The salon is packed. There's the usual frisson of excitement that belongs to a Saturday morning; lots of chatting, some talk about weekend plans. I recognize a few people who, like me, are regulars. I enjoy the pleasant pull of Marie's strong fingers as she blow-dries my hair, shakes it back and forth. In the mirror, I see the frothy cloud she has created and will soon tame. My eyes slip sideways. Several feet in front of and to the left of me I see a face that blots out everything. A middle-age woman has her head tilted back. Her skin has a gray tinge. Her lips are moving but no sound comes out. Her eyes are tightly closed but tears leak through and slip down her round cheeks. Jane is cutting her hair. Big chunks of it fall on the woman's shoulders and the floor. Very soon, Jane will begin shaving her scalp. She stops to wipe tears from her own eyes so she can go on. I look up at Marie who shakes her head and mouths the word cancer.
The woman's sorrowful face returns to me many time during the day. The way she squeezed her hands, her lips moving with silent incantations, the bright world buzzing around her. That night, I wake up and see her face again. I wonder if she, too, is awake. Her head cold, her ears strangely exposed.