Samson and Delilah, by Gustave Doré, c. 1860

"I'll recognize ordinary time when I see it looking back at me from my mirror again."

Since the age of twenty-five, my head has served as my chronometer, its finest granularity being the month, roughly the distance between haircuts. My face accurately measures time in days. My mustache, in fortnights, the time between necessary trims. Before the shutdown, I remained groomed as regularly as any clock works. Since, even my shaving's slipped to every other morning, often every third or even a previously thinkable fourth. My hair's gone feral, over my ears and curling along the back. I feel on track to return to my early twenties' self, frizzy pony tail dangling halfway down my back, tied behind my head with a thin rawhide strap. I for years contended that I carried the Sampson gene. Any deceitful Deliah carrying scissors could thwart my power, such as it was. I long lusted after long hair and maintained it with a reverence exceeding religious conviction. I didn't just have long hair or wear my hair long, I WAS a longhair.

Being a longhair qualified as an identity then, a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval of a certified Age Of Aquarian within.
My mother's friends used to complement me by proclaiming, "At least he keeps it clean," implying that this one aspect set me aside and a little above any run-of-the-mill hippy. I felt myself not so much a hippy, but my own man. I was not slave to tonsorial conformity. My hair might have been the first part of me anyone could see, for it dominated my head space. In a small town, I often found myself the only Longhair around. Even in cities then, I found few bucking the trend toward the dreaded clean-cuttedness. I also steadfastly refused to wear white socks or short-sleeved shirts, or regular shoes. I wore my Red Wing work boots in every season and carried a pocket watch strung on a rawhide hangman's noose secured to a belt loop. My identity was not even skin deep, but more like an aura surrounding and protecting me, all deep symbolism and meaning understood only by me. Oh, and I kept my Longhair clean.

After eight years since my prior haircut, I consented to a thinning and a visit to a salon serving both women and men. The result looked little different from its former self, my Sampson gene quaking in dread anticipation. A few months later, I finally did myself in with a cut more radical than a trim. I entered that salon a Longhair and left a budding business student. My identity took a while to catch up. One by one my earlier convictions crumbled like that temple Sampson tumbled. I entered my clocklike era, following my stylist as she broke out on her own then went on to own one of the more popular salons in town. She kept me looking whatever part I played, from business school student clear through and well into my independent consultant phase. Every thirty days or so, I'd show up complaining that I couldn't find myself in my mirror anymore and she'd rectify my difficulty. I'd leave suddenly certain that I recognized myself again, a superficial but nonetheless crucial form of self-awareness.

It was tough when we moved away, to find anyone worthy of taking care of this seemingly small monthly chore, but I largely succeeded, even surviving periods when I'd find myself forced to submit to some ham-handed, allergic to scissors clipper jockey. I have mostly managed to find genuine barbers and stylists who qualified themselves by never asking me how I wanted it. Those qualified to cut my hair knew how to cut it without asking the guy who almost never sees it, and never sees it from behind. Natale, my gentleman barber in DC, was the most old school. I'd have to chase away his hand when it hovered over me with talc and cologne smelling like some whore house in Rome. I'd tell him that the wife would protest if I came back home smelling like I'd been buying that. I took what little pride a guy like me can ever take. Like my mom's friend's used to say, at least I kept it well-trimmed and clean.

Now, I despair, I can't seem to find the old, reliable me I'd come to know anywhere I look. My fedoras don't even fit me anymore. I need a haircut like I need a bathroom break, but with no respite in sight. The GrandOtter magnanimously volunteered to cut my hair, and I've been sidestepping the invitation. I feel like Sampson, eyed by Delilah, not suspecting betrayal, but wary of it. My hair's not really even long by most modern measures, but my self image has become confused. That one old reliable countdown clock has become inconsistent. I cannot count time's passage as I once could, and I float rather timelessly, listlessly, disoriented. I'll recognize ordinary time when I see it looking back at me from my mirror again.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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