Running Into Old Friends
Before the concert last weekend, Biggy and I ate dinner at the trendy midtown restaurant Ecco. For this rare treat, my husband had bought me a cute little burgundy velvet strappy dress, which I wore with black boots (at his request). I'd had my hair trimmed and blown out straight and put it up in a cute loose chignon--if anyone still knows what that means.
I share the details of my attire so that you'll understand that when I ran into my old friend and hair stylist, whom I hadn't seen in about five years, I did not look like I do when I go to Publix wearing flannel pants and Greg's old Gators sweatshirt. No one wants to be seen with me in Publix. If I run into someone I know who's just come from Fat Camp for Ugly People, someone wearing sprung spandex shorts and sweating through their jock strap, they'll try their hardest to get away so's not to be seen with me. I understand this--respect it even. But this wasn't the case Saturday night.
As soon as we were seated in the dining room, I spotted him, presiding over a long table full of beautiful young hair designers--the kind who work at places with names like Keylime Pie and Halo rather than Wanda's Curl Up-n-Dye. The kind who have tasteful tattoos and beautiful hair that looks like a bowl of cherries in a certain light. You know. These were his employees or--as I'd later consider them--his minions.
The last time I'd seen him, he was about to move his salon to a new location. He was freshly divorced after a long marriage, deep into therapy to figure out his life, dating a sweet nurse he seemed to adore. He was successful already--owned a new Jag AND a Boxster--and still climbing. He was funny, though, down-to-earth, searching for greater meaning.
I'd married again, myself, reproduced as is my habit, and could no longer afford his swanky services. He understood this and kindly offered to make me his charity case. But I didn't want to take advantage. Besides, I knew that soon enough I wouldn't fit in. I was making the transition from Erno Laszlo to Cover Girl and figured I was better suited to The Parlour in the Kroger shopping strip. I’d enjoyed my days of complimentary chardonnay and aromatherapy. Now it was back to Tab from the vending machine in the corner.
We’d been more than stylist and client, he and I. We’d been friends from the time we met--when a mutual buddy recommended him to fix a hair disaster inflicted on me by a Marietta shop called Hair Pizazz. I'd left Pizazz in shock, to pick Georgia up from preschool. I knew it was bad, but when the three-year-old cried, “WHO DID THAT TO YOU?” as I eased up in the carpool line, I started making phone calls.
He was waiting at the door when I first pulled into the parking lot of his upscale salon. I got out of my Pathfinder wearing a baseball cap, checking to see if the coast was clear. I didn’t want anyone to see me. He and his receptionist waved me in like a Nascar pit crew and went to work as quickly. As he tenderly handled my pink scalp and added color back to hair that had been “highlighted” to complete transparency, he and I developed a rapport.
Within a few months, we were going to dinner after my appointments. We jogged together at the river. He helped me through the domestic war of my own divorce, and even when the stress and lack of sleep left me looking like Freddie Krueger on a bad day, he made sure my hair looked good.
After Greg and I were married and had traded in the Virginia-Highlands playground of his apartment for my East Cobb split level, I had no excuse to visit the old neighborhood, no reason to just drop in to say hi. So we fell out of touch, my jogging partner and I, both of our lives gaining momentum.
But I have this thing, see. I can take up where I left off. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since I’ve seen an old pal, I can instantly slip into the old rhythm and banter. When I grabbed the sleeve of his coat Saturday night, I expected him to say I needed more lipstick. I thought he might tell me a dirty joke. But all I can recall of the actual exchange was an absence of inflection in his voice, and that he used the word “fabulous” over and over, flatly stating it in response to everything I offered: “Do you remember my husband, Greg?” Fabulous to see you again…Business is fabulous…Life? Fabulous…He scanned the room, and it felt like Publix.
When it was over, Greg said, “I don’t remember his being English.”
“He’s NOT,” I snapped. “He’s from Philly.”
“Well, he was definitely speaking with a British accent.”
Thank God we ran into Pam and Eric at the concert! We hadn’t seen them in about five years either, but I got the impression that Pam might have swapped gum if I’d asked her to. And that’s the way it should be.