“Andy’s got a box cut…oh my gosh…here, let me see that.” My brother boomed as he got off the floor and came rushing in to gawk.
“Andy what did you do?” mom shrieked.
“Andy?” my twin sister laughed.
It was true. I tired of Ed and Carl’s conventional barber poll, white smocks, and bazooka Joe bubble gum. I was going into 6th grade, the top of the grammar school food chain.
Charlie McNeelie lived down in the street in a brick duplex. He wore a handkerchief around his neck, held together with a gold band. I wore a skinny clip-on tie that didn’t reach my belt buckle. I still had a tiny copper horse bolo. Charlie had a real first baseman’s glove so I followed him where got his hair cut, up on Pike, near the Steer Inn.
I went in. No white smocks, no bubble gum, no Carl no Ed. Two long haired dudes, One younger, the other Harvey. In the back room was a chopper frame and motorcycle parts. No barber pole. A chopper frame and motorcycle parts, but I already said that.
“What’ll it be?”
My eyes darted, my voice cracked. “Box cut.”
He looked at me for a long second and I looked away. He started to cut before I caved.
It was Norwood, 1968, a square mile town defined by the Phila airport on one side, Chester on the other, a muddy creek, Chester Pike, and railroad tracks. A town where Vietnam volunteers, Warlock bikers, and an occasional hippie coexisted with Methodists, Catholics, and Republican’s. Seemingly heterogenous but seething with contradiction.
And that’s me, defined by a muddy creek and Methodists.
I came home to everyone’s shock but me. I really didn’t think they’d notice, I doubted they’d care, I figured I’d go back to school and play Boy’s Club 65-pound football. My hair would stick out of the back of my helmet but not much more.
That day, I saw a chopper frame. That day, I crossed the muddy creek.
Mom told me Harvey called her to apologize but I’m pretty sure I never went back to Ed and Carl. I’d pass by, look in the window and see the comic books and Boy’s Life magazine with the magical monkey ads and keep going. Sometimes Ed stood out front and I pretended not to know him because, well I was almost a teenager. I didn’t know what to do.
Box cut or fade? Later I tried to get away with no-cut until an exasperated mother with a pair of scissors chased me around the house. I took the five dollars and marched myself back to the big leather chair framed in polished steel.
I am a cauldron of contrasts. Sometimes fade, sometimes box cut, with a no-cut hidden on the inside.
That’s my super-power and my kryptonite. My political party is Contrarian, my platform is oppositional; my motto is “on the other-hand,” and my mascot is the devil’s advocate. It is both propelling and preventative, liberating and confining, confident and lonely.
If I said I’m okay with that, I’d be lying and lying is not in my platform.
I am simply left “helplessly hopeful” as Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young would sing at last in perfect harmony after their half-century of bickering, break-ups, and bullying. For some of us, the world is fraught with conflict that pushes us forward. Undaunted, unrelenting but out of the aggravation comes harmony, out of the turmoil, sweetness, and out of the mire, beauty. For some of us, the crises come closer together the older we get, the strain more difficult, and the climb steep. The peace that passes all understanding becomes even more elusive.
For us, losing someone is personal and it’s universal. Like ripples from a pond pebble, everything effects everything and everything effects us. The endless stream of losses posted on grief groups and the plastic drink lid and straw lying on the bike path share significance in a congested head framed by a box cut.
Helplessly hoping her harlequin hovers nearby
Awaiting a word
Gasping at glimpses of gentle true spirit he runs
Wishing he could fly
Only to trip at the sound of goodbye
-Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Join me on Facebook Live 9am and 9pm weekdays to hear my miraculous account on the Appalachian Trail, When Sunday Smiled. It now has its own inspirational song and is a finalist for Best Christian Memoir. Also, look for my novel coming out later this year. Check out both on my website, Andymdavidson.com