The loudmouth barber who had come down from Jersey wasn’t there that day so I went and sat way down the line by John’s chair at the end of the shop. I realized John hadn’t cut my hair since I originally left town in ninety eight. There was a set of glass shelves there, a grid really, lined with toys, obsolete barber products and various cacti. None of it mattered. I’d just gone to the bank and half the money was gone. Tuesday I found out I didn’t get the job. I hadn’t had a cigarette since November. I had prayed to God just that morning and still, miraculously, half the money was gone. On the top shelf was a cactus with long tendrils hanging down. At the end of each of these was a black flower, shaped like a star.
I had told Henry about the job early on, showed him their website. He was there when they emailed and asked me to come in for an interview. I had tried not to get too excited, but yeah, it wasn’t “construction.” My beautiful, three hundred pound workbench would have a home again. It looked like it might have paid well.
The guy in John’s chair was thanking him for having read an article in the paper he’d written. Especially now that nobody read the paper anymore, he said. John read the paper every day. John also informed the man that there was no more black left in his hair anymore. The man chuckled and thanked him for this information, said he’d pass it on to the wife. I laughed to myself grimly and noted that out of all the other customers, eight or so, I was the youngest.
Chase had started hounding me again on Monday. I was a month behind in payments and was going to lose my locked-in pay-it-off APR. They started calling around eight in the morning, and it always seemed to be on days when I was having a hard time getting the kids to school. Because I was in trouble again, the friend who’d hired me to build him some bookshelves had paid me off early with the payment second of seven hundred dollars. However, Chase, without authorization had taken out a payment of two hundred thirty from my account the day before. In the meantime I racked up another hundred and fifty worth of overdraft fees. So that morning I’d checked my account and was surprised to find I was three hundred and fifty in the red before I even put the money in. A month's worth of work later, I’d built a song out of heart pine and come to find out half the money was gone. It took me a while to decide whether or not I was going to deposit that money. Just before I got to the bank I noticed tucked away in the back of my mind, the sound of someone screaming.
John finished up with the white-haired man and asked me up to his chair. I’d decided before I sat down that I didn’t feel like chatting today. In the chair I could get a better look at the other patrons who were waiting and they of course could get a better look at me. There was a man in a suit with a red striped tie and blue velvet suspenders that looked pure
At some point a few weeks earlier, Henry came up to me and asked me if I was still a poet. I said, Uh Yeah, Sure. He showed me where he had taken a small box my parents had given me, a small teak-looking tchotchke, and taped a piece of paper on the front of it that said Poem Box. He explained that I could put my poems in it. I said, Okay, great, thanks. It puzzled me, because I’d always heard about having a God Box where you write down your worries, fears, desires or whatever and place them in the God Box. Anyway, I got so far up in my head at some point, I scrawled JOB on a piece of yellow steno-pad paper, folded it into the smallest square I could and thrust it into the Poem box. Henry, of course, saw all of this and so I had to explain to him the concept, and tear some strips of paper out for him to put his own prayers on to. That’s what I told him they were, prayers.
A few days later I brought him and his sister home from school and he asked what was wrong and I told him I was upset because I didn’t get the job. To which he immediately responded, It’s okay, you put it in the God Box, so you don’t have to worry about it right? I laughed hard, picked him up and hugged him about as tight as he could take.
As I sat in the chair and old John cut my hair I remembered all of this and suddenly felt the urge to cry. I got the answer, understood what the point was: Endure. Endure and do it well because Henry and May are watching and that is how they learn from you.