JoAnna Novak
The Hairdresser

He grew up near Taylor Street, where Italian ice reigns supreme, today you find cantaloupe and cherry and lime and lemon and chocolate and coconut and blue Curacao and grape and some places even have gelato now, deep silver pans with miniature landscapes erupting out of the creamy surface, careful arrangements of coffee beans and stacked amaretti cookies, lemon circles, jagged hunks of chocolate—Tony would never let his girls eat that stuff, bad for the complexion and a complete disaster for hair—but back when he was a little boy, just beautiful red ices—cherry, raspberry, strawberry—gleaming like a bunch of spangles fresh off Marilyn’s gown—and the lemon, a yellow just a pinch cooler than white, somehow, and this is how he learned about hair color, through trips with his mother—she wore her hair big and black and splurged on treats for him and his brother, Alfonse—and he’d go back to those stands and the sensations would arouse him—he imagined his entire history scraped and tended to every twenty minutes in a freezer, like some homemade batch of granita—but there he was, like a chintz decoration, the sort of thing his wife loved, a little rock garden with a rake—so, when Tony heads home from the shop on Armitage and, instead of his usual detour to the Clubhouse, twenty minutes past Westchester, stops for Italian ice by himself, he orders cherry and remembers his own hair-color progression, the affronting, awkward red he sported in his early twenties, when he was just sweeping up hair at a little shop in Lyons, a no-frills utilitarian place that smelled like cleaners—the progress they’ve made with scents and smells, shampoo, the newest fragrance at his salon boasts organic mallow extract, mallow as in marshmallow, plus cocoa butter, when you shampoo, ladies, that’s the only place where these kinds of sweets do you any good, kissy, kissy—his hands would be raw from shampooing, once he got promoted to shampoo boy, which is how he met a bunch of girlfriends, or at least how he met some ladies to light up his dreams—at night, in his first apartment, he’d curl his knees to his chest on an old sofa that had come from his house, a big sofa he covered with black sheets to hide the upholstery—thatched and avocado green and orange, a bunch of colors he’d never be able to stomach—and, tangled in those sheets, he’d sleep jagged, dreaming of getting out of the country with some of the honeys and babies whose scalps he’d massage during the day, those girls in polyester and denim bellbottoms with asses in fruity candy-colored panties, asses that reminded him of those dumb postcards Alfonse kept sending him from Italy—his older brother, apprenticing with the real masters, those men in Milan that would fly here or there for a weekend, their scissor skills, their blow drying, their foil applications so masterful that masterpieces all over Europe—statues in the Louvre, El Prado, would cry champagne tears when the Milan hairdressers came to work the Paris shows, Madrid; all those years, Tony thought, as he scraped at the little red hill of ice in a Styrofoam cup while he walked down the street to his car, a sporty little beamer that looks like a butter bean, and he can still smell his mother’s hands on his shoulders, smooth hands, clean hands, sweet from kneading dough and rolling cookies—his mother had never worked a day in her life, but she always provided well for the men—her men, her bambinos—maybe too well, what with his father’s heart attack five years ago and hadn’t he needed a bigger pair of Dolce & Gabbana jeans last time—with treats in lunch boxes, goodies after dinner, dainties when he moved back home a year after his twenty fifth birthday:  by then, he’d learned a bit about cutting hair from the owner, Regio—a flaming, decaying Italian who kissed the customers when they walked in to the shop and kept a full pot of strong coffee brewing, who’d one day leave Tony the shop, but, still, even with tips and a number of ladies that requested his work—he knew that he, too, could get away with kissing his customers, though he discriminated, he, Tony DePascala was not going to go kissing any men, no problem if Regio wanted to, but hey—you’ve got to hold your ground—even with requests and being in the shop five days a week, he needed to sleep at home for a few months, get this girl Andrea out of his head for a while because he’d loved her but she’d just dumped him—they’d been getting friendly for a few months, they made out in the parking lot in front of her parents grocery store and everything, parked right next to the tower of cars, antiques that still looked major to Tony so when they were frenching, he rubbed her tits—smallish—with one hand and pressed the other on the dash of his rusty Karmann Ghia, one eye closed and the other peering out at the tower of cars that illuminated that really made the little strip mall where D’Andrea’s Foods—my daddy named it after me, she bragged—and a few other businesses tried hard to compete with the new mall, North Riverside, that had erupted out of nowhere across the street—he’d loved when he eventually made it with Andrea because she smelled like she’d been pressed into her parent’s shop to collect the smells—skinny, this girl, with a ponytail that twisted like black licorice ropes down her back, enormous eyes, a bouncy ass and a tiny waist—and hoard them on her body, his own personal buffet, so before he took off her polka dotted bra and panties, when he sucked on her fingers, he tasted the powdered sugar dust off cannoli shells.