostrils flaring, scissors snapping, “Our dear friend Rico is on vacation at the beach with his new boyfriend!” He tossed his head, bangs whipping.
Everyone who frequents Olympus knows that Jose Luis is in love with Rico. Unfortunately for Jose Luis, it is not reciprocated.
“But, lucky you!” he continued, “I, Jose Luis, will style you myself!”
Trying to sound nonchalant, I asked, “When will Rico be back?” My insides were wilting.
Jose Luis sniffed and inspected his fingernails. “Rico did not leave that information.” His eyes bored holes through me. “Is there a problem? Don’t you trust me?”
On top of unrequited love, I didn’t want Jose Luis to think I doubted his talent. I had seen him work. He was good. Not great but good. Like the brave risk taker I am, I smiled. “I’m in your hands!”
He did a little dance. He was loved! Oh, joy! Guiding me by the elbow, “Right this way,” he said. He tossed a leopard print cape around me.
My fingernails dug into the arms of the chair. Sylvia, I said to myself. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
Then I remembered one of the reasons I loved Olympus. “May I have my complimentary glass of wine?”
Jose Luis said through gritted teeth. “We ran out. Rico, Mr. Perfect, forgot to order it before he left suddenly for the beach.” More flipping of bangs. “And I’ve been too swamped to order more.”
Too bad, I thought. Jose Luis could have used a long pull on a wine glass himself.
This was no time to start experimenting. I changed my mind about a new cut. “My usual style,” I said. “Not too much off the top.”
“I understand completely!” he said. The scissors started snipping.
I watched tufts of hair drift to the floor.
“Great, lovely, inspired, perfect!” I said after each snip trying to sound confident in his talent. “Maybe that’s enough.”
“No, no, a little more!” Scissors kept snipping, tufts kept drifting.
It looked okay when my hair was still wet. The shock came when he blew it dry. In the mirror, I could see one side was shorter than the other. I tilted my head forward. Holy mackerel! I could see scalp!
“Enough!” I ducked from the flying scissors.
He whipped the cape away. “ Darling, it’s a new you! Shall I mousse?”
“I’ll go natural,” I said, jumping out of the chair, flinging money at the receptionist, and bounding out the door.
On the street, I reached into my bag, whipped out a straw hat, and tugged it over my head. I jammed sunglasses on and hurried home.
I slammed the front door hard enough to cause Max to come trotting out.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Don’t ask! I’ll show you what happened. It’s the new me!” I shrieked, snatching the hat away.
His face said it all. When Max doesn’t make a joke about my hair, I know something’s wrong.
I sobbed. “How can I go to the cocktail party looking like this?”
He stepped back, put a finger to his lips, thinking. “How about a wig?”
“In 120 degree real feel? Are you crazy?” I sobbed.
“Just digging my foxhole waiting for the grenade to go off.”
“You already pulled the pin.”
He headed for the closet.
“Where are you going?” I sniffed.
“To see if we still had that piece of brown shag carpet.”
“Open that door and you’re dead.”
“Just kidding, dear. Let’s think what we can do.”
He led me by the arm and sat me in a chair by the pool. “How about being a new you. Put flowers in your hair like Frida Kahlo. She probably had a bad hair day, too.”
At first, I thought he was joking but then, I said, “Not a bad idea.”
Max held out his hands. “There you go! You are the one who always said a woman can never be overdressed! Exaggerate the unique person you are. Hide in plain sight.”
I felt my confidence returning. I can do whatever I put my mind to. If I’m going to be a showstopper, I’ll be a Sylvia Saltwater showstopper!