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It starts with a postcard. She tucks it away between a couple of the bills in my pile, so I won?t see it for several days. Then, while I am sorting through what needs to be paid and what can be put off, there it is. I recognize the return address and the handwriting, and know what it will say before I turn it over. "It has been six weeks since your last appointment with us," it reads on the back. "Please call for an appointment to keep your hairstyle looking its best." The words, the beginning of the torment, seem so innocent on the card. I flip it back over to examine the postmark. She probably got it two or three days ago, but didn?t mention it. She just put it in the pile.

I used to ask her about it as soon as I saw the postcard, but I don?t anymore. She will wait another week or two before she even brings it up. But that night, she seems to brush her hair more slowly and deliberately before bed. She brushes it forward, over her breast, and examines the ends carefully. Finally, she lays down, putting her head on my chest, her thick, dark hair spread over my skin, inviting me to play with it. Sometimes as I stroke her hair, she reaches down and caresses me. Sometimes she just falls asleep. As I hear her soft breathing, I examine her long hair closely, wondering how much will end up laying on the salon floor. If she?s awake, I may ask her to tell me a story as she gently caresses me. "What kind of story?" she asks, as though it were a new request. "Tell me about getting your hair cut." Sometimes she claims she doesn?t have a story in her, or she might tell me about one of the times I cut her hair in the past. And some of the stories that she tells are so wild that they are obvious fantasy. But sometimes, I can?t tell. She tells of the stylist having a bad day, and cutting off more than was requested. Or she describes asking to have her hair cut to chin length, and how it feels as the hair falls around her. Maybe that?s what she wants to do, or maybe it is just a story she is telling me for my own pleasure. I can?t tell, and it is pointless to ask.

Some people love the look of a woman?s hair just after she has left the salon. It?s perfectly arranged and neatly trimmed. I love the look just before she enters. A little tousled. A little wild. Perhaps a bit "too long." Especially knowing that some of it will soon land on the floor. Maybe a few wispy strands. Just a trim, barely noticeable to most. Maybe it will be a bit more. A few inches cut away, a pile of soft hair on the hard linoleum floor. Or maybe, just maybe… The big cut. A major change, one that leaves you doing a double take as you look at someone you recognize even though they look completely different.

My wife?s hair always looks amazing just before she visits the salon. Long and soft. I am torn between the beauty of her hair, the wonderful way she uses it to please me, and…the fantasy. Seeing her in the chair. Seeing the small chrome scissors that wield the awful power. Seeing the dark locks falling softly to the floor. Her ears emerging from under their dark blanket. The soft nape of her neck.

Perhaps a week goes by, perhaps two. As I leave for the office one morning, she kisses me and tells me she might call for an appointment. Will she do it? Is she intentionally bluffing to get my attention? Or does she mean to, but simply forgets to call later that morning when the salon is open? Each time I ask the same question. "What are you going to do?" Each time she acts amazed that I am asking. "I don?t know." she shrugs, "I?ll decide when I get there."

Perhaps when I get home that evening the subject will be forgotten, only to come up again a few days later. Or she might casually mention that she?s made an appointment, several days from now. Sometimes I?ll get a call at the office. "Meet me for lunch?" she?ll ask. "I have an 11:30 appointment." I rarely turn down the invitation.

If I time it right, I arrive just as she is sitting in the chair, her hair still wet from the washing. Her stylist sees me, and makes a joke. "Do you really want to take that much off?" she?ll ask in a stage whisper. The stylist knows that I have encouraged her to grow her hair long, but doesn?t know the other side of the fantasy. How I long for my wife to bring a picture of the ultra-short crop she wore a few years back and ask the stylist to cut it that way again. Or maybe a picture of that model whose chin length ?do we admired a few weeks ago. Or maybe she?ll tell her stylist "I?m sick of it. Do what you want." I?m convinced that her stylist fantasizes about that as much as I do. I know she has been gently trying to encourage her to go shorter for the last year or so, waiting for the day that she can sink her scissors into the thick, soft hair and harvest the beautiful locks she has tended for so long.

But none of that will happen today. My wife will say "just a trim," and less than an inch of her hair will be snipped off in back. Still I watch, as the stylist flashes the scissors, waiting for something to happen. Perhaps she?ll take matters into her own hands, convinced that the change will be for the better. Maybe she?ll make another joke about how I hate to see my wife?s hair cut, and I?ll finally have the courage to tell the truth. "Go ahead, and cut it all off," I?d say. "I don?t mind… I just don?t want it to happen while I?m not around to watch." She?d look at my wife in the mirror, questioning with her eyes. "Go ahead," she?d respond. "I?m into it if he is…"

You?d think after living with these fantasies for so many years, it would be easy to say, to admit how I long for that day when I see my wife?s hair in a pile around her feet. But instead I watch as she just gets another trim, barely noticeable, and together we leave, with a six week respite, before the torment begins again.

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