I was at the hairdresser's yesterday, waging war against my grey. As I and waited for the colorant to work, I half read and half tuned in to conversations between other people in the room.
"Did you have a nice Valentine's day?" I heard a stylist ask.
"No I did not." Her client snapped. "I am still really pissed off".
"Oh dear." The stylist tried to laugh. "What did he do?"
"It's what he didn't do. He totally forgot. No flowers, no chocolates. No card."
"But it's all O.K again now? Right?" The stylist sounded hopeful.
The woman sniffed "Well, let's just say he learnt his lesson. He won't forget again."
I studied her out of the corner of my eye. She wasn't young. She must have been at least thirty. Not a great age it's true but definitely old enough to realize that relationships are about more than an over looked Valentine's day and words on a shop bought card. It was February 16th and she was still whining? It was a miracle that such a high maintenance and unforgiving woman had found anyone to marry her at all. I saw another customer staring, we raised our eyebrows, shook our heads and and turned back to our books.
Six months ago I witnessed a very different scene. Here, in the exact same chair, I had watched someone who could have taught that princess a thing or two about true love.
I had been doing pretty much the same thing that day; sitting, reading and waiting for the color to soak into my hair. Suddenly there was a commotion at the door. Everyone looked up. One of the stylists jumped forward and ran to the front of the shop.
"June...." she cried. "Hello, June"
"NO! NO!" I heard somebody shout. A frail, elderly lady was clinging to the door frame, refusing to come in.
"Hey, June" the stylist repeated. She spoke slowly and quietly this time, as if addressing a child. "Remember me?"
The owner appeared from somewhere out the back.
"June." She exclaimed and offered out her arm. "It's good to see you again. Come on in. I've got a chair already waiting."
It was impossible not to watch. As you would expect in a hairdressing salon, there are mirrors everywhere. From my seat in a cubicle at the front I could follow the proceedings without needing to turn round. I could see an elderly man now, he was holding June by the elbow and urging her to come inside. After a few minutes, June stopped repeating "no,no, no" and allowed him to help her over the threshold.
"This way, June," the elderly man said. "This way."
The man was probably eighty years old. His dress was formal, almost dapper. But his carefully pressed trousers were scrunched at the waist by his belt, and hung loose around his hips. It was clear that since the man had bought them, his muscles had begun to disappear. As he stood by the door with the trembling shell of his wife, it must have seemed as if his whole life was wasting away.
The couple shuffled forward. There was fear and confusion in June's eyes. They paused next to my chair.
"We're going to get you looking beautiful." the man told her.
"No!" she shouted. "Don't want to." And she rooted herself to the spot.
Close to, I could see that her slip on skirt was pressed and clean. Her sweater was neatly buttoned and her brown leather sandals were polished to a shine. He had done all that for her, I was certain, and it had probably taken him all day.
June's hair was the only thing that let her down. Although it was neat and held back by a clip, the white was turning dirty yellow and it was so greasy that a comb had left tracks across the tops and sides of her head.
"Sit here. " The man gently suggested. "She'll wash your hair and make it pretty again."
"NO. NO. NO"
"I can sit next to you."
The rest of us studied our books and magazines; our stylists feigned deep concentration as they snipped and straightened and brushed.
June was crying now, sobbing into her shaking, wrinkled hands. "NO" sob. "NO". sob. "NO"
The old man looked sad and defeated. He turned to the stylist. "Sorry" he mouthed, and slowly shook his head. He turned back to his wife.
"It's OK, June-bug." He whispered. "We'll try again another day."