This week’s Challenge over on the Daily Post asks us to do a character sketch. I thought of a number of folks but Mrs. Robinson, my childhood hairstylist, came to mind immediately. Could I go back to the first time I met her, I would have wished to write this:
Her salt-and-pepper short hair cut was as sharp as the crackle of the gum between her pearly-white teeth. I couldn’t tell her age, but she had to be older than my mom, even though she moved twice as fast. I guess it was the Brooklyn in her. “Siddown, sweetheart,” she practically yelled, brandishing a black shop drape which she deftly put around me as I got into her barber chair. “Woo! You got some wool up here!” She took a comb and attempted to pull it through the thick brown tresses that my grandmother had been giving a twice-per-month press ‘n curl until now. I’d made the big leagues; I would be going to Mrs. Robinson, the neighborhood stylist, from now on. As she put the chair back so my neck could rest on the sink (“zink,” as she put it), my eyes were drawn to her starched white top and pants. I found it interesting that she dressed almost like a nurse, that she was in fact a hair practitioner. The only difference between her and any nurse I’d seen was her bosom; it was ample and saddled within one of those pointy, “24-Hour” bras I had seen on the lingerie rack at Jamesway.
During each visit as she reached above, over, behind me, the soft torpedoes of her chest would unashamedly press into my upper arm or side of my head. She was like an auntie to me, regaling me with stories of the talk shows that played incessantly on the television in the corner of the shop.
Fast-forward at least ten thousand years; I’d left town, off to college, then married, then widowed, then remarried. She’d been in a car accident; I’d gone to the trauma center with my mom. They said she’d lost most of her teeth in the impact. She looked small in that bed, covered in machines that kept her alive.
Fast-forward another ten thousand years; I went with my mother to visit Mrs. Robinson’s husband in the nursing home. Mrs. Robinson was there and she looked gorgeous; I told her so, doing my best impersonation of her saying it. She smiled and said it back to me, with that real Brooklyn accent. Her dimples were just as deep as I remember them, and the pearly whites she flashed now came from a dentist instead of from God. She hugged me and I could feel that “24-Hour” bra through our mutual sweaters. It was like being home.