by Dave Williams
My travelogue: July 9, 2021
Wichita Falls, Texas
Nice things happen when scooting cumulus clouds briefly block the sun of a North Texas summer day. The heat becomes bearable and the breeze gives voice to the poplar trees which rattle their leaves in harmony. The birds and even the cicadas quiet down to listen.
I’m on another writing sabbatical. I just arrived. This is my warmup piece to loosen up the mind and cool down my inclination toward purple prose.
Before I left home today, I got a haircut and had a nice conversation with a thirty-something barber named Jade. Being naturally shy and a native Californian I don’t easily begin conversations with strangers – I feel like I’m intruding in their quiet thoughts – but Jade is a pure Texan with no conversational hesitancy. I don’t remember how she started but she quickly shared a synopsis of her life. She told me about her mother and her mother’s divorce from her father who recently passed, I learned she is remarried and heard a bit about her husband and their kids: a 14-year-old stepdaughter who lives with them, and their 10 month old son. She adores them all, she told me. And there, she stopped. I guessed it was my turn.
Texans suck me in like that. I started talking.
I told Jade I’ll be turning 70 in about a month and that’s a significant milestone. I explained that I, too, have been married twice and that CarolAnn and I each have sons and grandsons we’ve shared from our previous lives.
I may be shy but men staring 70 in the face have no reluctance in sharing our hard won wisdom of age with just the slightest encouragement. Being a Texan she was polite and attentive, which was good enough for me.
I told Jade that I have had many lives: as a child, as a young adult, and through the long journey to creeping old age. I am a man pretty well in tune with life, I said. It was a prideful statement but I said it with quiet dignity.
I explained that I work at staying current with events, social trends, and cultural changes, even the ones that baffle or annoy me. The trick is to go with the flow and don’t worry about things that don’t concern you. I only half jokingly told her I had spent decades trying to fix the world and change other people to my liking before I realized it’s a fool’s errand. I’m fixing myself and that’s all I can do, I declared. She seemed to like that and I took it as encouragement to continue.
I talked of lessons I’ve learned through the trauma of love lost, single parenthood and a new, lasting love found. My CarolAnn and I just celebrated our 33rd anniversary and are still on our honeymoon, I said proudly.
Jade was entranced. Or, she’s just a very good haircutter.
Picking up the thread from a moment earlier Jade told me that her husband’s ex is a nice lady and that the two women are discovering the things they have in common. Sharing kids is a big achievement, she boasted. I told her my CarolAnn and I just shared our anniversary with my ex and her husband. Jade laughed and was thrilled by at that.
“Why shouldn’t we all be able to get along?” she exclaimed.
I told her about CarolAnn’s ex and how we’ve shared in raising their son, and that we all embrace the wonderful realities of our tangled lives:
“We were in love, once. We’re in love again,” I said. ‘Why should we lose any of that?”
It was a little like a barroom conversation except neither of us was drinking or bitching. We managed it all in about fifteen minutes.
Rising from the chair I said, “Jade, it was nice meeting you. You did a great job and I’ll book you again.” She smiled sweetly and told me she enjoyed our talk.
I tipped her appropriately but not too much. It was a good haircut but the conversation was priceless.