Haircuts and Human Pieces
By Judith Castle
On the bus to my haircut appointment, I sat beside a woman wearing sandals, and counted the toes on her right foot. Five. Usually humans wear four toes. And one thumb-toe named big toe. A tiny silver ring curled around the fifth toe. She’d wedded the extra toe. I glanced away. The bus driver’s hands rested on the wheel. Two hands; on each hand, four fingers, one thumb. Balanced on his neck, one head. On both feet, shoes. I thanked him for the ride, using my mouth to form words.
Humans own one mouth. You have to open your mouth; it doesn’t open on its own, not unless you’re surprised or shocked, in which case your mouth will drop open without your permission. I ordered a latte in Serious Coffee where the Barista’s hand shook hot milk over my decaf, made a leafy plant design. But which plant? She didn’t know. I lifted her art to my lips, opened my mouth and consumed the milk-leaves. At another table, a man opened his mouth to insert chew and swallow one bite of cinnamon roll. I understand this. I’m part of the race.
Later, on the pavement, I noticed one piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Where were the other four thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine pieces? Did someone drop the box on the walk home from Super Chance and lose this single piece? A crucial link to completing the sunset, or people in jail behind bars, or an Irish Castle? The puzzle will be spread on a table, piece by careful piece. Toward the end, the puzzler will gasp at a dreadful gap. She’ll search under carpet, sofa, but never find the piece because it lies here, beneath my foot, on a city sidewalk. I may be the final person to see this missing link: Thursday morning at 8:45 a.m., as I navigate my way to the salon.
Haircuts on a head. Tools are scissors or razors. You sit in a chair and someone whirls the chair around so you look in a mirror. And wonder who you are. Someone covers your shoulders so that cut hair won’t slip into your collar and irritate your human skin, which is prone to itch. The haircut begins a new chapter in your life. Even for kids. Humans have haircuts because hair grows instead of staying the same length it was when you were four years old. In a twinkling, what has lived on your head for months, lies scissored and lifeless on the salon floor. When someone dies, one might lean toward another at the wake, between drinks and whisper, “Thank heaven she had a good haircut before she passed.”
I’m here visiting, say, to witness oddments of human life, and write things down. Which explains hair cutting. And one mouth only per face. One extra toe winking from a sandal; four only fingers and one thumb rather than two fingers per hand. A human may work on a puzzle. Even though one piece is missing, she might fashion an extra piece. This, from what is called ingenuity and crayons. Might be possible that whatever’s extra or missing in human life has a sweet reason for being itself. But how would I know?