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Habeas Blogus

Book reviews, more for my memory than anything else.

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Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Monday, November 13, 2006

Day 5, The Bookend to My Attempted Sensual Experience

I get out in a square that gives me the Times Square feeling again, just like Place Clichy, only oriented differently. Four separate roads intersect here, but rather than be crossed orthogonally, they run in seemingly random directions creating wide spaces and narrow buildings that grow wider down the street.

I take out my map and my other map. I’m trying to orient myself, but I can’t see any street signs. I’m standing in what seems like a little median strip, like an island in the middle of heavy traffic. I take a turn around the little shops and offices on the island, and come across an Asian lady, probably mid-40s. I ask her for directions in French, and I have trouble following her accent. She looks behind me and I immediately think she sees someone she knows, but she's actually looking at my hair. She grabs my ponytail and makes a few clucks with her tongue.

“You need haircut!”

“Well, I was...”

“You need haircut!”

“What, do you have availability? Can you take me in right now?” I look into the shop and see one other hairdresser with a customer. It doesn’t take me long to realize that the time is now. I’ve been talking about it for four years. I’m in Paris where, rumor has it, they know a thing or two about hair.

“How much is it?”

“Shampoo zenmassageof head an blowjry thirty Euros.”

“Wait, thirty Euros?”

“Yeah, no style. Massage head cut blowjry. Thirty.”

Unlike the earlier transaction at Frou-Frou, I think I can consummate this relationship.

She takes me by the hand and leads me back behind a black curtain. She helps me remove my jacket. She puts her arms around me to tie an apron around my neck. She sits me down in a chair and walks behind me. She gently pulls my head down, and I hear water running. I can watch from a mirror they’ve put on the ceiling. Warm water smoothes out over my scalp and the rhythm of it makes me feel warm in my toes. Her hands caress me behind the ears and in the back of my head, and I can feel the water-wetness cause her hands to slip around.The flip of the shampoo-bottle cap, the sound of a good squeeze, and her palms are slickery sliding over my crown and at the base of my skull. She stops and I open my eyes. She starts speaking, not French. She leaves me, I can see her leaving in the mirror.

I feel pressure in my chest, like I’ve been spurned. I decide to relax and close my eyes again. She won’t leave me here.

I may have fallen asleep before the hands touched me again, much more gently this time. She’s running her fingernails over my scalp, digging in a little, causing rivulets of pleasure to radiate between my ears and down my back. I have to fight from saying, “harder!” I open my eyes to find a different girl. She’s probably in her early twenties, and it occurs to me that she probably has less experience but more skill. She rubs behind my ears for longer than it would take to lather, then her hands go away. I almost moan.

The warmth spreads over my head again as she rinses. She cascades her hands and her fingernails up and down the top of my head all the way to the back. I’m praying that she’ll follow the third step of shampoo etiquette: repeat.

She turns off the water and says, “Okay.”

I stand up and move to the chair. I impress myself by being able to negotiate the style I want in French. I even try to switch to English once to explain the part where “I still want to be able to put it in a ponytail,” but she doesn’t understand a word. After she’s finished cutting she blowdries my hair and combs with her fingers. Using an actual brush to style it costs an extra 8E.I stand up, feeling about seven pounds lighter, and pay. The ladies tell me how much better I look and give me about thirty pieces of hard candy. I pay the 30E on my credit card and bid them farewell, after I ask them how to get to r. Mouffetard. They point behind the building we’re in and say “au revoir” about twenty times.

I'm off, and ready, finally, for Hemingway.

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